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U.S. Opinions: New York

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U.S., Germany and spies

From an editorial in Bloomberg View on Friday:

Angela Merkel is just about the most pro-American German chancellor the United states could hope for. How stupid for the U.S. to allow its intelligence agencies to make life difficult for her.

Over the last week, German prosecutors have initiated investigations into the Central Intelligence Agency’s attempts to recruit two low-level government bureaucrats of questionable value and competence. (One offered classified information over Gmail.) So Merkel, under pressure to stand up to the U.S., has taken the unprecedented step of asking the CIA’s representative in Berlin to leave the country.

Allies do, of course, spy on allies, and the U.S. has reason to spy on Germany. It is the dominant power. Yet there are broader U.S. interests that can be better served by not spying. Without German support it will be impossible to rally reluctant Austrians, Bulgarians, Cypriots, Greeks and others to agree to meaningful EU sanctions on Russia. German support is also crucial for a trade deal between the EU and the U.S.

The U.S. can’t let intelligence incompetence jeopardize its economic and diplomatic priorities. The CIA and NSA can’t be expected to rein themselves in. It’s up to President Obama to drive the message home, because whatever information the U.S. got from its two captured assets is unlikely to have been worth the cost.

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