The United States does not spy on German companies, Germany’s interior minister told reporters in Washington today after meetings with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Speaking at the German embassy, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said “we received clear answers that there is no economic espionage by the United States, American authorities, the intelligence service against German companies.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday defended Germany’s cooperation with U.S. intelligence, dismissing comparisons of its techniques to those used in communist East Germany in an attempt to ease tensions a day before Friedrich’s talks on the thorny issue in Washington.
Just two months before an election, the German weekly Der Spiegel caused a furore with a weekend report that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) worked closely with German spies.
The opposition has pressed Merkel on how much she knew about intrusive U.S. surveillance tactics, casting doubt on her apparent surprise. The chancellor dispatched her interior minister to discuss the issue with officials in Washington.
Government snooping is a particularly sensitive topic in Germany due to heavy surveillance in communist East Germany and under Hitler’s Nazi regime. If suspicions are raised that Merkel knew more about it than she has let on, it could become a hot election issue.