Federal Intelligence Service
The Federal Intelligence Service (German: Bundesnachrichtendienst; German pronunciation: [ˌbʊndəsˈnaːχʁɪçtnˌdiːnst], BND) is the foreign intelligence agency of Germany, directly subordinated to the Chancellor's Office. The BND headquarters is located in central Berlin and is the world's largest intelligence headquarters. The BND has 300 locations in Germany and foreign countries. In 2016, it employed around 6,500 people, 10% of them Bundeswehr soldiers, who are employed by Amt für Militärkunde (Office for Military Sciences).
Official agency emblem
BND headquarters in Berlin
|Formed||1 April 1956|
|Jurisdiction||Government of Germany|
|Headquarters||BND headquarters, Berlin|
|Annual budget||€966.482 million (2019)|
|Parent agency||German Chancellery|
The BND was founded during the Cold War in 1956 as the official foreign intelligence agency of West Germany, which had recently joined NATO, and in close cooperation with the CIA. It was the successor to the earlier Gehlen Organization, often known simply as "The Organization" or "The Org.", a West German intelligence organization affiliated with the CIA whose existence had not been officially acknowledged. The most central figure in the BND's history was Reinhard Gehlen, the leader of the Gehlen Organization and later the founding president of the BND, who was regarded as "one of the most legendary Cold War spymasters." From the early days of the Cold War the Gehlen Organization and later the BND had an intimate cooperation with the CIA, and often was the western intelligence community's only eyes and ears on the ground in the eastern bloc. The BND is also regarded as one of the best informed intelligence services in regards to the Middle East from the 1960s. The BND was quickly established as the western world's second largest intelligency agency, second only to the CIA. Both Russia and the Middle East remain important focuses of the BND's activities, in addition to violent non-state actors.
The BND today acts as an early warning system to alert the German government to threats to German interests from abroad. It depends heavily on wiretapping and electronic surveillance of international communications. It collects and evaluates information on a variety of areas such as international non-state terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferation and illegal transfer of technology, organized crime, weapons and drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal migration and information warfare. As Germany's only overseas intelligence service, the BND gathers both military and civil intelligence. While the Strategic Reconnaissance Command (KSA) of the Bundeswehr also fulfills this mission, it is not an intelligence service. There is close cooperation between the BND and the KSA.
The domestic secret service counterparts of the BND are the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV) and 16 counterparts at the state level Landesämter für Verfassungsschutz (State Offices for the Protection of the Constitution); there is also a separate military intelligence organisation, the Militärischer Abschirmdienst (MAD, Military Counterintelligence Service).
The predecessor of the BND was the German eastern military intelligence agency during World War II, the Abteilung Fremde Heere Ost or FHO Section in the General Staff, led by Wehrmacht Major General Reinhard Gehlen. Its main purpose was to collect information on the Red Army. After the war Gehlen worked with the U.S. occupation forces in West Germany. In 1946 he set up an intelligence agency informally known as the Gehlen Organization or simply "The Org" and recruited some of his former co-workers. Many had been operatives of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris' wartime Abwehr (counter-intelligence) organization, but Gehlen also recruited people from the former Sicherheitsdienst (SD), SS and Gestapo, after their release by the Allies. The latter recruits were later controversial because the SS and its associated groups were notoriously the perpetrators of many Nazi atrocities during the war. The organization worked at first almost exclusively for the CIA, which contributed funding, equipment, cars, gasoline and other materials. On 1 April 1956 the Bundesnachrichtendienst was created from the Gehlen Organization, and was transferred to the West German government, with all staff. Reinhard Gehlen became President of the BND and remained its head until 1968.
Several publications have criticized Gehlen and his organizations for hiring ex-Nazis. An article in The Independent on 29 June 2018 made this statement about some of the BND employees:
"Operating until 1956, when it was superseded by the BND, the Gehlen Organisation was allowed to employ at least 100 former Gestapo or SS officers. ... Among them were Adolf Eichmann’s deputy Alois Brunner, who would go on to die of old age despite having sent more than 100,000 Jews to ghettos or internment camps, and ex-SS major Emil Augsburg. ... Many ex-Nazi functionaries including Silberbauer, the captor of Anne Frank, transferred over from the Gehlen Organisation to the BND. ... Instead of expelling them, the BND even seems to have been willing to recruit more of them – at least for a few years".
The authors of the book A Nazi Past: Recasting German Identity in Postwar Europe state that Reichard Gehlen simply did not want to know the backgrounds of the men that the BND hired in the 1950s. The American National Security Archive states that "he employed numerous former Nazis and known war criminals".
On the other hand, Gehlen himself was cleared by James H. Critchfield of the Central Intelligence Agency who worked with the Gehlen Organization from 1949 to 1956. In 2001, he said that "almost everything negative that has been written about Gehlen, [as an] ardent ex-Nazi, one of Hitler's war criminals ... is all far from the fact," as quoted in the Washington Post. Critchfield added that Gehlen hired former Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service of the Reichsführer-SS) men "reluctantly, under pressure from German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to deal with 'the avalanche of subversion hitting them from East Germany'"
In the first years of oversight by the State Secretary in the federal chancellery of Konrad Adenauer of the operation in Pullach, Munich District, Bavaria, the BND continued the ways of its forebear, the Gehlen Organization.
The BND racked up its initial East-West cold war successes by concentrating on East Germany. The BND's reach encompassed the highest political and military levels of the GDR regime. They knew the carrying capacity of every bridge, the bed count of every hospital, the length of every airfield, the width and level of maintenance of the roads that Soviet armor and infantry divisions would have to traverse in a potential attack on the West. Almost every sphere of eastern life was known to the BND.
Unsung analysts at Pullach, with their contacts in the East, figuratively functioned as flies on the wall in ministries and military conferences. When the Soviet KGB suspected an East German army intelligence officer, a lieutenant colonel and BND agent, of spying, the Soviets investigated and shadowed him. The BND was positioned and able to inject forged reports implying that the loose spy was actually the KGB investigator, who was then arrested by the Soviets and shipped off to Moscow. Not knowing how long the caper would stay under wraps, the real spy was told to be ready for recall; he made his move to the West at the appropriate time.
The East German regime, however, fought back. With still unhindered flight to the west a possibility, infiltration started on a grand scale and a reversal of sorts took hold. During the early 1960s as many as 90% of the BND's lower-level informants in East Germany worked as double agents for the East German security service, later known as Stasi. Several informants in East Berlin reported in June and July 1961 of street closures, clearing of fields, accumulation of building materials and police and army deployments in specific parts of the eastern sector, as well as other measures that BND determined could lead to a division of the city. However, the agency was reluctant to report communist initiatives and had no knowledge of the scope and timing because of conflicting inputs. The erection of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 thus came as a surprise, and the BND's performance in the political field was thereafter often wrong and remained spotty and unimpressive.
"This negative view of BND was certainly not justified during … [1967 and] 1968." The BND's military work "had been outstanding", and in certain sectors of the intelligence field the BND still showed brilliance: in Latin America and in the Middle East it was regarded as the best-informed secret service.
The BND offered a fair and reliable amount of intelligence on Soviet and Soviet-bloc forces in Eastern Europe, regarding the elaboration of a NATO warning system against any Soviet operations against NATO territory, in close cooperation with the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces).
One high point of BND intelligence work culminated in its early June 1967 forecast – almost to the hour – of the outbreak of the Six-Day War in the Middle East on 5 June 1967.
According to declassified transcripts of a United States National Security Council meeting on 2 June 1967, CIA Director Richard Helms interrupted Secretary of State Dean Rusk with "reliable information" – contrary to Rusk's presentation – that the Israelis would attack on a certain day and time. Rusk shot back: "That is quite out of the question. Our ambassador in Tel Aviv assured me only yesterday that everything was normal." Helms replied: "I am sorry, but I adhere to my opinion. The Israelis will strike and their object will be to end the war in their favor with extreme rapidity." President Lyndon Johnson then asked Helms for the source of his information. Helms said: "Mr. President, I have it from an allied secret service. The report is absolutely reliable." Helms' information came from the BND.
A further laudable success involved the BND's activity during the Czech crisis in 1968; by then, the agency was led by the second president, Gerhard Wessel. With Pullach cryptography fully functioning, the BND predicted an invasion of Soviet and other Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia. CIA analysts on the other hand did not support the notion of "fraternal assistance" by the satellite states of Moscow; and US ambassador to the Soviet Union, Llewellyn Thompson, quite irritated, called the secret BND report he was given "a German fabrication". At 23:11 on 20 August 1968, BND radar operators first observed abnormal activity over Czech airspace. An agent on the ground in Prague called a BND out-station in Bavaria: "The Russians are coming." Warsaw Pact forces had moved as forecast.
However, the slowly sinking efficiency of BND in the last years of Reinhard Gehlen became evident. By 1961, it was clear that the BND employed some men who were Soviet "moles"; they had come from the earlier Gehlen Organization. One mole, Heinz Felfe, was convicted of treason in 1963. Others were not uncovered during Gehlen's term in office.
Gehlen's refusal to correct reports with questionable content strained the organization's credibility, and dazzling achievements became an infrequent commodity. A veteran agent remarked at the time that the BND pond then contained some sardines, though a few years earlier the pond had been alive with sharks.
The fact that the BND could score certain successes despite East German communist Stasi interference, internal malpractice, inefficiencies and infighting, was primarily due to select members of the staff who took it upon themselves to step up and overcome then existing maladies. Abdication of responsibility by Reinhard Gehlen was the malignancy; cronyism remained pervasive, even nepotism (at one time Gehlen had 16 members of his extended family on the BND payroll). Only slowly did the younger generation then advance to substitute new ideas for some of the bad habits caused mainly by Gehlen's semi-retired attitude and frequent holiday absences.
Gehlen was forced out in April 1968 due to "political scandal within the ranks", according to one source. His successor, Bundeswehr Brigadier General Gerhard Wessel, immediately called for a program of modernization and streamlining. With political changes in the West German government and a reflection that BND was at a low level of efficiency, the service began to rebuild. Years later, Wessel's obituary in the Los Angeles Times, reported that he "is credited with modernizing the BND by hiring academic analysts and electronics specialists".
Reinhard Gehlen's memoirs, The Service, The Memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen (English title), were published in 1977, (World Publishers, New York). A Review of the book published by the CIA makes this comment about Gehlen's achievements and management style:
"Gehlen's descriptions of most of his so-called successes in the political intelligence field are, in my opinion, either wishful thinking or self-delusion. ... Gehlen was never a good clandestine operator, nor was he a particularly good administrator. And therein lay his failures. The Gehlen Organization/BND always had a good record in the collection of military and economic intelligence on East Germany and the Soviet forces there. But this information, for the most part, came from observation and not from clandestine penetration".
The agency's second President, Gerhard Wessel, retired in 1978. According to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times in August 2002, the "former intelligence officer in Adolf Hitler’s anti-Soviet spy operations" ... "is credited with modernizing the BND by hiring academic analysts and electronics specialists". The New York Times News Service obituary lauded the BND's many successes under Wessel but noted that there had been "a number of incidents of East Germans infiltrating the West German government, particularly intelligence agencies, on Gen. Wessel's watch".
Munich Olympic bombings
The kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich was a watershed event for the BND, following early warnings from other countries, because it led the agency to build counter-terrorism capabilities.
Libyan bombings in Germany
Spying on journalists
In 2005, a public scandal erupted (dubbed the Journalistenskandal, journalists scandal) over revelations that the BND had placed a number of German journalists under surveillance since the-mid 1990s, in an attempt to discover the source of information leaks from the BND regarding the activities of the service in connection with the war in Iraq and the "war against terror". The Bundestag constituted an investigative committee ("Parlamentarischer Untersuchungsausschuss") to investigate the allegations. The committee tasked the former Federal Appellate Court (Bundesgerichtshof) judge Dr. Gerhard Schäfer as special investigator, who published a report confirming illegal BND operations involving and targeting journalists between 1993 and 2005. As a consequence, the Chancellery issued an executive order banning BND operational measures against journalists with the aim to protect the service.
The committee published a final report in 2009, which mostly confirmed the allegations, identifying the intent to protect the BND from disclosure of classified information and finding a lack of oversight within the senior leadership of the service but did not identify any responsible members from within the government.
In 1990, BND gave the Finnish Security Intelligence Service the so-called Tiitinen list—which supposedly contains names of Finns who were believed to have links to Stasi. The list was classified and locked in a safe after the Director of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service, Seppo Tiitinen, and the President of Finland, Mauno Koivisto, determined that it was based on vague hints instead of hard evidence.
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Promoting the invasion of Iraq
On 5 February 2003, Colin Powell made the case for a military attack on Iraq in front of the UN Security Council. Powell supported his case with information received from the BND, instead of Mr. Hans Blix and the IAEA. The BND had collected intelligence from an informant known as Rafid al-Janabi alias CURVEBALL, who claimed Iraq would be in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction, apart from torturing and killing over 1,000 dissidents each year, for over 20 years. Rafid was employed before and after the 2003 incident which ultimately led to the invasion of Iraq. The payments of 3,000 Euros monthly were made by a cover firm called Thiele und Friedrichs (Munich).
Israel vs. Lebanon
Fighting tax evasion
In the beginning of 2008, it was revealed that the BND had managed to recruit excellent sources within Liechtenstein banks and had been conducting espionage operations in the principality since the beginning of the 2000s. The BND mediated the German Finance Ministry's $7.3 million acquisition of a CD from a former employee of the LGT Group – a Liechtenstein bank owned by the country's ruling family. While the Finance Ministry defends the deal, saying it would result in several hundred millions of dollars in back tax payments, the sale remains controversial, as a government agency has paid for possibly stolen data. See 2008 Liechtenstein tax affair.
In November 2008, three German BND agents were arrested in Kosovo for allegedly throwing a bomb at the European Union International Civilian Office, which oversees Kosovo's governance. Later the "Army of the Republic of Kosovo" had accepted responsibility for the bomb attack. Laboratory tests had shown no evidence of the BND agents' involvement. However, the Germans were released only 10 days after they were arrested. It was suspected that the arrest was a revenge by Kosovo authorities for the BND report about organized crime in Kosovo which accuses Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, as well as the former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj of far-reaching involvement in organized crime.
According to reporting in Der Standard and profil, the BND engaged in espionage in Austria between 1999 and 2006, spying on targets including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Austria Press Agency, embassies, and Austrian banks and government ministries. The government of Austria has called on Germany to clarify the allegations.
In 2014, an employee of BND was arrested for handing over secret documents to the United States. He was suspected of handing over documents about the committee investigating the NSA spying in Germany. The German government responded to this espionage by expelling the top CIA official in Berlin. In December 2016, WikiLeaks published 2,420 documents from the BND and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV). The published materials had been submitted in 2015 as part of a German parliamentary inquiry into the surveillance activities of the BND and its cooperation with the US National Security Agency.
The new BND headquarters in Berlin, near the former Berlin Wall, was completed in 2017. At the official opening in February 2019, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, made this statement: "In an often very confusing world, now, more urgently than ever, Germany needs a strong and efficient foreign intelligence service". At the time, some 4,000 employees were expected to work from this location, moving here from the former headquarters in Pullach, a suburb of Munich. The agency's total number of employees, in Germany and other countries, was approximately 6,500.
The BND has been reported to store 220 million sets of metadata every day. That is, they record with whom, when, where and for how long someone communicates. This data is supposedly collected across the world, but the exact locations remains unclear to this date. The Bundestag committee investigating the NSA spying scandal has uncovered that the German intelligence agency intercepts communications traveling via both satellites and Internet cables. It seems certain that the metadata only come from "foreign dialed traffic," that is, from telephone conversations and text messages that are held and sent via mobile phones and satellites. Of these 220 million data amassed every day, one percent is archived for 10 years "for long-term analysis." Apparently though, this long-term storage doesn't hold any Internet communications, data from social networks, or emails.
The Bundesnachrichtendienst is divided into the following directorates:
- Regionale Auswertung und Beschaffung A (LA) und Regionale Auswertung und Beschaffung B (LB) (Regional Analysis and Procurement, A/B countries)
- Internationaler Terrorismus und Internationale Organisierte Kriminalität (TE) (Terrorism and International Organised Crime)
- Proliferation, ABC-Waffen, Wehrtechnik (TW) (Proliferation, NBC Weapons)
- Technische Aufklärung (TA) (Signal Intelligence)
- Gesamtlage und unterstützende Fachdienste (GU) (Situation Centre)
- Innerer Dienst (ID) (Internal Services)
- Informationstechnik (IT) (Information Technology)
- Zentralabteilung (ZY) (Central Services)
- Eigensicherung (SI) (Security)
- Umzug (UM) (Relocation [to Berlin])
Presidents of the BND
The head of the Bundesnachrichtendienst is its President. The following persons have held this office since 1956:
|Presidents of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND)|
|Name (lived)||Beginning of service||End of service|
|1||Reinhard Gehlen (1902–1979)||1 April 1956||30 April 1968|
|2||Gerhard Wessel (1913–2002)||1 May 1968||31 December 1978|
|3||Klaus Kinkel (1936-2019)||1 January 1979||26 December 1982|
|4||Eberhard Blum (1919–2003)||27 December 1982||31 July 1985|
|5||Heribert Hellenbroich (1937-2014)||1 August 1985||27 August 1985|
|6||Hans-Georg Wieck (b. 1928)||4 September 1985||2 October 1990|
|7||Konrad Porzner (b. 1935)||3 October 1990||31 March 1996|
|8||Gerhard Güllich (b. 1937) (interim)||1 April 1996||4 June 1996|
|9||Hansjörg Geiger (b. 1942)||4 June 1996||17 December 1998|
|10||August Hanning (b. 1946)||17 December 1998||30 November 2005|
|11||Ernst Uhrlau (b. 1946)||1 December 2005||7 December 2011|
|12||Gerhard Schindler (b. 1952)||7 December 2011||1 July 2016|
|13||Bruno Kahl (b. 1962)||1 July 2016||Incumbent|
The president of the BND is a federal Beamter paid according to BBesO order B, B9, which is in payment the equivalent of a lieutenant general.
The President of the BND has three deputies: one Vice President, one Vice President for Military Affairs (Since December 2003), and one Vice President for Central Functions and Modernization (Possibly Since 2013). Prior to December 2003, there was only one Vice President. The following persons have held this office since 1957:
|Vice-Presidents of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND)|
|Name (lived)||Beginning of service||End of service|
|1||Hans-Heinrich Worgitzky (1907–1969)||24 May 1957||1967|
|2||Horst Wendland (1912–1968)||8 October 1968 (suicide)|
|3||Dieter Blötz (1931–1987)||4 May 1970||August 1979|
|4||Norbert Klusak (1936–1986)||1 April 1980||27 February 1986|
|5||Paul Münstermann (1932–2010)||1986||27 August 1994|
|6||Gerhard Güllich (b. 1937) (interim)||1994||1996|
|7||Rainer Kesselring (1934–2013)||18 June 1996||September 1998|
|8||Rudolf Adam (b. 1948)||July 2001||31 March 2004|
|9||Werner Schowe (b. 1944), military affairs VP||15. December 2003||30. September 2005|
|10||Rüdiger von Fritsch-Seerhausen (b. 1953)||1 May 2004||2007|
|11||Georg Freiherr von Brandis (b. 1948), military affairs VP||4 October 2005||February 2008|
|12||Arndt Freiherr Freytag von Loringhoven (b. 1956)||2007||2010|
|13||Armin Hasenpusch (1948-2014), military affairs VP||2008||2010|
|14||Werner Ober (b. 1948), central functions and modernization VP||2008||2013|
|15||Géza Andreas von Geyr||2010||2014|
|17||Ole Diehl (b. 1964)||2016||present|
|18||Norbert Stier (b. 1953), military affairs VP||2010||2015|
|19||Werner Sczesny, military affairs VP||2016||present|
|20||Guido Müller (b. 1966), central functions and modernization VP||2013||October 2018|
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