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

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‘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 intelligence 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

Abducted Iranian defense official reportedly held in Israel

 

Ali Reza Asgari

Ali-Reza Asgari

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Iran’s former deputy defense minister, who went missing during a 2006 official visit to Turkey, was kidnapped in a joint Israeli-German-British operation, according to an Iranian newsmagazine. Brigadier general Ali-Reza Asgari, who once commanded Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, disappeared on December 9, 2006, from his hotel room in Istanbul, Turkey. Little more than a year later, Hans Rühle, former Director of Policy Planning in the German Ministry of Defense, wrote in Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung that Asgari was in Western hands and that “information was obtained” from him. Since then, other sources have alleged that Asgari defected willingly, including Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post and intelligence historian Gordon Thomas, in his 2009 book Secret Wars: One Hundred Years of British Intelligence (see intelNews book review). Read more of this post