In a highly unusual move among close NATO allies, Germany expelled the U.S. intelligence station chief in Berlin Thursday over alleged spying by Washington, the German government said.
"The representative of the U.S. intelligence services at the embassy of the United States of America has been told to leave Germany," Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said in a release.
The move comes in response to two reported cases of suspected U.S. spying in Germany and the yearlong spat over reported National Security Agency (NSA) spying in Germany.
In addition to the two formal probes by German federal prosecutors over the spying cases, Seibert said the demand stemmed from "outstanding questions over the last several months about the activities of the U.S. secret services in Germany."
"From my point of view, spying on allies... is a waste of energy," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in some of her strongest comments yet on the subject. "We have so many problems, we should focus on the important things."
U.S. Ambassador to Germany John B. Emerson was at the Foreign Ministry for the second time in five days on Wednesday for a meeting with a senior official, said a German official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Emerson was summoned and whether the discussion involved the second case.
Surveillance is a sensitive issue in a country where the memory of the Nazis' Gestapo secret police and communist East Germany's Stasi means the right to privacy is treasured.
After the revelations of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Berlin demanded that Washington agree to a "no-spy agreement," but the U.S. has been unwilling to make such a commitment. German officials also emphasize that they rely on intelligence from U.S. agencies.
The head of the German parliament's oversight committee, Clemens Binninger, called the expulsion "a reaction to the long-lacking cooperation in efforts to get to the bottom of this affair."
German police on Wednesday searched the Berlin-area home and office of a man who, local media reported, is a German military employee accused of passing secrets to the U.S.
The case comes on the heels of news last week that a 31-year-old German BND intelligence service operative had been arrested, suspected of having sold over 200 documents to the CIA.
The documents reportedly included papers on a German parliamentary panel probing mass surveillance activities by the NSA, whose targets have allegedly included Chancellor Merkel's mobile phone.