Germany is increasingly relying on the U.S. to tip them off to domestic terrorist threats, after decrying U.S. surveillance programs amid Edward Snowden’s revelations.
“In a way, we have outsourced our counterterrorism to the United States,” German Institute for International and Security Affairs terrorism expert Guido Steinberg told The New York Times, adding that “the Germans are not ready to build up their intelligence capabilities for political reasons, so this will continue.”
Steinbergs comments come after U.S. counter-terrorism authorities tipped Germany off to a sophisticated plot by a Syrian refugee to attack Berlin’s airport. The refugee was granted asylum in February 2015 by German authorities and reportedly traveled to Turkey and Syria without coming on the radar of German intelligence authorities.
After the U.S. tip, the Germany discovered he was actively casing Berlin’s airport and put him under 24 hour surveillance. When authorities raided his apartment they found 3 pounds of TATP explosive, a signature Islamic State weapon used in the Paris and Brussels attacks. The plot is seen as the closest Germany has come to a mass casualty Islamic terror attack, and highlights the ineptitude of its intelligence service.
“American agencies are Europe’s best counterterrorists,” Kings College terrorism expert Peter Neumann said of Europe’s capabilities. “People now understand better that the security services are intercepting data not only because they want to read your grandmother’s emails, but that in most cases there is a purpose to this.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was so outraged by revelations that her cell phone was bugged by the U.S. intelligence service that she angrily called President Barack Obama and told him “she unmistakably disapproves of and views as completely unacceptable such practices, if the indications are authenticated.” Germany even expelled the top U.S. intelligence official in 2013, an unprecedented move between allies.
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