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”. The Times article claims that British agencies are collecting most of their signals intelligence on Syria from their military bases in Dhekelia and Akrotiri, on Cyprus. It has long been known that the two British bases on the Mediterranean island host sophisticated listening posts operated by the General Communications Headquarters, Britain’s foremost signals intelligence agency based in Cheltenham, England. The collected data, said The Times, is being passed on to the FSA through Turkish intelligence operatives located on the ground in Syria. In June, British newspaper The Daily Star alleged that British intelligence agencies were among several Western spy organizations that were passing vital information to the FSA. The Bild article is the first public account of Germany’s intelligence role in the conflict. A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin on Monday that it was “government policy not to publicly comment on the activities of Germany’s intelligence services”.

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

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