Germany booted, but didn't "expel" CIA chief

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive for the weekly German federal Cabinet meeting, July 9, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Getty

WASHINGTON -- A high-ranking German official tells CBS News that while the CIA Station Chief in Germany was ordered to leave the country, Berlin stopped short of formally expelling him, a more severe diplomatic measure that would have forced the U.S. to retaliate.

Keep in mind that this very public incident happens against the politically heated backdrop of an ongoing parliamentary inquiry and investigation by the Public Prosecutor General (Germany's equivalent of the Attorney General) into other U.S. intelligence activities in the country.

Merkel was already irked by news that the NSA was listening in to her phone calls, a revelation made public by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. In this recent case, the two alleged spies were gathering information inside the German intelligence agency and defense ministry.

This request for the CIA chief to depart -- which Germany defended on Friday -- will not block another U.S. intelligence official from taking his place.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is expected to raise the matter with Secretary Kerry when they meet face to face in Vienna, Austria, on the sidelines of the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran. This meeting will replace one that had been tentatively scheduled for next week.

The Reuters news agency quoted Steinmeier as saying Friday that the move to order the CIA chief out of the country was the "right decision, a necessary step and a fitting reaction to the break of trust which has occurred."

"Taking action was unavoidable, in my opinion," said Steinmeier. "We need and expect a relationship based on trust."

CIA Director Brennan did brief Senate leaders on Capitol Hill this week on the recent disclosures. On Thursday, the CIA had literally "no comment whatsoever."

  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

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