Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Bundesnachrichtendienst

BND spy "Fat Willy" (Photo: Spiegel)

has a long profile of former German intelligence officer Willy Dietl, a famous journalist and writer, with extensive experience in the Middle East and Central Asia. Dietl's cover was blown in November 2005 when the chief of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, under pressure from the country's media. revealed to a parliamentary commission that the BND had paid five journalists to inform on their colleagues, in a bid to track the source of leaks. The revelation caused a scandal in Germany, and the once-respected reporter and author of several books about the intelligence community and terrorism (Spy Ladies: Frauen im Geheimdienst, Holy War, Bridgehead Afghanistan, Im Visier: ein Ex-Agent enthüllt die Machenschaften des BND) now lives in disgrace.

Among his successes as a collection agent, Dietl counts his recruitment of two agents, from an unnamed country (Jordan or Syria?), who monitored the Abu Nidal crew:
Willy Dietl credits the crowning glory of his achievements to his running of two intelligence officers from a country that borders on Israel. He declines to name the country, because the two are still in active service. Dietl met a relative of the two, who was arrested in the country in question after he was falsely informed on. After the man's release, he moved to Germany, where Dietl helped him start life anew and became friends with him. His two relatives, the intelligence officers, were very impressed by Dietl's efforts and grateful to him.

"Over time I became friends with the two of them," he relates. "Only afterward did I discover that they were professional intelligence officers, who were in charge of collecting information and monitoring the activity of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization. After a while I recruited them for the BND. They gave me a complete list of Abu Nidal's operatives, their passport numbers, their code names, their travel plans to Europe and many other details. It was a gold mine. You have to remember that in the 1980s, Abu Nidal's organization was considered the most dangerous and most daring terrorist group in the world. They carried out many attacks against targets in Austria and Italy, against Israeli and Jewish targets and against the PLO. Now, suddenly, we had advance information about every trip of the organization's people to Europe."

On the BND's relations with the Mossad:
Do you know whether the BND shared this information with other espionage organizations, including the Mossad?

"I don't know, but I have no doubt that they did. The Mossad is one of the closest organizations to the BND, and Israel was one of the targets for attacks by the Abu Nidal group."

On Germany, I thought this was particularly interesting and accurate:
In Germany, in contrast to Israel, the public does not want to understand that intelligence work is necessary to protect the country's citizens and its democratic character. In Germany, the moment your name is mixed up in anything related to intelligence, you are considered odious, so you can imagine how badly the affair has hurt me.

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