This page was archived on October 2020.


Cooperation on European security issues

13 - Relations with the US on intelligence cooperation and data protection

Grade: B+
Unity 3/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 14/20
Scorecard 2012: B+ (14/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2014: C- (6/20)

American spying in Europe continued to damage relations between the US and Germany and could have serious repercussions for US technology companies.

In July 2014 Germany expelled the Berlin CIA station chief after discovering the agency had recruited two agents inside the German government. This compounded the damage done by the US eavesdropping that became public in the Snowden revelations. Germany’s minister of finance, Wolfgang Schäuble, remarked: “so much stupidity just makes you want to cry”. President Obama called Chancellor Merkel and offered to repair US-German intelligence cooperation. The CIA subsequently suspended espionage activities against allied governments in Western Europe, although Germany still increased its counter-espionage efforts against the US. A high-level US delegation led by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough visited Berlin in late July for discussions on espionage with the Chancellor’s chief of staff. Domestic barriers to privacy reforms within the US remained high, as evidenced by the Senate’s blocking the USA Freedom Act in November, which would have ended bulk data collection and created stricter privacy controls.

The Snowden revelations continued to reverberate throughout Europe, but as a political and governmental matter, it has only been taken up – in a relatively muted way – by Germany and a couple of other countries along with Brussels. Most European governments have not made it a priority in their relations with the US, reflecting different attitudes to surveillance. The European Parliament increased pressure on the US to introduce safeguards to protect EU citizens’ privacy, including by voting for the break-up of Google. This move had no legal impact but strengthened other efforts, driven by Germany, to increase regulation on US technology companies. Meanwhile, Austria and Italy led calls for a collective European policy on privacy and intelligence, with the Czech Republic, Denmark, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK the most reluctant.

The release of the US Senate report on torture in December 2014 raised questions, especially for Poland and the UK, about the extent of European cooperation with the Bush administration. European officials welcomed its publication and noted that the Obama administration had repudiated torture and supported the report’s publication.