“I am surprised because normally, [after] you have something like the Snowden affair, you have tension… You usually stand down on operational activity or anything that will heighten the tension… You put everybody on ice,” the official said. “When you do spy on an ally, [it’s] a serious decision that has to be done thoughtfully and the gains have to outweigh the risks.”
“This is not a routine matter. Everybody uses technical [espionage techniques], you scoop up everything you can,” the official said, referring to signals interception. “But when you get to human intelligence, it’s not a common activity” for allies.
Richard Clarke, former counter-terrorism advisor to the White House and ABC News consultant, said the U.S. has been collecting information on Germany “since it rolled in there with tanks in 1945,” but the episode is especially “embarrassing” for the U.S. in the wake of the Snowden disclosures.
“I think every president is embarrassed when at some point in his administration it’s revealed that the United States is spying on someone,” Clarke said. “[But] there’s nothing new going on except Angela Merkel is learning about it for the first time, apparently.”