German intelligence probed for monitoring journalist in Afghanistan

25th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

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

Berlin -- 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.

Following the session, PKG Chairman Thomas Oppermann was highly critical of the service, saying relations between the PKG and the BND were at a low point.

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.

The diplomat told him: "You have to understand, that you are being bugged. That is the way things are in Afghanistan," Tilger said in interviews.

Tilger was at the time investigating the abduction of German engineer Rudolf Blechschmidt, who was freed in October 2007 after spending more than two months in captivity in the central province of Maidan Wardak.

Der Spiegel said it was considering legal action on the grounds of Germany's stringent laws governing freedom of the press.

And the chairman of the Association of German Journalists (DJV), Michael Konken, accused the intelligence services of "developing a James Bond mentality."

Opposition members of parliament said the issue was not so much Uhrlau's position, rather concern that the intelligence services were running out of control as a result of concerns on international terrorism.

Max Stadler of the liberal FDP said the BND was in danger of becoming a "state within the state."

DPA

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