BERLIN: Afghan Trade and Industry Minister Amin Farhang was the target of German espionage for six months. The head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency has come under fire over admissions his employees monitored e-mails exchanged between a minister in the Afghan government and a SPIEGEL journalist. Chief spy Ernst Uhrlau will likely keep his job, but the scandal is expected to shake up the organization.
Earlier Thursday, it looked as though Ernst Uhrlau, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, might lose his job. Urhlau came under fire this week after it was revealed his agency had been monitoring e-mails exchanged between an Afghan government minister and a SPIEGEL journalist.
A number of new details are emerging that suggest the head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) lost control over some of the agents in his organization and failed to inform the Chancellery of Chancellor Angela Merkel or parliament in a timely manner about what he knew. The Chancellery is officially responsible for supervising the foreign intelligence agency’s activities. But after a meeting of the German parliament’s intelligence oversight committee Thursday, the panel’s chairman, Thomas Oppermann of the center-left Social Democratic Party, said Uhrlau could keep his post.
After a two-hour period of questioning, he said it was clear there would be consequences for BND personnel and that new structures would be put in place on the level of department heads and staff units. He said the relationship between the intelligence oversight committee and the BND had been damaged and that it had to be re-established. Oppermann also said these changes should be managed by Uhrlau, who is already working to correct other legacy problems at the foreign intelligence agency.
Other politicians on Thursday, led by Hans-Peter Uhl of the conservative Bavarian party the Christian Social Union, had been calling for Uhrlau to step down. But during the oversight committee’s meeting, the senior Left Party member on the panel, Wolfgang Neskovic, said his resignation wouldn’t change anything. But the senior committee member from the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, Max Stadler, described the espionage case as evidence that the BND was turning into a state within a state. Stadler called for an increase in parliament’s power over the BND’s work. Speaking for the Greens, panel member Hans-Christian Ströbele concurred.-SANA