Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Achtung! (Spion für Deutschland)

How German spies tapped the phone of an Afghan government minister:

German intelligence probed for monitoring journalist in Afghanistan

BERLIN, April 24 (DPA) - Germany's foreign intelligence service came under pressure Thursday following revelations it had monitored the e-mail correspondence of a German journalist reporting on Afghanistan for Der Spiegel news magazine.

Ernst Uhrlau, the president of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), responded to questions from members of the Parliamentary Control Committee (PKG) in closed session...

Over the weekend, Uhrlau informed the journalist, Susanne Koelbl, who has long reported on the region for the well-known weekly, that she had been monitored during the course of 2006.

The BND had in particular monitored Koelbl's contact with an Afghan politician.

Television journalist Ulrich Tilger, a former employee of national public broadcaster ZDF, said Thursday he had been informed by a German diplomat that he too had been monitored. (link)
Der Spiegel has the juicy bits:
Der Spiegel
Agency Admits Spying on Afghan Politician and SPIEGEL Journalist

April 24 - ... A number of new details are emerging that suggest the head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) lost control over some of the agents in his organization and failed to inform the Chancellery of Chancellor Angela Merkel or parliament...

For months, the BND monitored e-mails exchanged between SPIEGEL correspondent Susanne Koelbl and an Afghan minister during 2006. It has since emerged that Koelbl was not the BND's original target. The intelligence service was attempting to install a so-called "Trojan horse" computer program on the computer of Afghan Trade and Industry Minister Amin Farhang that would send copies of his e-mail to the BND...

At first, it was unclear why the BND wanted to monitor the Afghan minister, who also holds a German passport and lived in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia for years...

So far, it is clear that in the summer of 2006, one BND sub-unit made the decision, without consulting with senior management, to place a tap on the computer of a member of the Afghan government. The operation included the installation of software on the politician's computer that monitored all of his communication and sent copies to the BND.

The monitoring continued for a good six months, and BND employees first expressed their unease about the operation in November 2006. Shortly thereafter, the monitoring stopped.

Uhrlau reportedly first learned of the operation in December 2007. Two months later, an anonymous letter began circulating in Berlin that provided details of the BND operation... (link)
The Financial Times adds some interesting facts:
Financial Times
German secret service rapped over Afghan spy claims

Apr 25 - Germany is taking disciplinary measures against several senior secret service agents...

A spokesman for chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed that several BND officers faced unspecified disciplinary steps or were being transferred to other positions, but did not elaborate...

The BND has in recent years been reprimanded on several occasions for spying on German journalists, which is against German law. (link)
Finally, Deutsche Welle:
Deutsche Welle
Germany Apologizes for Spying on Afghan Minister

April 26 - Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta on Saturday to express regret over the monitoring of another Afghan minister by the German foreign intelligence service...

President of the German foreign intelligence service (BND), Ernst Uhrlau, apologized to Koelbl for the activities of his agents, which experts say contravenes German law...

Uhrlau was brought before the parliamentary control commission on Wednesday and Thursday and told of the Bundestag's displeasure. He has faced calls for his resignation over the spy scandal, but the parliamentary oversight committee (PKG) stopped short of demanding he step down.

Farhang was angered by the revelation that he had been spied on, telling the daily Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that the implication that he was in complicity with the Taliban had endangered him and his family.

Another German daily, the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, reported on Saturday that other Afghan ministers feared they had been monitored as well by the BND, which had allegedly also eavesdropped on Farhang's phone calls.

Six of the 20 Afghan cabinet ministers have spent part of their lives in Germany and speak German... (link)

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