By He Mengshu
BERLIN, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Germany's relations with the United States reeled further on Monday over double-agent allegations. An employee of Germany's Foreign Intelligence Service (BND) was arrested for allegedly selling more than 200 classified documents to a U.S. intelligence service.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that allegations of spying by a suspected double-agent were serious, after ministers in her government called for a swift response from Washington. Also commentators in the country demanded a tough response to the case.
QUICK RESPONSE FROM WASHINGTON WANTED
The latest double-agent reports, following revelations of U.S. data gathering practices and the tapping of Merkel's mobile phone, have sparked anger in Berlin.
The U.S. Ambassador to Germany was asked to come for a talk on Friday at the German foreign ministry, after media reported that a BND employee was arrested last week on suspicion of having been passing on information to a U.S. intelligence agency for two years.
"If the reports are correct, it would be a very serious case," Merkel said Monday at a press conference during her visit to China, according to a statement of the German government.
She added that "it would be for me a clear contradiction as to what I consider to be a trustful cooperation between agencies and partners."
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Monday that "man can't simply go back to business as usual if the suspicion is confirmed," calling on Washington to assist in a speedy clarification of the case.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas asked for an explanation from the U.S., saying "only in this way will Americans be able to regain trust."
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who called for a quick and clear response of the U.S. government, said the latest scandal showed the importance of effective counterintelligence.
In a closed meeting, de Maiziere spoke of the need for a "360-degree view" in intelligence matters, German newspaper Bild reported Monday.
This would in practice mean that German intelligence services should be equally alert to the activities of allies such as the United States, Britain and France.
Citing a leaked paper from the interior ministry, the newspaper said German authorities were planning "counter-measures", which would be taken primarily against communication monitoring.
GERMAN-U.S. FRIENDSHIP CHALLENGED
Germany's Attorney General confirmed last week that a 31-year-old BND employee had been arrested on suspicion of acting for a U.S. intelligence service.
Citing information from security officials, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag said Sunday that the man had worked for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and handed over 218 classified documents in return for 25,000 euros (abut 34,686 U.S. dollars).
The new case also caused outrage among commentators of Germany's national and regional media.
Germany is not a country where hostile or allied intelligence services can do whatever they want, Zeit Online commented on Monday.
"If - or rather because - the U.S. government and its machinery are making a laughing stock of all notions of German-American friendship, then it's time to get tough," the paper wrote.
"The spy scandal will be the acid test of German-American relations," Tagesspiegel newspaper said, noting that it can "atmospherically complicate other areas of extreme importance to both sides, such as negotiations on the EU-U.S. free-trade agreement."
The Stuttgarter Zeitung on Sunday commented that the scandal clearly showed U.S. "disdain for democratic institutions and contempt for the smaller partner."
"We now have the next confirmation that we are not such good friends as people would have us believe," agreed Tagesspiegel.
In a Spiegel magazine survey conducted amid the latest revelations, 57 percent of respondents favored "greater independence from the United States." 69 percent said their trust in the U.S. had recently plummeted.