The Cable

Spies Like Us: Germany Spies on Allies, Too

The revelation that Germany spies on Turkey, a NATO member, should dispel any notion that spying on allies violates the unwritten rules of international espionage, despite Berlin's numerous suggestions otherwise.

For nearly a year, the extent of NSA surveillance on German leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, has drawn stern rebuke from the German political and media establishment. Merkel and other German politicians never miss an opportunity to criticize the United States. Merkel went so far as to publicly oust the CIA station chief in Berlin.

"Spying among friends is not at all acceptable," Merkel said in October, a claim she has repeated numerous times, most recently last month.

However, Germany's sanctimony toward "friendly" espionage is now a huge embarrassment for Merkel. Over the weekend, Der Spiegel reported that the BND, Germany's foreign intelligence collection agency, was spying on Turkey. It also reported, based on anonymous sources, that calls made by Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were accidentally recorded. According to Der Spiegel, the calls targeting American leaders were immediately destroyed.

Tensions between Germany and Turkey are nothing new. Berlin has long opposed Turkey's bid to join the European Union. A recent poll found that 69 percent of Germans oppose allowing Turkey into the EU, up from 52 percent in 2005. In 2012, Germany also dragged its feet in supplying Turkey with missiles to secure its border with Syria, despite Turkey's formal request through NATO.

The German government has yet to address the allegations. But Turkey's Foreign Ministry said that if the allegations are true, they are "totally unacceptable." Turkey also summoned German Ambassador Eberhard Pohl on Monday, demanding an explanation.

"It is expected that the German authorities present an official and satisfactory explanation on the claims reported by German media and end these activities immediately if the claims are true," the ministry said in a statement.

Lindsay Moran, a former CIA clandestine service officer, doesn't believe that the German spying on American officials was an accident.

"I find the notion that [Clinton and Kerry] were accidentally overheard preposterous," she said, adding: "It's a kind of delightful revelation given the fact that the Germans have been on their high horse."

Christian Whiton, a former Bush administration State Department senior advisor, added that the report on German spying is a perfect example of why rifts over intelligence among allies should be handled quietly and privately.

"Governments -- especially allies -- ought to handle espionage claims with a simple refusal to comment. That used to be the practice," Whiton said. "Otherwise, they risk looking sanctimonious or hypocritical, as Berlin now does."

Merkel is now in a tough spot. The BND's collection of intelligence from Turkey is necessary; Germany has a large Turkish immigrant population and has arrested some on terrorism charges.

"Any responsible government collects as much foreign intelligence as possible," Whiton said.

Now, Berlin's ability to do so is compromised.

Daniel Kurtzer, who formerly served as the U.S. ambassador to Israel and to Egypt, said that Berlin isn't likely to buy into the argument that spying on Turkey justifies the NSA targeting Merkel. "It's still a problem that needs to be solved between the two," Kurtzer said.

But Moran, the former CIA officer, said that American diplomats finally have ammunition to respond, especially after the CIA station chief was booted out of Germany.

"It was kind of unprecedented and done to embarrass us," Moran said of the ouster. "The Germans will take an evasive stance [on their espionage activities] but now they're in no position to criticize."


The Cable

Countries in Crisis at Record High

In an unprecedented situation, the United Nations has declared four of the world's humanitarian crises "Level 3," the organization's highest designation. They are Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, and the Central African Republic.

The number and scale of these humanitarian crises -- all of which are in active conflict zones -- are placing extraordinary demands on the international aid system, according to organizations with people in these countries.

"I haven't seen anything of this scale before," said Noah Gottschalk, senior policy advisor for humanitarian response at Oxfam America. "Across the board, the humanitarian community sees this as one of the worst moments we've ever had to confront in terms of simultaneous, mostly man-made crises."

He added that while aid organizations like Oxfam "are working to ease the suffering, there's ultimately no humanitarian answer to these crises -- the only real solutions are political."

Another unwelcome milestone was marked in June when U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres announced that for the first time since World War II, the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people worldwide exceeded 50 million people.

The complexity and scope of these problems are also unparalleled, said Craig Redmond, senior vice president of programs at Mercy Corps, which has people working in all four Level 3 countries. Sending staff into the midst of ethnic and sectarian conflicts marked by extreme violence requires aid groups to take extra measures to ensure their safety.

"It is really tough to meet all of these needs," said Gerald Anderson, senior director in the department of humanitarian response at Save the Children. The number of crises demanding a response has "put a strain on resources, staff capacity, and fundraising."

The U.N. increased its rating for Iraq on Wednesday, the day before President Barack Obama announced that a U.S. rescue mission on Mount Sinjar was no longer necessary.

"Declaring the crisis in Iraq a 'Level 3 Emergency,' which represents the highest level of humanitarian crisis, will help trigger more resources and expedite administrative procedures for the response," said Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations secretary-general's special representative for Iraq, in a statement.

Most of the 40,000 people -- members of Iraq's Yazidi community -- who were stranded on the mountain have made their way to safety, sometimes by walking for days, and therefore no longer need the U.S. military to evacuate them. While temporarily safe from the threat of the Islamic State, the Yazidis' basic needs like water, food, and sanitation still need to be met.

And they're not alone. The U.N. estimates that 1.2 million people in central and northern Iraq are internally displaced, and that 1.5 million people there need humanitarian assistance.

"Our donors' support, especially from the Saudi government, has made a huge contribution. But more assistance will be needed in the long run," said Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at a press briefing in Erbil on Thursday.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a forum involving key U.N. and non-U.N. humanitarian partners, determines what gets Level 3 emergency designation. The system is relatively new; it was established after a review of the international response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Emergency status is supposed to ensure that when the scale, scope, and complexity of a crisis are massive, the humanitarian community takes certain internal steps to prioritize it in terms of leadership and resources. It also accelerates the releasing of funds.

South Sudan received its Level 3 status in February. According to the U.N., 3.8 million Sudanese need humanitarian assistance, and more than 1 million of them have fled their homes because of violence.

Redmond said South Sudan does not get the same attention as Iraq, Syria, and other places but the international community is deeply worried that the trouble there could become regional. The possibility of famine is also growing: At least 1.1 million Sudanese don't have enough food.

In the Central African Republic, the U.N. estimates that 527,000 residents are internally displaced, while another 399,000 have fled into neighboring countries to escape the violence.

Meanwhile, the human suffering in Syria dwarfs these other hot spots. According to the U.N., 10.8 million people there need humanitarian assistance and 6.5 million people are internally displaced.

But the conflict's size, duration, and complexity hinder organizations' ability to raise money to help alleviate it.

Mercy Corps, like many international aid organizations, raised more money in three days for Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last year than it has during the entire Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, Redmond said.

Gottschalk said people are far less likely to donate money for man-made and political crises than they are for natural disasters. All four of the U.N.'s Level 3 crises are political in nature, making it difficult to drive donors to give, he said.

In a July report, the French medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) gave high marks to the international response to the Philippines' typhoon, which also reached a Level 3 designation. But it added that the world's responses to humanitarian crises could be much better.

"In the Central African Republic and South Sudan, countries with considerable security and logistical challenges, persistent problems remain with the scale up of the U.N. and [international nongovernmental] response, which is characterized by bureaucracy and risk aversion," the report stated.

To fill in the gaps in countries such as South Sudan and the Central African Republic, MSF says it had to massively bolster operations.

Meanwhile, there are myriad conflicts that have yet to reach Level 3, including Gaza and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yemen, which is rarely in the headlines, has 14 million people who need humanitarian assistance, including 10 million who don't have enough food, Gottschalk said.

As they look at the world, many in the aid community are asking themselves, "How much worse is it going to get?" he said.