The Obama administration offered Germany a rare and exclusive deal to share intelligence, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel balked, according to a new report.
Citing an anonymous U.S. official, Bloomberg reported on Friday that U.S. Ambassador John Emerson proposed the deal to German officials on Wednesday, the same morning the government kicked out the CIA station chief in the country.
On the table was a deal similar to the one the U.S. has with just four other nations: Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which join together as the so-called “Five Eyes” alliance.
The agreement would have allowed intelligence agencies at the five English-speaking nations and Germany to share the electronic messages and clues they pick up from their surveillance. The deal also would have come with a consensus for the countries to limit spying on each other.
A White House spokesperson did not deny the report on Friday and said that the U.S. is "open to discussions" about new intelligence arrangements.
"As we've said, we do not have 'no-spy' agreements with any country in the world," Caitlin Hayden said in a statement to The Hill.
"Further, we are not currently looking to alter the Five Eyes structure. But we remain open to discussions with our close allies and partners, including Germany, about how we can better coordinate our intelligence efforts.
According to Bloomberg, Merkel’s government rejected the idea because it would have led to an expansion of German intelligence operations. Instead, German officials decided to kick out the top American spy in the country.
That almost unprecedented action exposed a deepening rift between the two nations that first came to light last year, when documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency (NSA) had secretly monitored Merkel’s cellphone communications.
In the months after that news, Merkel has repeatedly pushed the White House to accept a “no-spying” agreement to totally cut off snooping operations. President Obama and other top officials have repeatedly ruled that out, however, claiming that no country can be totally immune from U.S. surveillance.
Recent revelations that two men had secretly slipped hundreds of classified German files to the CIA have heightened tensions between the two countries and outraged the German public, many of whom have vivid memories of living under a totalitarian police state.
Secretary of State John Kerry tried to soothe relations on Friday in a visit to Berlin.
Ahead of that meeting, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that his government wanted “to reinvigorate our partnership, our friendship on an honest basis.”
This story was updated at 8:30 p.m.