German intelligence spied on journalists

29th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

29 May 2006, BERLIN - Germany's foreign intelligence service spied on journalists and recruited reporters as informants, according to a special report recently made public.

29 May 2006

BERLIN - Germany's foreign intelligence service spied on journalists and recruited reporters as informants, according to a special report recently made public.

The 180-page dossier, compiled by retired Supreme Court judge Gerhard Schaefer on behalf of a parliamentary commission, speaks of "illegal" actions by agents of the BND security agency.

It said the illicit surveillance activities started when the agency became suspicious that some of its members were passing on sensitive information to the media.

Excerpts from the document were leaked to the press earlier this month, triggering widespread outrage and complaints that the surveillance violated press freedom.

The snooping activities of the BND not only infringed the freedom of the media but also violated the rights of individuals, according to the report.

"I didn't realize that journalists were so closely involved with the BND," said Greens politician Hans-Christian Stroebele, a member of the parliamentary oversight committee, which ordered publication of the report.

"It is a matter of honour for journalists to tell people they are interviewing that they are not also working for the secret service," Stroebele said.

Stroebele said that when his committee asked Schaefer to compile the report last October, "we thought it was just a case of surveillance by the security service."

Publication of the document was delayed so that passages could be deleted, following a complaint from one of the journalists mentioned in it that his rights to privacy could be breached.

Under German law, the BND has strict limits on its activities on German soil. Following the leaks the government ordered the agency to stop snooping on journalists or using them as sources.

A government statement said that it would press for disciplinary measures to be taken against those responsible for the illegal activities.

Over the years the security agency spied on an undisclosed number of journalists, in some cases paying other reporters to snoop into the work of their colleagues.

One of those spied on was Wolfgang Krach, a senior editor at the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"I was astonished when I found out," Krach said in a newspaper interview. "I have researched and written a lot about the BND. But I never thought it possible they would observe journalists in Germany - and especially not that I would be involved."

Others caught up in the web of intrigue included reporters for the news magazines Focus and Der Spiegel.

Schaefer was asked to draw up his report when it came to light that during the mid-1990s BND agents had been observing author Eric Schmidt-Eenboom, who had written a book critical of the intelligence agency.

Suedeutsche Zeitung said one journalist recruited by the BND was paid the sum of 600,000 German marks (300,000 euros) for spying on his colleagues over a 16-year period.

DPA

Subject: German News

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