Pakistani man sought out assassination targets for Iran, says Germany

Reinhold RobbeAuthorities in Germany have pressed espionage charges against a Pakistani man who allegedly spied for Iran and even compiled lists of potential targets for assassination. The man, who has been identified in media reports only as “Syed Mustafa H.”, is a 31-year-old worker at the German Aerospace Center in the northern German city of Bremen. He is also reportedly a graduate of the Materials Science and Production Engineering department of the Universität Bremen. According to court documents, he is believed to have been spying for Iranian intelligence since the summer of 2015. It appears that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, had been aware of the man’s espionage activities for at least a year prior to his arrest.

German media, including the newspapers Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit, as well as public broadcasters Taggesschau, WDR and NDR, report that Syed Mustafa H.’s main task was to compile lists of potential assassination targets. These included prominent Jews or German-Israelis living in northern Germany. Among them was Reinhold Robbe, a politician with the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), who served for a number of years as president of the German-Israeli Congress (DIG). According to reports, the Pakistani spy had compiled detailed maps of Robbe’s daily movements, which outlined his travel routines and the routes he took from his home to the DIG headquarters in Berlin. German officials believe that the type of surveillance that Syed Mustafa H. carried out against Robbe indisputably leads to the conclusion that the politician’s assassination was being planned.

Reports in the German media suggest that Syed Mustafa H.’s work was a small part of a much broader operation by Iranian intelligence. The operation aims to identify prominent individuals throughout Europe, who have Israeli connections. These individuals can be targeted during a future conflagration between Israel and Iran, or in retaliation to an Israeli intelligence operation against Tehran. If Syed Mustafa H. is found guilty of targeting Robbe, it will mark the first proven case of a German political figure who has been targeted for possible assassination by an Iranian intelligence agency.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 January 2017 | Permalink

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

News you may have missed #747

Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich OlympicsBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►Dutch media reportedly spied on China. Dutch media participated in a clandestine intelligence collection effort on behalf of the Netherlands General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. According to Dutch sources, at least seven reporters attending the Olympics were coaxed into, and were paid for, collecting information and taking photos of targeted Chinese officials interested in speaking with Dutch company and industry representatives. The AIVD did not comment on the allegations but did remark that Dutch law allows them to contact anyone who could provide or has access to intelligence.
►►Nicaragua arrests Colombian national for espionage. According to the Spanish-language weekly newspaper Semana, General Julio Cesar Aviles, the head of Nicaragua’s Army, announced the arrest of Colombian national Luis Felipe Rios, for seeking to “obtain Nicaraguan state documents about defense and national security”. The 34-year old Rios was apparently captured in Managua on Tuesday after having been under the surveillance of Nicaraguan counterintelligence officials for over a year. Rios was in Nicaragua under the guise of being a Spanish national working for a media outlet. The lead prosecutor in Nicaragua, Armando Juarez, claimed that there was “sufficient proof” to prosecute Rios. Colombian officials, including President Juan Manuel Santos, have stated they are investigating the matter.
►►Neo-Nazi linked to 1972 Munich Olympic terrorists. Recently released files by Germany’s security service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), links neo-Nazi Willi Pohl to forged passports provided to Black September terrorists who perpetrated the 1972 attack at the Munich Olympics. The attack resulted in the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes. According to German magazine Der Spiegel, over 2,000 documents were released in which the BfV asserts that Pohl assisted and even chauffeured one Black September member around Germany in the weeks leading up to the attack. German police arrested Pohl in 1972 for “unauthorized possession of firearms” and sentenced him to two years’ incarceration for possessing grenades and weapons. He was released only a few days after his conviction and he fled the country, ending up in Lebanon.

Spy activity heats up in Berlin, recent arrests show

Syrian embassy in BerlinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
During the Cold War, Berlin was considered one of the world’s paramount intelligence hotspots —a gathering place for spies from Western Europe, the Soviet bloc, America, and beyond. But recent developments in the German capital show that the city’s illustrious espionage heritage is far from over. On Wednesday, German authorities announced the arrest of a 56-year-old man on charges of spying on Western Saharan opposition activists operating on German soil. The man, who has been identified only as “Mohammed B.”, is reportedly a German-Moroccan dual citizen, and the statement by the German prosecutor’s office hints that he is an accredited intelligence officer. According to the official press release by the prosecutor, Mohammed B. was arrested for operating as an unregistered agent of the Moroccan intelligence services. His main targets appear to have consisted of activists involved with the POLISARIO Front, the main political vehicle of the Western Saharan independence movement, which seeks to separate the territory from Moroccan control. POLISARIO, along with its military wing, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army, was founded after 1975, when Morocco unilaterally annexed the former Spanish colony. A police spokesman in Berlin said German authorities searched Mohammed B’s apartment, as well as businesses and houses belonging to “two other suspects”, who do not appear to have been apprehended. The arrest took place exactly a week after the German government summarily expelled four Syrian diplomats, whom it accused of engaging in “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status” —code language for espionage. Read more of this post

Revealed: German spy agency monitors leftwing politicians

Die Linke's Gregor GysiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Well over a third of leftwing German parliamentarians are currently being monitored by the country’s domestic intelligence agency, according to a government report released on Sunday. Germany’s quality newsmagazine Der Spiegel has cited an internal document from the Ministry of the Interior, which states that 27 of the Left Party’s 76 members of parliament are currently “being observed” by the authorities. The document, which is dated January 4, 2012, also reveals that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, Germany’s primary domestic spy organization) is keeping tabs on another 11 Left Party elected officials serving in regional parliaments. The document does not name the 27 parliamentarians, but the list is believed to include the Left Party’s leading political figures. The party, known in Germany as Die Linke, is one of the country’s largest, having received nearly 12% of the national vote in the 2009 federal elections. It was established in 2007, after the Electoral Alternative for Labor and Social Justice party merged with the Party of Democratic Socialism —the successor of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, which ruled East Germany until 1989. The party’s electoral stronghold rests in the regions of the former East Germany, while some of the party’s older members held senior government positions under East Germany’s communist system. For this reason, some in Germany view the Left Party as an extremist organization —a characterization that presumably forms the rationale for the BfV’s monitoring operation. On the other hand, some critics raise concerns that, even if some Die Linke members have links with the former East German security establishment, the BfV operation against the party is too intense, and that more attention should instead be given to German neo-Nazi groups, such as the National Democratic Party (NPD). Read more of this post

Analysis: United States and Germany spy on each other

BND seal

BND seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Newly released documents reveal that the Central Intelligence Agency has maintained an active program of espionage against Germany in the post-Cold War era, and experts say that Germany reciprocates the ‘favor’. According to an article in the latest issue of German newsmagazine Focus, the US intelligence community, led by the CIA, has been keeping tabs on Germany’s intelligence agencies since the 1950s, and continues to do so today. The magazine’s editors say they are in possession of internal government documents, which describe constant CIA monitoring on the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s main external intelligence agency. The CIA’s spying extends to Germany’s counterintelligence agency, known as the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz). CIA operations against the Office have reportedly included the interception of telephone calls, some of which involved high-level conversations between German and British or French intelligence officials. Focus claims that CIA spying against the BND actually intensified following German reunification in 1990, as the American agency kept tabs on German intelligence officers with former Nazi or communist past. According to one report, the CIA was able to verify that at least two BND officers with service in the Nazi SS had joined a NATO sabotage unit. The magazine spoke to an unnamed former BND counterintelligence officer, who said he was not in the least surprised by the revelations. Commenting yesterday on the Focus report, Washington-based reporter Jeff Stein argued that a little friendly spying is to be expected among allied intelligence services. The veteran intelligence correspondent spoke to an unnamed former CIA officer, who told him that the espionage between Washington and Berlin has not been “a one-way street” —the BND also spies on the CIA and other American intelligence agencies. Read more of this post

West German defector dies in Moscow

Hans-Joachim Tiedge

Tiedge

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A senior West German counterintelligence official, whose 1985 defection to the Soviet bloc shocked Western intelligence, has died in Moscow. Hans-Joachim Tiedge headed the Cologne office of West Germany’s now-defunct Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV). He was also involved in the BfV’s counterintelligence work against East German spy operations on West German soil. But on August 19, 1985, Tiedge boarded a train to East Germany. Once there, he walked over to a branch of the Ministry for State Security (commonly known as the Stasi) and declared his intent to defect. His defection caused disarray in West German intelligence circles, prompting the recall of dozens of West German officers and agents operating in East Germany. It eventually led to the resignation of the Director of the BfV, Heribert Hellenbroich. In his autobiography, published in 1998, Tiedge said he decided to defect “due to personal problems” relating to chronic alcoholism and financial debt. He also said his decision to flee to East Germany was prompted by the fear that he was about to be reassigned to a less desirable post inside the BfV. Read more of this post