BERLIN – US-German talks for a “no-spying” agreement in the wake of the NSA espionage scandal are doomed to fail, German media reported Tuesday citing disgruntled Berlin delegation sources.
“We’re getting nothing,” one source close to the negotiations was quoted as telling the Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung about Germany’s efforts to formally block US snooping within its borders.
Berlin-Washington ties have been strained by the revelations of fugitive former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden of US mass surveillance of online and phone data, including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.
News of the National Security Agency’s international activities were especially damaging in Germany due to sensitivity over mass state spying on citizens by the Stasi secret police in the former communist East.
The newspaper and public broadcaster NDR jointly reported that German delegation sources, which included high-ranking government and intelligence officials, had almost lost hope for an agreement to stop spying between the allies.
The US had refused to commit to a halt on spying on German politicians, to reveal when it started listening to Merkel’s phone, and to grant German officials access to a suspected listening post in its Berlin embassy, the reports said.
Germany had initially hoped for a speedy agreement following verbal US assurances in August, the daily said.
“The Americans lied to us,” one unnamed high-ranking German official was quoted as saying.
Senior US officials have signaled for months they will not agree to a blanket “no spying” pact, fearing such an agreement would set a precedent that would lead to similar demands from other nations.
The German government declined to comment, with a spokeswoman saying: “The government is in talks with our US partners to place the cooperation of our (intelligence) services on a new footing. These confidential talks are ongoing.”
President Barack Obama last week phoned Merkel to invite her to Washington in the coming months, hoping to mend fences between the transatlantic allies, and the chancellor accepted, although neither side has announced a date.
Merkel has come under fire at home for failing to speak out more strongly against the sweeping US surveillance of citizens before reacting furiously when it emerged that her own phone was targeted.
Greens party lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele, who has met Snowden in Moscow, told national news agency DPA: “We haven’t made any progress because the government has been far too timid in demanding answers from the United States.”