Estonian sleeper agent may have been double spy, say Germans

Herman Simm

Herman Simm

Last month, Estonian counterintelligence agents arrested Herman Simm, a high-level official at the Estonian defense ministry, on charges that he spied on behalf of Russian intelligence for nearly 30 years. At the time, Western counterintelligence officials said Simm, who was in charge of handling all of Estonia’s “classified and top secret material on NATO”, was at the center of “the most serious case of espionage against NATO since the end of the Cold War”. But the complexity of this espionage affair has now increased, with German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reporting that Simm was also a paid informant of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence service. The magazine claims that the Estonian former Defense Ministry official supplied the BND with information on Russian intelligence activity in the Baltic region and that the BND ended its contacts with him “shortly before Estonia joined the European Union in 2004”. The Germans are reportedly unsure as to whether Simm was in fact serving Russian interests by supplying the BND with deliberately falsified information about Russian intelligence operations. NATO investigators are also trying to assess whether Simm, who was in charge of Estonia’s relatively advanced national cyber defense systems, gave the Russians keys to the Elcrodat encryption system. Developed in Germany, Elcrodat is the organization-wide technical standard used by NATO to encrypt telephone, email and facsimile communications. In a previous entry on the Simm affair, intelNews reminded that this is not the first spy story to emerge out of Estonia since the end of the Cold War. Indeed, insiders will remember a story from ten years ago of a high-ranking Estonian police officer who defected to Britain on the run from FSB agents who were blackmailing him for recruitment purposes. [JF]

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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