Merkel’s Office Accused of Knowing of German Spy Agency Chaos

Merkel’s Office Accused of Knowing of German Spy Agency Chaos © AFP 2016/

19:21 28.04.2016(updated 19:22 28.04.2016) Get short URL
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office was alerted to the dysfunctionality of the country’s intelligence agency, BND, but took no action until the sacking of its chief Gerhard Schindler, according to one of the country’s most senior journalists.

Schindler had faced tough questions by German lawmakers after it was revealed that his agency had cooperated with the US National Security Agency (NSA) in surveillance operations on its European allies via the Bad Aibling surveillance station used by the BND and Americans near Munich.

The whole issue had become toxic, because – following the revelations of mass surveillance by ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden – it was alleged that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had intercepted Merkel’s mobile phone. This caused an enormous backlash within Germany, for whom privacy is a very sensitive issue.

Two reasons were originally assumed for Schindler’s departure two years early: a major BND restructuring that will see the agency transfer many of 6,500 employees from Munich to a new Berlin headquarters by next year and Schindler’s tiredness at the grilling he faced in front of a parliamentary investigation.

“A Life of Its Own”

Now, however, veteran investigative journalist Hans Leyendecker, who works for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, has told Deutsche Welle that Schindler presided over an agency that was dysfunctional, with a silo mentality, conflicts of loyalty and some operations of which Schindler was unaware.

He said the agency “has always tended to have a life of its own”.

“This agency is different because it employs spies. And some of these people have always acted on their own accord, even, at times, acting against the direct commands of their superiors. There are many people there who are doing a good job, but it’s in the very nature of a foreign intelligence agency to employ a certain type of person. And that’s why really all of the presidents have had difficulties — because these people are the way they are,” Leyendecker said.

He said Angela Merkel’s own office was made aware of the problems within the agency some time ago.

“The chancellery had been tipped off that things were amiss, but it never followed up. That is surely a big problem,” he said.

“There are conflicts on all levels. It’s hard to get five intelligence agencies at one table and then find a common line. There are different interests, there are also portfolio interests, at one time there were 13 departments that were then reformed into 12 departments. The one department that was then no longer a department rebelled. These kinds of tensions are nothing new of course, but they are much more excessive in an intelligence agency,” he said.

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