Wednesday, May 17, 2006

German Government Spies on Journalists

From the International Herald Tribune:
BERLIN The German government admitted Monday that the Federal Intelligence Service had recruited and spied on journalists from 1993 until as recently as last year.

“The government regrets the incidents,” said Ulrich Wilhelm, the government spokesman after he had been bombarded with questions during the Monday regular news conference.

Wilhelm said the Chancellery had ordered the Federal Intelligence Service to stop such activities following a string of allegations emerging over the last few days that the agency had recruited journalists to spy on their colleagues.

The parliamentary controller’s committee, which monitors the activities of the intelligence services, will hold a special session Tuesday amid calls by the German Association of Journalists and the Association of Newspaper Publishers for a “rigorous investigation.”

Wilhelm said the agency had been ordered to answer questions. “We will confront the issue of what conclusions to draw in terms of personnel.”

The allegations were made in a confidential report drawn up by a retired federal judge, Gerhard Schäfer, who presented it last week at a closed meeting of the parliamentary group responsible for the intelligence services.

In the 170-page report, Schäfer showed how the Federal Intelligence Service, which is the equivalent of the foreign secret service or the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, had kept tabs on several journalists, including some from the weekly newsmagazines Der Spiegel and Focus and the daily Berliner Zeitung.

Schäfer, who had spent over a year gathering the evidence, said that the actions by the agents “were unlawful” but that the agency went to such lengths to spy on journalists because they wanted to find out who in the agency was leaking information to the media.


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