German intelligence spied on American, Turkish officials

BND headquarters in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
German intelligence agencies have spied on two successive American secretaries of state and are actively engaged in espionage in Turkey, even though both countries are allied members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported last week that German spies intercepted at least one telephone call made by American politician Hillary Clinton, while she was serving as secretary of state. The Munich-based newspaper said the intercepted telephone call was made over an unencrypted line while Clinton was travelling on an airplane belonging to the United States government. On Sunday, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel added that the interception of Clinton’s telephone call occurred in 2012, when the American secretary of state telephoned the former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan to discuss his mediation efforts over the Syrian civil war. Der Spiegel said that Clinton had not been a direct target of a German intelligence operation and that her telephone conversation with Anan had been intercepted “by accident”, after it “quasi-randomly entered the listening network” of the BND, Germany’s federal intelligence agency. Spiegel added that the BND officers who conducted the interception passed the recording on to their superiors. The newsmagazine said that Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, also had a telephone conversation intercepted by the BND in 2013, again by accident. This time, however, the German intelligence officers immediately deleted the intercepted conversation, according to Spiegel. The article goes on to add that German intelligence circles insist the wiretapped conversations of the two US secretaries of state were accidentally recorded within the context of other intelligence-collection operations, and that the American politicians were not in and of themselves targets of the BND. The Spiegel article goes on to state, however, that the BND has been actively conducting espionage operations in NATO member-state Turkey since at least 2009. Read more of this post

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Up to 20 US spies inside German government: media reports

US embassy in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
German counterintelligence has intensified its surveillance of “certain employees of the United States embassy” in Berlin, after internal reports suggested that “up to 20” agents of the American government are operating inside the German federal bureaucracy. Citing information “from American security circles”, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag said on Sunday that the agents are German citizens who are secretly employed by a variety of American civilian and military intelligence agencies in return for money. The Berlin-based tabloid noted that at least a dozen such agents have infiltrated four departments of the German federal government, namely the Ministries of Defense, Finance, Interior, as well as the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The paper said that the latter has been targeted by the US Central Intelligence Agency because it is routinely employed by the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, as a cover for clandestine activities. Last week, Germany ordered the immediate removal from the country of the CIA station chief, after it caught two German citizens, one working for the BND, and one for the country’s Ministry of Defense, secretly spying for Washington. It also instructed its intelligence agencies to limit their cooperation with their American counterparts “to the bare essentials” until further notice. According to Bild am Sonntag, the “growing pressure” against American intelligence operations inside Germany has prompted American spy agencies to transfer their recruitment activities of German citizens to nearby European capitals, such as Prague of Warsaw. Meanwhile, in an interview aired Sunday on Germany’s public-service television broadcaster, ZDF, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared pessimistic about the possibility that American intelligence agencies will stop recruiting German citizens. She said that Washington and Berlin had “fundamentally different views” on the nature and operational character of intelligence, and that it would be difficult to bridge the gap of perception between the two countries. The German leader added, however, that she favored continued cooperation between German and American intelligence agencies, as both countries “profit from the cooperation concerning counterterrorism and other things”. Read more of this post

‘Diplomatic earthquake’ as Germany halts spy cooperation with US

Angela Merkel and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The German government has instructed its intelligence agencies to limit their cooperation with their American counterparts “to the bare essentials” until further notice, according to media reports. The move follows news that Berlin requested on Thursday the immediate removal from Germany of the United States Central Intelligence Agency chief of station —essentially the top American official in the country. The request came after two German citizens, one working for the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, and one working for the country’s Federal Ministry of Defense, were allegedly found to have been secretly spying for the US. German media reported on Thursday that the temporary halt in Berlin’s intelligence collaboration with Washington applies across the spectrum, with the exception of areas directly affecting tactical security concerns for Germany, such as the protection of its troops in Afghanistan, or defending against immediate terrorist threats. Sources in the German capital claimed that the removal of the CIA station chief was technically a “recommendation for his departure”, and did not constitute an official diplomatic expulsion. However, German observers described the incident as a “diplomatic earthquake”, which would have been unthinkable as a policy option for the German government, barring actions against “pariah states like North Korea or Iran”. This is not the first time an American intelligence officer has been asked to leave Germany. Berlin expelled another CIA officer in the 1990s, after it emerged that the American intelligence Agency had tried to recruit a German official at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. However, unlike the current imbroglio, the previous spy affair was handled discretely and with almost no media fanfare, as is customary among allies. The decision to recommend the CIA station chief’s removal was reportedly made at a senior governmental level, following a “fruitless” telephone exchange between CIA Director John Brennan and Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, the coordinator between the German Chancellery and the BND. According to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Brennan offered Fritsche no apology and had “nothing to contribute other than clichés about transatlantic ties”, as well as his expressed irritation about the way the media were handling the incident. Read more of this post

Germany probes second case of intelligence officer who spied for US

Germany’s Federal Ministry of DefenseBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Just days after announcing the arrest of an intelligence officer on charges of spying for the United States, German authorities say they are investigating a second individual on suspicion of espionage. Federal prosecutors said yesterday that the individual in question is a German citizen and is under “initial suspicion of activity for an intelligence agency” of a foreign country. They refused to provide further information and added that an arrest had not yet been made. But German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said on Wednesday that the subject of the investigation is suspected of spying for the United States. The news comes less than a week after an officer of the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, was found to have allegedly spied for the US Central Intelligence Agency for over two years. According to Süddeutsche’s sources, the second suspect works for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Defense. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that the unnamed individual specializes in “global security policy” and that he came under the suspicion of Germany’s military counterintelligence agency because of his “close proximity to alleged American intelligence operatives”. Later on Wednesday, German federal government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed that Berlin had opened “investigations in two cases of suspected espionage, on very serious suspicions”. Seibert refused to elaborate, but added that police had raided a number of properties in the German capital. Meanwhile, Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told the Saarbrücker Zeitung that he failed to understand why Washington would want to spy on his country. “We talk to each other all the time, and no side keeps its views secret”, he told the Saarland-based newspaper. “The attempt to use conspiratorial tactics to find out about Germany’s position is not simply unseemly, it is unnecessary”. But an unnamed former senior intelligence official, who has liaised extensively with the BND, protested to The Washington Post that “the Germans do lots and lots of stuff and don’t tell us everything they do”. Read more of this post

Germany ‘might scrap’ no-spy treaty with US, UK, France

Thomas de MaizièreBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The German government is considering scrapping a decades-old no-spy agreement with the three Allied victors of World War II, following the arrest of a German intelligence officer who was caught spying for the United States. The treaty was signed in 1945 between the German state and the governments of the United States, France and Britain. Their intelligence services are defined in the treaty as allied with Germany’s and are seen as working with Germany’s national interest in mind. Consequently, Berlin pledges not to direct counterespionage operations against French, American and British intelligence activities inside Germany. Implicit in the agreement is the understanding that these three countries can spy on German soil only when targeting non-German operatives in the country. However, in an interview with German tabloid newspaper Bild, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, said that Berlin is now seriously considering scrapping the postwar treaty, in response to the recent revelations about alleged espionage activities against Germany by the US Central Intelligence Agency. He was referring to news, aired last week, that an officer of the BND, Germany’s main external intelligence organization, was found to have spied for the CIA for over two years. On Monday, the Reuters news agency said it had confirmed that the alleged double spy had indeed been recruited by the CIA, and that the Agency’s Director, John Brennan, had asked to brief senior members of Congressional intelligence committees about the issue. Also on Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington that the US government would “work with the Germans to resolve this situation appropriately”. But these assurances seem to have done little to quell Berlin’s irritation. Another senior German politician, Stephan Mayer, who is close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told Bild that it was time for German intelligence to “focus more strongly on our so-called allies”. Read more of this post

Germany summons US ambassador following arrest of CIA spy

BND headquarters in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Authorities in Germany have summoned the American ambassador to Berlin following the arrest of a German intelligence officer who was apprehended last week on suspicion of spying for the United States. The man, who has not been named, is suspected of passing classified government information to American intelligence operatives on a variety of subjects. His most recent undertakings are said to have targeted activities of a German parliamentary committee investigating US espionage against Germany. The episode is expected to further strain relations between the two allies, which were damaged by revelations last year that the National Security Agency, America’s signals intelligence organization, had bugged the telephone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The revelation, which was made public by Edward Snowden, an American defector to Russia who had previously worked for the NSA, showed that Chancellor Merkel had been targeted as part of a wider US spy operation against Germany. The revelations sparked the establishment of a nine-member parliamentary committee that is tasked with evaluating Snowden’s revelations and proposing Germany’s response. It appears that the man arrested, who is believed to have been secretly employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, tried to spy on the activities of the committee on behalf of his American handlers. According to German media reports, the man, who is said to be 31 years old, is a “low-level clerk” at the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, Germany’s external intelligence agency. According to Der Spiegel newsmagazine, he is believed to have spied for the CIA for approximately two years, and to have supplied the American spy agency with around 200 classified German government documents in exchange for around €25,000 —approximately $30,000. Read more of this post

Germans kidnapped in Ukraine had ‘intelligence connections’

Map of UkraineBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Four German military observers, who were kidnapped in Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists, are members of a military agency that has intelligence contacts, but are not themselves spies, according to a leading German newspaper. The German observers were abducted along with several other Western military officials on April 25, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. They were participating in a military verification mission organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the time of the abduction, one pro-Russian separatist leader, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, said his group had decided to detain the OSCE monitors due to “credible information” that they were spies for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The OSCE strongly denied the accusation that its monitors were intelligence operatives, saying that the kidnappers’ claims were aimed at damaging the reputation of the organization. With nearly 60 signatories to its charter, the OSCE has operated since 1975 with the aim of securing peace across the European continent. It regularly supplies military observers to investigate what it terms “uncommon military operations” in nations that formally invite their presence, as Ukraine did last month. On Monday, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung said that, although the four German OSCE observers are not employees of German intelligence agencies, they do maintain “certain connections” with Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, known as Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND. The Munich-based broadsheet claimed that the inspectors, who had been given diplomatic status during their deployment in Ukraine, are not members of staff at the BND or MAD, Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service. However, they are employed at the Verification Center of the Bundeswehr —Germany’s federal armed forces. The mission of the Center, which is based in the town of Geilenkirchen, in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia, is to verify compliance with weapons control agreements signed between Germany and other countries. Read more of this post

German intelligence report sees US leading global energy contest

The Tengiz oil refinery in KazakhstanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A leaked geopolitical study authored by German intelligence sees the United States as the primary beneficiary of the world’s drastically changing energy balance. The report, which was produced by the German Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnach- richtendienst, or BND) was leaked to the Reuters news agency and accessed by Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It sides with other recent estimates, notably by the International Energy Agency, which suggest that the domestic oil production of the United States might exceed that of Russia and Saudi Arabia by the year 2020. The BND estimates that, through the technique popularly known as fracking (using pressurized fluid to cause horizontal fractures on underground rock layers), the US will be able to exploit oil and natural gas reserves on its territory that were previously considered inaccessible. This could transform the US from the world’s largest energy importer of energy to a net exporter of both oil and natural gas. According to the report, such a massive transformation of the global energy import-export balance could have “particularly dramatic consequences” in the realm of international relations. Most crucially, it could transform the existing balance of power between the US and China. Specifically, German intelligence analysts forecast that, as the US becomes increasingly self-sufficient in energy, it will limit its import of oil and natural gas to its neighboring countries, namely Canada and Mexico. This could potentially lead the US to gradually disengage from the Middle East, allowing Washington’s foreign policy “increased freedom of action” vis-à-vis energy-rich Arab nations and Israel. At the same time, more Middle Eastern oil will find its way to China, as the Far-Eastern country will emerge as the world’s largest importer of energy. Read more of this post

Germany, UK, share intelligence with Free Syrian Army [updated]

Regional map of SyriaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Two newspapers alleged over the weekend that German and British spy services routinely share critical intelligence on Syrian government troops with rebel forces in the country. In a leading article, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag claimed yesterday that Germany’s intelligence activities in Syria were far broader than officially acknowledged. The paper quoted an unnamed official from Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), who said that the country “can be proud of the significant contribution we are making to the fall of the Assad regime”. Also quoted in the article was an unidentified American intelligence official, who claimed that “no Western intelligence service has such good sources inside Syria as Germany’s BND”. According to Bild, the BND collects most of its intelligence on Syria through a number of ships, equipped with signals intelligence platforms, stationed in international waters off the Syrian coast. These ships can collect data on Syrian troop movements as far inland as 600 kilometers, or 400 miles. The collected data is then forwarded to BND officers stationed at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization base in Adana, Turkey, who are also tasked with intercepting radio messages and telephone exchanges between members of the Syrian government and/or military. The information is then passed on to members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the primary armed force engaged in a fierce civil war against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Also on Sunday, the London-based Times newspaper quoted an unnamed FSA official as saying that the rebel forces are routinely given intelligence by British spy agencies. The official told the paper that “the British are giving the information to the Turks and the Americans and we are getting it from the Turks”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #754

Jonathan EvansBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New German spy HQ to open a year late. The BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, was due to move from its base in Pullach, near Munich, to an enormous newly built center in Berlin, at the end of 2014. But that has now been officially put back by a year. The Berliner Morgenpost newspaper quoted BND president Gerhard Schindler saying he was “regularly losing young new staff”, due to the delay. The uncertainty has meant “they leave our authority and find themselves another employer”, he said.
►►UK spy chief warns of ‘astonishing’ levels of cyberespionage. In a rare public speech, Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, Britain’s domestic spy service, has said that the West now faces an “astonishing” cyberespionage threat on an “industrial scale” from specific nation states. He said that cyberespionage is now conducted “with industrial-scale processes involving many thousands of people lying behind both state-sponsored cyber espionage and organized cyber crime”. Surely, however, Evans does not mean to imply that the West’s role in cyberespionage is purely defensive?
►►Aussie spy agency lacks resources to vet asylum seekers. An official audit into the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s ability to vet asylum seekers for potential security threats, has found that it is struggling with the “sharp increase” in boat arrivals, rudimentary computer systems and 30 per cent fewer staff than needed. The audit report examined 411 cases as a sample of the almost 180,000 security assessments ASIO completes each year.

German spy agency destroyed employee files of former Nazi members

BND seal

BND seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Germany’s primary spy agency has admitted that it recently destroyed the personnel files of some of its employees who used to be members of Nazi-era organizations during World War II, before they were hired to spy for West Germany in the postwar era. The discovery of the destruction of the files was made by a group of German historians  appointed by the government to investigate the extent to which the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s postwar foreign intelligence agency, relied on former Nazi officials. It has been known for some time that a tenth of the BND’s postwar personnel had been members of the Hitler-era National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the Gestapo, the SS and its intelligence wing, the SD. Earlier this year, however, the BND’s outgoing Director, Ernst Uhrlau, appointed an independent commission of historians to research the BND’s attitude toward the hundreds of former Nazi officials within its ranks. Now the independent commission has told German media that, in 2007, the spy agency destroyed approximately 250 personnel files belonging to BND employees with Nazi pasts. The commission’s spokesman, Dr Klaus-Dietmar Henke, told German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that the destroyed files primarily related to people who occupied “significant intelligence positions in the SS, the SD or the Gestapo”. Der Spiegel, which described the incident as “a true historical scandal”, said that the destruction of the files “inevitably raises suspicions that agency employees have deliberately tried to obstruct [...] efforts to investigate the organization’s history”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #628 (analysis edition)

Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer

►►Should intelligence agencies chase tax evaders? Three years ago, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, paid a whistleblower close to $7 million for DVDs containing information on thousands of secret accounts at a leading Liechtenstein bank. The discs contained data on 4,527 Liechtenstein foundations and financial entities, 1,400 of which were owned by Germans. But should a spy agency like the BND take part in the unglamorous and politically charged business of collecting information on tax cheats?
►►UK ex-spy chief says Google makes spies work harder. The rise of the web and Google means Britain’s spies have to work harder to produce genuinely secret intelligence, according to Sir David Pepper, the former director of GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency. He said “the Google effect” of so much information being readily available online had “very substantially” raised the “threshold for producing intelligence” for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
►►Ex-CIA official says America ‘creates its own enemies’. Americans are in the crosshairs of terrorists worldwide purely due to Washington’s policy in the Muslim world, according to former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who spoke to Russia Today. Scheuer, author of Through Our Enemies’ Eyes, worked for the CIA for over 20 years and at one time was the chief of the agency’s ‘Bin Laden unit’.

Vladimir Putin ‘targeted by German spy agency’ during his KGB days

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A German researcher claims that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was targeted by West German intelligence in the 1980s when he was a KGB operative in East Germany. In the Cold War’s closing stages, Putin and his wife, Ludmila Putina, who were then in their thirties, spent five years in Dresden, German Democratic Republic. As one of four KGB officers in Dresden, Putin was tasked with infiltrating the local university and monitoring the on-campus activities of the children of Soviet and East German notables. But according to new research published last week, an undercover agent of the BND, West Germany’s external intelligence agency, was able to infiltrate the Putin household in Dresden, and pass private information about the couple’s personal life to her spymasters in Bonn and in NATO. The agent, codenamed LENCHEN, a native German, worked as a translator at the KGB station in Dresden. She reportedly befriended Ludmila Putina, eventually becoming her “shoulder to cry on”, according to Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, director of the Weilheim-based Institute for Peace Studies, who has published several books on the history of the BND. Schmidt-Eenboom claims that LENCHEN became Ludmila Putina’s closest confidante in Dresden. The latter told her that Vladimir Putin had been involved in numerous infidelities over the years and that he often beat his wife. LENCHEN reported to her handlers that life in the Putin household was highly dysfunctional, despite an outward appearance of happiness and normality. Schmidt-Eenboom claims he confirmed the report with at least two unconnected sources with knowledge of BND operations during the Cold War. If the story is historically accurate, it will signify only the second known penetration of KGB structures in Europe by the BND. The only other such example, says Schmidt-Eenboom, involved an agent named COLONEL VIKTOR, who also worked as an agent for the BND in the 1980s. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #621

Pakistan

Pakistan

►►Pakistan denies spying on German forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have rejected a German newspaper report that the country’s secret service spied on German security forces in Afghanistan. Without citing its sources, mass-selling weekly Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday that Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency warned its interior ministry that Pakistan had spied on 180 German police officers deployed in Afghanistan to train locals.
►►CIA expert says US government lacks security operating system. Industry is not providing the US government with the basic tools it needs to build a secure information infrastructure, according to Robert Bigman, chief of the CIA’s Information Assurance Group. “What we need is a secure operating system”, he said during a panel discussion at the Security Innovation Network showcase in Washington last month. “We gave up some time ago on the battle to build a secure operating system, and we don’t have one”.
►►US increased spy spending in 2011. The US Congress appropriated $54.6 billion for intelligence programs in the 2011 fiscal year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed last week. The amount, which does not include what was spent on military intelligence, is a slight increase from the year before but could be the end of the upward trend, says CNN’s Security Clearance blog.

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