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

First interview in 57 years for chief of Germany’s most secretive spy agency

Ulrich BirkenheierBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The head of the German military’s counterintelligence service, which is widely seen as the country’s most secretive intelligence organization, has given the first public media interview in the agency’s 57-year history. Most readers of this blog will be aware of the Federal Republic of Germany’s two best-known intelligence agencies: the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), tasked with domestic intelligence, and the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country’s primary external intelligence agency. Relatively little is known, however, about the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD), which has historically been much smaller and quieter than its sister agencies. As part of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, the MAD is tasked with conducting counterintelligence and detecting what it terms “anti-constitutional activities” within the German armed forces. It is currently thought to consist of around 1,200 staff located throughout Germany and in at least seven countries around the world, including Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Djibouti. Until recently, the MAD was so secret that its headquarters, located in the west German city of Cologne, bore no sign on the door. For generations, its senior leadership remained unnamed in the public domain. This changed on Monday, when Ulrich Birkenheier became the first Director of MAD to speak publicly in the nearly six decades of the agency’s existence. Birkenheier, who assumed the leadership of MAD in July of 2012, told German newspaper Die Welt that it was time for a “paradigm shift” and that the agency felt the need “to explain [its] task and work to the outside world”. In his interview, Birkenheier explained that members of the German armed forces are routinely targeted by foreign intelligence agencies, while far-right extremist groups are represented in the ranks of the German military. Read more of this post