German authorities have arrested a man, who media reports say worked for the country’s spy agency, for allegedly passing intelligence to the United States.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said she had been notified of the arrest Wednesday. He said Merkel spoke to President Obama late Thursday, but would not say if the leaders had discussed the arrest, which comes at a sensitive time for U.S.-German relations. Ties between the countries have been affected by revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on Germans, including Merkel.
The arrested man, who has not been identified, is thought to have passed information about the German parliamentary inquiry into the NSA’s spying in Germany. His employment at the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, was reported by Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and Der Spiegel magazine as well as two broadcasters. A statement from Germany’s federal attorney-general said the man is suspected of working for a foreign intelligence agency. It did not specify which one.
Reuters, citing two lawmakers who are part of the parliamentary panel investigating the NSA’s activities, reported that the man was spying for the U.S.
“This was a man who had no direct contact with the investigative committee … He was not a top agent,” one of the politicians, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. He said the suspect had offered his services voluntarily.
But the Süddeutsche Zeitung report said that the man was originally arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia. During questioning, the newspaper said, he confessed to passing information to the U.S. The New York Times reports that the man appeared Thursday before a federal court in Karlsruhe, Germany, and ordered held “on urgent suspicion” of unauthorized intelligence activities.