BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Friday that she had been informed of the arrest of a German man who, according to media reports, is an intelligence service employee accused of spying for the United States.
Federal prosecutors said a 31-year-old German man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of spying for foreign intelligence services. They did not identify the suspect or the intelligence services.
“The chancellor was also informed of this case yesterday,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin.
He declined to comment on reports by Der Spiegel magazine and the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the man worked for Germany’s foreign intelligence service, known by its German acronym BND.
The newspapers, which didn’t identify their sources, said the man was suspected of passing on information about a German parliamentary committee investigating the activities of U.S. and other intelligence agencies in Germany.
Seibert said committee members had also been informed of the arrest.
“I will have to leave the conclusions to you,” he said.
Reports that the National Security Agency spied on German citizens, including on Merkel’s cellphone, have caused friction between Berlin and Washington since they were first published last year, based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Martina Renner, a member of the opposition Left Party on the parliamentary panel, said the case indicated that anyone who examined Snowden’s revelations in detail was subject to scrutiny by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Her panel heard testimony on Thursday from two former NSA employees, Thomas Drake and William Binney.
“If the media reports (about the case) are confirmed then there can’t just be a legal response, there also has to be a political response,” she said.
In his testimony, Drake claimed cooperation between the NSA and BND greatly increased after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. He described the BND as an “appendage” of the NSA.
Seibert said Merkel discussed “foreign policy matters” in a telephone conversation with President Barack Obama late Thursday. He said the conversation focused on Ukraine but wouldn’t say whether the arrest was discussed.
The U.S. National Security Council declined to comment. The BND didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Geir Moulson in Berlin and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.