CIA steps down spying in Europe

In an apparent response to furore of revelations of spying on German chancellor Angela Merkel, the CIA has publicly acknowledged the end to spying on its allies. We have chronicled in these pages over the last months the dissatisfaction with foreign governments with the US for intelligence abuses. This move by the CIA comes on the heels of Merkel’s meeting with US president Barack Obama.

The timing of the CIA announcement may be telling as the US is desperately seeking help in quelling the advances of ISIS in the Middle East. As of this writing, Germany has refused to join such a coalition. It is widely thought that its disenchantment with the Obama administration over the eavesdropping is contributing to Germany’s reluctance to join the fight against ISIS.

US spying in Europe which has its epicenter in Germany was reported in these pages some weeks ago. CIA presence in Germany was pervasive for decades and slated to grow greater as new spying facilities were due to come on line. With this becoming public knowledge in Germany, largely thanks to publication in Der Spiegel, the German public was becoming led by key legislators was becoming restive. It seemed like only a matter of time before the situation would reach a tipping point.

Under the stand-down order, CIA operatives in Europe have been told not to act unilaterally or clandestinely with sources they have recruited within allied governments. CIA officers are still allowed to meet with their counterparts of the particular country’s intelligence service and may even conduct joint operations with them as long as they have approval by the host government. But these operations are a mere shadow of what they were before this present CIA stand-down.

Evidently the Obama administration is trying to contain the damage from the disclosure of abuses in domestic and foreign intelligence gathering leading to an alarming decline in the president’s approval ratings and popularity.

To be sure, according to informed sources, the suspending of operations has never been this long or this deep. James Clapper, the US director of National Intelligence worries that the US is assuming more risk as a result of the decision because it is refraining from spying on specific targets. The pause has been in effect for two months.

The current suspension of spying activities stems from the July 2 arrest of a 31-year-old employee of the German intelligence service. He told of passing some 218 German intelligence documents to the CIA. A few days later Germany for all practical purposes expelled the Berlin CIA station chief- an unprecedented move by a US ally but indicative of how seriously the Germans were taking the situation, already reeling from the Edward Snowden revelations of Merkel’s phone tapping a year ago.

The CIA last faced retribution from a European ally in 1996 when several of its officers were ordered to leave France. In that instance an operation to uncover French stances on world trade issues were detected by French authorities. It became a public cause celebré for a time.

CIA operatives will now have to meet at venues other than in Europe to conduct activities during this pause.

Please note that this story is based on an Associated Press exclusive, and BestVPN has been unable to otherwise verify its authenticity.

Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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