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Germany declines comment on reported 'deep freeze' with US intelligence

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she walks by members of the media before the Eastern Partnership Summit session in Riga, Latvia, May 22, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

BERLIN: The German government declined to comment on a report that U.S. intelligence agencies were reviewing their cooperation with German counterparts and had dropped joint projects due to concerns secret information was being leaked by lawmakers.

Bild newspaper reported on Saturday that U.S. spy chief James Clapper had ordered the review because secret documents related to the BND's cooperation with the United States were being leaked to media from a German parliamentary committee.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Berlin said it does not comment on intelligence matters.

Allegations the BND intelligence agency helped the National Security Agency (NSA) spy on European companies and officials has been major news in Germany for weeks. It has strained Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition and damaged her popularity.

"The German government puts great faith in the intelligence cooperation with the United States to protect our citizens," a government spokesman said when asked about the Bild report.

"The government doesn't comment on the details of that cooperation in public but rather in parliament committees."

The newspaper said it had seen documents in which Clapper, director of national intelligence, expressed concern that information on the cooperation from Merkel's chancellery to the parliamentary committee was leaked and harmed U.S. interests.

Clapper said Germany could no longer be trusted with secret documents, according to Bild, and as long as that is the case U.S. intelligence agencies should examine where to limit or cancel cooperation with Germany.

Bild quoted a U.S. official saying the leaks were worse than those attributed to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"What the German government is now doing is more dangerous than what Snowden did," the U.S. official was quoted saying.

Critics in Germany have accused Merkel's staff of allowing the BND to help the NSA spy on European companies and officials.

A poll last week found one in three Germans feels deceived by Merkel regarding a row over spying on Germans.

Revelations by Snowden about wide-ranging espionage in Germany by the United States, including allegations that it bugged Merkel's mobile phone, caused outrage in Germany when they emerged two years ago.

Merkel argues the BND must work with the NSA to fight terrorism, but privacy is a sensitive subject in Germany, after decades of snooping by the Gestapo and then by the Stasi secret police in East Germany.

 

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