Germany expels three CIA spies in secret deal

FOR THE second time in its postwar history, Germany has unmasked a group of CIA agents operating against German interests and has sent them home.

According to the television station ZDF, which broke the story last night, the three CIA spies left the country last month, with the CIA's bureau chief in Munich. So that the affair could be kept quiet, Washington was asked to recall its operatives. None of them had been properly accredited to Germany. The television station did not say what their offence had been, but it is conceivable they were caught spying on Germany's own spying operations. The Federal Intelligence Service, the BND, is based at the Munich suburb of Pullach, where it had been set up by the Americans at the onset of the Cold War.

But relations between the two outfits have been less than cordial for a long time. The Americans believe their German colleagues are incompetent, and there are many German insiders who would not disagree with that view.

Apart from the embarrassing security lapses during the Cold War, when East German agents penetrated Bonn's highest echelons with ease, the BND was caught napping on German industry's links with hostile Third World powers. The US ended up having to bomb a Libyan chemical weapons plant built entirely by German firms, a project of which the German government appeared to know nothing. Germany's Middle East connections provoked the only previous known case of a US spy being expelled. In March 1997, a US diplomat was kicked out for trying to recruit a senior official of the Economics Ministry in Bonn. He had been trying to procure a list of companies supplying high technology to Iran.

It is, of course, perfectly natural that friendly agencies should spy on one another. There are estimated to be about 100 undercover agents in Germany, keeping an eye on things the Germans would rather keep secret from their closest allies. Increasingly, as political rivalries ebb away in a mono-polar world, the economic domain becomes the real battlefield among nations. There are undoubtedly many industrial secrets in Germany that American competitors would love to get hold of and commercial espionage has become a key task for the modern spy. How much economic espionage is being pursued by the public sector, which used to confine its interest to military hardware and power structures, can only be guessed at.

America is believed to use its superiority in computing to break the complex codes that companies adopt when transmitting commercially sensitive data. The US, Britain and other Western countries also run the Echelon system, which eavesdrops on electronic communications across the world. For years it has been suspected that the United States National Security Agency uses it to gather commercial intelligence. The Americans deny this. The former US spy chief, Bobby Inman, says it is for "fair trade issues and trade violations - that sort of thing".

All the money at stake is enough to turn former friends into enemies. But relations between Germany and the US are also clouded by an episode in the dying days of the Cold War, when the CIA stole from Berlin a large quantity of Stasi documents from under the noses of their West German colleagues.

Thanks to "Operation Rosebud", as this caper was called, the CIA now has the names of a lot of West Germans who had been on the Stasi payroll. There are rumours that a few leftist politicians are listed, including some within the current government in Berlin.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities