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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Germany wants foreign embassies to declare their spy employees

German Foreign OfficeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
German authorities have asked that foreign embassies and consulates on German soil officially disclose the names of their personnel involved in intelligence work. German newsmagazine Der Spiegel said that the German Foreign Office has been systematically contacting consular authorities from every foreign nation located in Germany. In each case, the foreign consular representatives have been issued formal requests to release “through official diplomatic channels” an exhaustive list of names of their intelligence operatives operating in Germany under diplomatic cover. All foreign embassies and consulates had been contacted by last Wednesday, said the report. The requests stipulate that the lists must include all personnel working out of a foreign nation’s embassy or consulate, as well cultural institutes, military installations, commercial entities, or other institutions associated with a foreign country. It is generally assumed that a significant number of employees in embassies and consulates are intelligence personnel, working under diplomatic cover; they invariably hold titles such as “military attaché”, or “political officer”, and are generally protected with diplomatic immunity. A small number of these intelligence officers voluntarily make their presence known to the corresponding intelligence agency of their host country, and are thus officially declared and accredited with the government of the host nation. They typically act as points-of-contact between the embassy and the intelligence agency of the host nation on issues of common concern requiring cross-country collaboration or coordination. But the vast majority of intelligence personnel stationed at a foreign embassy or consulate operate without the official knowledge or consent of the host country. Governments generally accept this as a tacit rule in international intelligence work, which is why Berlin’s move is seen as highly unusual. Der Spiegel described it as an effort “towards more transparency”, aimed at “increasing the pressure on foreign intelligence services to disclose their activities in Germany”. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, described the move as a diplomatic effort to establish trust between Berlin and its foreign partners. Read more of this post

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

Hidden spy software found in Chinese-made smartphones

Star N9500By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A popular brand of Chinese-made smartphones, which are sold internationally by several major retailers, has been found to contain pre-installed monitoring software, according to a German security firm. The revelation was made on Tuesday by G Data Software, which is based in Bochum, Germany, and has a subsidiary in the United States. The firm, which was founded in 1985, said it discovered the spy software hidden deep inside the proprietary software found on the Chinese-made Star N9500. The product in question is a cheap smartphone based on the popular Samsung Galaxy S4, and can be purchased from numerous Internet retailers, including online outlets such as Amazon.com. A G Data spokesperson, Thorsten Urbanski, told reporters in Germany that his company purchased several Star N9500 telephones from an online retailer after receiving multiple messages from users of the telephone in Germany, who said the device’s operating system appeared to contain malicious software. The security firm said the Star N9500’s operating system contains hidden software applications that could allow a third party to access and steal the telephone user’s personal information. There are also secret applications that could permit a hacker to place calls from the telephone, or utilize the device’s microphone and camera without the consent of its owner. What is more, the stolen data was sent to a server based in China. G Data investigators added that their team of experts sought for “over a week” to track down the manufacturer of the Star N9500 but were unable to do so. German media reported that journalists from The Associated Press also tried to locate the manufacturer of the smartphone, by contacting several companies located in China’s southern province of Shenzhen, known as the center of the country’s telecommunications industry. Read more of this post

Western companies to suffer backlash in China-US espionage spat

China and the United StatesBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
China’s response to America’s allegations of cyberespionage will probably not be directed against the United States government, but at Western technology companies, according to business insiders. On Monday, the United States Department of Justice identified five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as directly responsible for a series of cyberespionage operations targeting American firms. Since then, sources in the business community have said that American companies operating in China were “caught off guard” by the Justice Department’s charges, and that they were “given no advanced notice” by US government officials. On the one hand, business insiders claim that Chinese cyberespionage against Western firms is so aggressive that many in the corporate community were broadly supportive of Washington’s move. But, on the other hand, some industry analysts have told the Reuters news agency that, although Beijing’s response to Washington’s allegations will not be “immediate or obvious”, Western technology firms should prepare to face a lot more difficulties in doing business in China. Specifically, some business observers expect the Chinese government to respond to America’s cyberespionage allegations by “precluding foreign companies from certain sectors” of its economy. Beijing might even use the controversy to justify a “turn to internal suppliers” of technological products and services, say experts. The news agency reports that American hardware and software suppliers have already seen their sales in China drop as a result of the revelations by American intelligence defector Edward Snowden. The current clash over cyberespionage between America and China is likely to have a further negative effect on American business activities all over Southeast Asia. The ongoing dispute between the two countries is likely to have an effect in Europe as well, say The Financial Times. The London-based paper reports that Washington’s recent indictment has “struck a chord in German industry”, which is also concerned about the perceived theft of intellectual property by Chinese hackers. Read more of this post

Efforts to restore US-German intelligence cooperation collapse

Angela Merkel and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Negotiations aimed at restoring the intelligence relationship between America and Germany, following revelations last year that Washington spied on the communications of German leaders, collapsed before German Chancellor Angela Merkel met US President Barack Obama last week. The two leaders had planned to make a public statement during Mrs. Merkel’s official visit to Washington last Friday, announcing a new intelligence agreement between their respective countries. But the announcement was never made, as Ukraine dominated the political agenda. IntelNews readers will recall the dramatic way in which Germany and the United States fell out in October of last year, after American intelligence defector Edward Snowden revealed an invasive intelligence-gathering operation by the US National Security Agency (NSA). The program targeted the private communications of senior German officials, including those of Mrs. Merkel, for nearly a decade. The New York Times said last week that the collapse of the bilateral intelligence negotiations between Washington and Berlin prompted “bitter recriminations on both sides” about who was responsible for their failure. It appears that German officials insisted on drafting a “no-spy” agreement between the two countries, which would prevent them from conducting espionage operations on each other’s territory. American officials, however, rejected the proposal, arguing it would create a precedent that every other European and Asian American ally, including France, Britain, Japan, South Korea, and others, would wish to replicate. Earlier this year, President Obama assured the German side that the NSA would never again target the communications of Chancellor Merkel. But German officials noted that the President said nothing about targeting other senior German officials, nor did he mention anything about the NSA’s other operations on German soil. 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

Russian espionage in Germany rising sharply, says Berlin

Embassy of Russia in BerlinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Russian espionage activity in Germany has reached levels not seen since the days of the Cold War, according to senior counterintelligence officials in Berlin. An article published in weekly newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag on Sunday said Russian intelligence-gathering activities in the German capital center on infiltrating German political institutions and corporations. The Berlin-based publication said Russian spies typically seek to gain “intimate knowledge” of German energy policy as well as corporate practices. Another area of interest for Russian intelligence concerns Germany’s activities in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Citing Hans-Georg Maassen, Director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV —Germany’s primary counterintelligence agency), Die Welt said that no foreign intelligence service is more active on German soil than Russia’s SVR —one of the KGB’s successor agencies. Most Russian intelligence officers “pose as embassy workers”, said the paper, adding that the BfV believes up to a third of all Russian diplomats stationed at the German capital have a “background in intelligence gathering”. According to Burkhard Even, who directs the BfV’s counterintelligence operations, the primary task of Russian intelligence operatives in Germany is to “closely analyze individuals who could be of interest” to Moscow. Those targeted —usually key staffers at the Bundestag (Germany’s federal parliament) or major German companies— are then systematically accosted by Russian ‘diplomats’. The latter often ask to take them out to lunch or dinner, said Maaßen, and will often pick up the bill. Read more of this post

NSA ‘high-target’ list includes names of 122 world leaders

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A list of high-priority intelligence targets published over the weekend includes the names of over a hundred current and former heads of state, who were systematically targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The list appears to be part of a wider “Target Knowledge Base” assembled by the NSA in order to help produce “complete profiles” of what the NSA calls “high-priority intelligence targets”. The list is contained in a classified top-secret briefing created by the NSA in 2009. It was published by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which said it acquired it from American intelligence defector Edward Snowden. Snowden, a former computer expert for the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency, is currently living in Russia, where he has been offered political asylum. The leaked briefing explains the function of an extensive NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection program codenamed NYMROD. The computer-based program is allegedly able to sift through millions of SIGINT reports and collate information on individual targets from the transcripts of intercepted telephone calls, faxes, as well as computer data. The list provided to Der Spiegel by Snowden contains 122 names of international political figures, said the newsmagazine, adding that all of them were “heads of foreign governments”. It includes the name of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Colombia’s former President, Alvaro Uribe, and Malaysia’s Prime Minster from 2003 to 2009, Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, also figure on the list. Interestingly, the leaders of Malaysia, Somalia, the Palestinian Authority and Peru top the NSA’s list of high-value executive targets. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #873 (controversy edition)

Alvaro UribeBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►German parliament confirms NSA inquiry to start in April. Germany’s four major parties have unanimously approved a parliamentary inquiry into surveillance by the NSA and its allied counterparts, like the GCHQ in the UK. Another key question for the committee will likely be whether the German intelligence agencies were either aware of, or complicit in, the gathering of people’s data. A German newspaper reported that whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently in Russia, may testify via Skype.
►►Former Colombia spy chief sentenced over illegal wiretapping. Carlos Arzayus, former director of Colombia’s now-defunct intelligence agency DAS was sentenced to nearly ten years in prison on Thursday for his role in the illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court justices and government critics during the Alvaro Uribe administrations during the years 2002 to 2010. Additionally, Arzayus was ordered to pay damages to the victims of the wiretapping.
►►French spies allegedly spy on Orange customer data. The French intelligence agency in charge of military and electronic spying is massively collecting data and monitoring networks of telecoms giant Orange, Le Monde newspaper reported in its Friday edition. “The DGSE can read, like an open book, the origin and destination of all communications of Orange customers”, the paper said.

News you may have missed #870

Carl LodyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Documents show NZ spies taught ‘honey trap’ tricks. Members of New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau were briefed by counterparts from the ultra-secret Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, a unit of the British Signals intelligence agency GCHQ, on setting honey traps and Internet “dirty tricks” to “control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp” online discourse, documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal. According to the slides, JTRIG conducted “honey traps”, sent computer viruses, deleted the online presence of targets and engaged in cyber-attacks on the “hacktivist” collective Anonymous.
►►Ex-CIA analyst tells how data helped catch bin Laden. A central figure in the manhunt for Osama bin Laden, Linda Bakos spoke this week as the keynote speaker at a conference in California, on how data, big and small, led to the capture of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. “You don’t want to lead the information, you want the information to lead you”, she said, and credited the agency’s innovative gathering process that institutionalized various types of intelligence analysis —opposed to solely relying on general guidelines and best practices.
►►The story of WWI German spy Carl Lody. Towards the end of August 1914 a man checked into what is now the Balmoral Hotel in the centre of Edinburgh claiming to be an American tourist. In reality he was a German spy who had been sent to gather intelligence from the British. Carl Lody was a junior naval officer who had been forced to retire for health reasons but was looking for other ways to serve the fatherland. He was especially attractive to German naval intelligence because he had lived for years in the United States and spoke English fluently, although with an American accent.

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