German charity wants spying charge probed

9th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

The organization was told that German spooks had secretly monitored at least 2,000 agency e-mails, fax messages and telephone conversations.

Berlin -- A leading German charity on Monday called for an inquiry into allegations the country's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, spied on its operations in Afghanistan.

"We are astonished and puzzled to learn that a German constitutional body should have kept tabs on an independent German aid organization," Hans-Joachim Preuss, general secretary of Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action), an association combating hunger, wrote to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He said the organization was informed by the BND that it had secretly monitored at least 2,000 e-mails, fax messages and telephone conversations from the Afghanistan NGO Security Office (ANSO), which is run by the charity and keeps other aid groups up-to-date on the security situation in Afghanistan.

The eavesdropping occurred between October 2005 and April this year, Preuss said.

The charity said it was hiring a legal expert to determine if the BND was constitutionally allowed to spy on its operations, but in the meantime it called for a public apology from the government.

Nic Lee, another official at German Agro Action, said spying by the BND undermined its credibility as an independent humanitarian organization.

"It will be more difficult for us to get information from other non-governmental organizations if one thinks one might be listened to," he said.

In April, it emerged that the BND had intercepted emails exchanged between a Spiegel magazine journalist and Afghan Economy Minister Mohammad Amin Farhang in 2006.

The incident sparked Farhang's ire, and sharp criticism by a German parliamentary commission against the BND and its chief Ernst Urlau for undermining faith in the agency.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier later apologized to Afghan counterpart Rangeen Dadfar Spanta.


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