Germany helped Israel build atom bomb, says leading nuclear expert

Ben-Gurion and Adenauer in 1960By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of West Germany secretly funded the Israeli nuclear weapons program during the Cold War, according to a leading German nuclear expert. Today, Israeli authorities continue to deny the existence of the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal. However, it is generally accepted that the country’s atom program began as early as 1952, with the establishment of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. By the mid-1960s, Israeli scientists had built at least one nuclear bomb; and by the time the Six-Day War broke out in 1967, the Jewish state had at least two nuclear warheads in its possession.

But how could a small, developing country fund one of the most expensive weapons programs in existence? According to Hans Rühle, one of Germany’s leading nuclear experts, the Israeli nuclear weapons program was primarily funded by the Federal Republic of Germany. Rühle was head of planning for Germany’s Ministry of Defense in the 1980s, and subsequently held various management positions in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In an article published last week in German newspaper Die Welt, Rühle says that Germany was “almost certainly” the financial powerhouse behind the ambitious Israeli nuclear weapons program.

The German expert states that the initial bilateral agreement was struck in 1960 in New York, during a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The program, codenamed “Aktion Geschäftsfreund” (“Operation Business Partner”) was solidified during a subsequent meeting between the two men in French capital Paris, in 1961. It stipulated that Germany would lend Israel 2 billion deutschmarks (approximately $500 million) for 10 years, under the pretext of developing the Negev desert into land suitable for agricultural production. The project had been zealously promoted by Ben-Gurion ever since he had become leader of his newly founded country.

The deal, says Rühle, was administered through Germany’s government-owned Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau development bank, which specialized in providing grants to emerging economies. It bore all the hallmarks of a typical capital assistance program aimed at strengthening West Germany’s economic and political ties with developing countries. However, with the full support of the German government, the funds were secretly channeled to building several nuclear facilities in Israel, including the Negev Nuclear Research Center. The latter’s existence was publicly revealed in 1986 by Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli engineer who had worked in the top-secret Negev facility from 1976 to 1985. The Israeli Mossad eventually abducted Vanunu from Italy and renditioned him to Israel, where he was jailed.

Interview with US airman who spied for East Germany

Jeff CarneyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A former intelligence specialist in the United States Air Force, who became one of East Germany’s most lucrative spies in the West, has given a rare media interview. Jeff Carney was a linguist and intelligence specialist assigned to the US Electronic Security Command at Tempelhof Central Airport in West Berlin during the closing stages of the Cold War. In April of 1983, Carney, who was then aged just 19, walked across the dividing line between West and East Berlin and asked to speak to representatives of the East German government. He has since argued that his defection was prompted by his disagreement with the foreign policy of the administration of US President Ronald Reagan. But in an interview aired on Wednesday by the BBC, he claimed there was “nothing ideological about his decision to defect”, and that he, as a gay man, “felt unwanted” because of the US military’s stance on homosexuality. His plan, which he described in his interview as “an impulsive move” was to request to live in the German Democratic Republic. But instead of granting his wish, East German intelligence officials commanded him to return to his post at Tempelhof and become an agent-in-place. Carney claims that they threatened to reveal to his US Air Force superiors his attempt to defect if he refused to cooperate. The young airman returned to his base and began spying for East Germany’s Ministry for State Security (MfS), commonly known as Stasi. He was provided with a miniature camera, given the operational codename UWE, and was told supply his handler, codenamed RALPH, with classified documents, which he smuggled out of Tempelhof in his shoes and clothing. His West German tour came to an end in 1984, when he was transferred to the US state of Texas. While there, he continued to spy for the Stasi, traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Mexico City, Mexico, in order to meet with his East German handlers. However, in 1985, believing that his superiors in the Air Force were beginning to suspect him of espionage, he traveled to Mexico and walked in the East German embassy in Mexico City, demanding to be transferred to East Germany. The Stasi eventually smuggled him out of Mexico to Cuba, and from there to Czechoslovakia before resettling him to East Germany. Read more of this post

Germany ends spy treaty with US, UK, in response to Snowden leaks

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The German government has announced the termination of a Cold-War era surveillance cooperation treaty with the United States and the United Kingdom in response to revelations made by American defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former computer expert for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), has been given political asylum in Russia. Earlier this summer, he told German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that the United States spies on the communications of Germany and other European Union countries with the same intensity it spies on China or Iraq. In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Snowden also revealed the existence of Project TEMPORA, operated by Britain’s foremost signals intelligence agency, the General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Snowden told the paper that GCHQ collected and stored massive quantities of foreign telephone call data and email messages, many of them from Germany, and shared them with its US counterpart, the NSA. On Friday, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guido Westerwelle, issued a statement saying that the government in Berlin had decided to scrap a longstanding surveillance cooperation agreement with Western countries in response to Snowden’s revelations. The agreement was signed in 1968 between the governments of West Germany, the US, UK, and France. It gave Western countries with military bases on West German soil the right to conduct surveillance operations in Germany in support of their military presence there. In the statement, Foreign Minister Westerwelle argued that the cancellation of the surveillance agreement was “a necessary and proper consequence of the recent debate about protecting personal privacy”. Read more of this post

Illegal spy agency operated in West Germany, new book claims

Willy BrandtBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Conservative politicians in Cold-War West Germany set up an illegal domestic intelligence agency in order to spy on their political rivals, a forthcoming book claims. In Destroy After Reading: The Secret Intelligence Service of the CDU and CSU, German journalist Stefanie Waske exposes what she says was an elaborate plot to undermine West Germany’s rapprochement with Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. The book, which is scheduled for publication in February of 2013, claims that the illegal intelligence agency, known as ‘the Little Service’, was set up by politicians from Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister organization, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU). The two parties allegedly founded ‘the Little Service’ in 1969, in response to the election of Willy Brandt as German Chancellor in 1969. Brandt, who was leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP), was elected based on a program of normalizing West Germany’s relations with Eastern Europe. Under this policy, which became known as ‘Neue Ostpolitik’ (‘new eastern policy’), Brandt radically transformed West German foreign policy on Eastern Europe. In 1970, just months after his election, he signed an extensive peace agreement with the Soviet Union, known as the Treaty of Moscow, which was followed later that year by the so-called Treaty of Warsaw. Under the latter agreement, West Germany officially recognized the existence and borders of the People’s Republic of Poland. Brandt’s Neue Ostpolitik, which continued until the end of his tenure in the Chancellery in 1974, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve reconciliation between West Germany and the countries of the Soviet bloc, primarily East Germany. But Brandt’s policy of rapprochement alarmed the CDU/CSU coalition, says Waske, which quickly set up ‘the Little Service’ by enlisting former members of Germany’s intelligence community. Read more of this post

Missing section of Cold War spy tunnel unearthed in Germany

Part of the unearthed tunnelBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A missing section of a secret tunnel, constructed by British and American intelligence agencies to spy on Soviet and East German government communications during the Cold War has been unearthed in Germany. The tunnel, believed to be nearly half a kilometer (1/3 mile) long, was part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operation GOLD, also known as Operation STOPWATCH in Britain. It was based on an idea initially suggested to the Americans in the early 1950s by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), which had carried out a similar scheme in Soviet-occupied Austria. The CIA adopted and funded the program at the cost of nearly $7 million. At its completion, the underground tunnel connected a secret entry-point in Rudow, West Berlin, to a location beneath Alt-Glienicke in East Berlin. The aim behind the project was to tap into underground telephone cables facilitating Soviet and East German military and civilian government communications. But the KGB, the Soviet Union’s foremost intelligence agency during the Cold War, was aware of the project almost from its infancy, thanks to George Blake, a British informant who was later convicted to 42 years in prison, but managed to escape to Moscow in 1966. Interestingly, the KGB did not reveal the tunnel’s existence to the Soviet and East German militaries, fearing that a sudden rerouting of communications cables would expose Blake as a Soviet mole. Instead, they allowed the tunnel to operate for nearly a year before publicly exposing its existence in 1956. At that time, Soviet and East German authorities dug up the eastern section of the tunnel and bussed in hundreds of international reporters, as well as tens of thousands of East Germans, to view the tunnel, in a massive propaganda campaign. In 1997, part of the tunnel that crossed West Berlin was excavated and transported to the Allied Museum in Berlin. Read more of this post

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

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

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