US pressured German spies for data: Spiegel

16th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

16 January 2006, BERLIN - Amid contradictory claims over how much information German spies in Baghdad shared with the U.S. military during the American invasion, a news magazine asserted Saturday that this did include the locations of some of dictator Saddam Hussein's defences.

16 January 2006

BERLIN - Amid contradictory claims over how much information German spies in Baghdad shared with the U.S. military during the American invasion, a news magazine asserted Saturday that this did include the locations of some of dictator Saddam Hussein's defences.

Germany's BND foreign intelligence service, which had agents in Baghdad as it came under bombardment in 2003, insists that it only passed on the grid locations of sites that U.S. missiles must spare, such as hospitals and embassies.

The BND, which flatly denies helping a U.S. B-1 bomber with four satellite-guided bombs to strike a restaurant where Saddam and his two sons were thought to be dining, also rejected Saturday claims that it told the Americans about troop movements.

A BND spokesman said: "An operation in support of the war on the scale maintained (by Der Spiegel magazine) did not take place." The allegations are political dynamite in Germany, where the government opposed the war.

In a story set to hit the streets Monday, Spiegel said the BND did pass on what it knew about Iraqi troop movements and the locations of defence positions. But Spiegel did not disclose its source.

Spiegel claimed that U.S. intelligence liaison officers constantly pressured the BND headquarters to disclose more useful data, and gave in return accounts of the progress of the war that the BND needed to compile its daily reports to the government in Berlin.

The magazine claimed that in exceptional cases, the Americans had even asked the BND agents to go and obtain information in Baghdad, for example about the state of a trench around the city that was allegedly filled with petrol.

It said however that retired U.S. military officers insisted that the Germans never "directly supported" U.S. military chiefs in their planning, as was claimed this week in the Los Angeles Times and on a German public television show, Panorama.

Spiegel said the BND had since confirmed that its agents did drive through the Baghdad district of Mansour on April 7, 2003 when U.S. missiles hit the restaurant where Saddam was thought to be dining.

But it said they showed up afterwards, not beforehand. They had been called out after being told the missile strike had damaged the home of the former BND chief of station. The attack also killed at least 12 people.

Spiegel said its sources affirmed the agents never gave the Americans any information on where to direct their missiles.

Germany's parliamentary intelligence oversight committee Friday rejected reports of aid to the U.S. after interviewing spy chiefs.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who oversaw intelligence as an aide to former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2003, told the newspaper Bild on Saturday that there was no hypocrisy in having told the Americans how to avoid hitting hospitals and embassies.

"This is a matter of saving innocent lives," he said. He rejected the claims of active help with targeting, saying, "Some people are trying to re-write history." He called on the anonymous sources in the BND making such claims to document them.

The BND had had a clear political guideline: No active support for military activity in Iraq.

Last week's allegations have brought demands in Germany for a full-scale inquiry. A special parliamentary session is scheduled to be held on January 18 to discuss the BND's role in Iraq.

Dieter Althaus, premier of Thuringia state and an opponent of Schroeder, said Germans had to be told whether Schroeder let the BND help the Americans while publicly criticizing the war.

The presence of the BND in wartime Baghdad was a secret until this week.

The newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt quoted Thursday a German export businessman, Rolfeckard Giermann, 60, as saying the BND station was known in the Mansour area as a well-fortified building which proclaimed itself to be the "Bavarian Trade Representative Office".

"The Iraqis know who lives there and what they do," he said. But since Germany had never sent troops to Iraq, they were left alone.

Giermann said he knew neither of the two agents alleged to be in Baghdad but had heard of them from Iraqi friends. He was critical of their work, saying, "They almost never leave the house and get all their information third or fourth-hand. No one takes them very seriously."

The newspaper Berliner Zeitung said the two agents working in Baghdad in 2003 had been on secondment from the German armed forces to the "Office of Military Studies", a front for the BND.

It said the BND refused comment, while the German Defence Ministry had said soldiers were sometimes seconded to the BND, but from that point onwards were no longer under Defence Ministry orders.

DPA

Subject: German news

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