Was an American spy ever punished for spying against an European country according to what's available in the public domain?

COPENHAGEN, May 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) used a partnership with Denmark's foreign intelligence unit to spy on senior officials of neighbouring countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Danish state broadcaster DR said.

The findings are the result of a 2015 internal investigation in the Danish Defence Intelligence Service into NSA's role in the partnership, DR said, citing nine unnamed sources with access to the investigation.


There was a report about the U.S. spying on Germany, but nothing came out of it. It was a scandal and it didn't really hurt relationship in a material way. Now, I am wondering if an American spy was ever caught spying in Europe by an American ally and not Russia and ever got punished for it.


Paul Whelan, an American convicted of espionage in Russia who has always called himself a political hostage, has been seen in video footage for the first time in three years.

This is the only thing I found and Russia was never an ally of the U.S. so to speak, so I was wondering if there's any spy caught in an European allied country who are in some kind of military alliance with the U.S. or collaborate with NATO.

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    Nowadays, the US relies very little on HUMINT provided by its own agents, unless they have diplomatic cover. So any examples probably have to go a while back. Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 22:28
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    The question doesn't expressly say so, but I presume that this question is not asking about the World War II era or early time periods.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 0:16
  • There are roughly two types of "spy", in British parlance there are "officers" and "agents". An officer will be British, and work in an embassy. They will have diplomatic immunity. An agent will be a local, non-British person. They will have intelligence (usually as a result of where they work) which they pass to the officer, in exchange for something, eg money. You don't find British people working as agents. I assume the USA is similar. Americans aren't intelligence agents in Europe.
    – James K
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 6:32

2 Answers 2


Both from 2014, after the NSA was caught spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

  1. German intelligence worker sentenced for passing secrets to CIA ( 8 Years ).

Markus R.—his last name wasn’t released even after conviction. A thirty one year old who had been working with the Bundesnachrichtendienst (the German Federal Intelligence Service, or B.N.D.) he was caught after the CIA was "done with him" and he tried to become a triple agent and sell his services to Russia.

  1. Leonid K., Looks like he was never charged. An urban German Defense Ministry official who fell under suspicion; due to his close connections with the C.I.A. station chief Berlin. The station chief was described, in the German press, "as a friendly guy and great networker, American style". Leonid was also suspected with ties to Russia.

There was a record of a transfer of two thousand euros from the American, but Leonid explained that it was just a loan for a wedding-related event. Nothing, it should be emphasized, has been proved against him, or even charged; he is a free man. Der Spiegel noted that he and the American might just have had an “unusual friendship.” The magazine added: “And yet it’s strange: precisely in February of this year, the contacts between K. and his American friend abruptly broke off.”

Looks like some folks got taken to the wood shed over these events.

German Further Spying Clampdown

For the ninth time, lawmakers in the so-called "Five Eyes" countries tasked with supervising their respective intelligence services were meeting in the British capital. They had faced serious accusations of spying within the last year. This time, the British, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders had invited their somewhat disgruntled German counterparts to join the group.


This comes close. The “punishment” came in the form of a very public (and unusual) removal from the country and did apparently have serious consequences for the career of some of the CIA officers involved.

However, France didn't try to bring criminal charges or arrest anyone, which is what usually happened to spies from communist countries (when they had no diplomatic cover, irrespective of their citizenship). Should the government have wanted to do the same to Americans, it would have been possible in this case as one of the people involved did not have any diplomatic immunity.

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    I think the decision to bring or not bring criminal charges is more closely related to what relations between France and the country in question are. With allies treated differently then countries that are considered adversaries and the type of government isn't as important.
    – Joe W
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 17:04
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    The article you link is behind a paywall, could you briefly summarize what the case was about?
    – quarague
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 7:23

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