German spies furious over revelations of incompetence

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The Independent Online

The author of a book that exposed Germany's equivalent of MI6 as amateur spies obliged to rummage through dustbins and sell toasters in their quest for intelligence has been threatened with prosecution for betraying state secrets.

The author of a book that exposed Germany's equivalent of MI6 as amateur spies obliged to rummage through dustbins and sell toasters in their quest for intelligence has been threatened with prosecution for betraying state secrets.

Germany's federal prosecutors confirmed yesterday that they had begun an investigation into Norbert Juretzko, 50, a former agent for the BND foreign intelligence service, whose whistleblowing critique of his former employers was published last week. Mr Juretzko's 382-page work, Fit For Certain Duties Only, is an at times hilarious account of his time as a BND agent in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 when German intelligence worked with the CIA to gather information, in farcical circumstances, from the departing Soviet army.

Its revelations have so embarrassed the BND that the service has taken steps to prosecute. "An intelligence service cannot accept a situation in which a former agent betrays secrets of the service and endangers sources," August Hanning, the BND's president, said last week.

Mr Juretzko's account begins in 1990 when the BND decided that a camper van was vital to enable its agents to carry out intelligence-gathering work around Soviet bases in the recently collapsed East Germany. However, the van could not be delivered to Berlin from BND headquarters near Munich because it was a Friday afternoon and the driver had gone home.

The author describes how the head of American intelligence in Berlin exploded with rage at the BND's failure to supply the van: "Are you sure that you are working for an intelligence service?" he is quoted as asking the BND men. "For God's sake go out and buy yourselves a goddam camper van," he added, throwing down $100,000 in notes.

Mr Juretzko explains how he and his BND colleagues bought a van but found themselves obliged to work like "dustmen", touring the rubbish dumps around Soviet bases and sorting through bins in search of top- secret documents.

When that approach failed, the BND agents tried another ruse: they packed their van with electric razors, video recorders and toasters, turned up at the bases and bartered the items with soldiers who supplied them with documents in exchange.

The BND's objections to the book are thought mainly to stem from the author's first-hand account of one of the service's most painful episodes, which peaked in the mid-1990s when one of the agency's top men was strongly suspected of being a Soviet spy.

Volker Foertsch, then head of the BND's counter intelligence unit, was heavily implicated by Mr Juretzko and fellow agents as being a KGB mole. The allegations were never proved but the affair badly dented the BND's reputation and Mr Foertsch retired.

Mr Juretzko has admitted his book is an attempt to settle scores. The BND suspended him in 1997 after he was convicted of misappropriating agents' funds and concealing informants' identity, a move he says was to protect his sources.

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