The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has curbed spying on friendly governments in Western Europe in response to the furour over a German caught selling secrets to the United States and the Edward Snowden revelations of classified information held by the National Security Agency, according to current and former US officials.
The pause in decades of espionage, which remains partially in effect, was designed to give CIA officers time to examine whether they were being careful enough and to evaluate whether spying on allies is worth running the risk of discovery, said a US official who has been briefed on the situation.
Under the stand-down order, case officers in Europe largely have been forbidden from undertaking “unilateral operations” such as meeting with sources they have recruited within allied governments. Such clandestine meetings are the bedrock of spying.
CIA officers are still allowed to meet with their counterparts in the host country’s intelligence service, conduct joint operations with host country services and conduct operations with the approval of the host government. Recently, unilateral operations targeting third country nationals — Russians in France, for example —were restarted. But most meetings with sources who are host nationals remain on hold, as do new recruitments.
The CIA declined to comment.
James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, said during a public event Thursday that the US is assuming more risk because it has stopped spying on “specific targets,” though he didn’t spell out details.