The “BND Affair”: “Revelations” Unrevealed

Posted by John Rosenthal

Supposed “revelations” according to which exactly two officers of the German intelligence service, the BND, stationed in Iraq during the Iraq War provided their American colleagues with intelligence have provoked some “gotcha” type reactions in the blogosphere and charges of hypocrisy against former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, hitherto known to his partisans as “Peace Chancellor”. Note that these “revelations” have not only not been verified, but they are not verifiable, since they are based on anonymous sources, including supposedly a “former Pentagon employee”.

Several elements suggest that these “revelations” consist of targeted disinformation, designed precisely to improve Germany’s image in America: as in “wink, wink; nudge, nudge, don’t take seriously the ‘anti-war’/anti-American rhetoric – we were really helping you.” Firstly, there is the curious timing of the “revelations” – just before Angela Merkel’s first visit to Washington to confer with President Bush – and, secondly, the source that virtually instantaneously brought these reports of “German help” into English: namely, der Spiegel. As I have discussed previously in “More Taqqiya from the Spiegel” and also here on the old Trans-Int, der Spiegel’s English-language site – which serves no obvious commercial purpose, incidentally – seems to serve principally as an “authoritative” conduit for disinformation on Germany.

In any case, the inner-German reactions to the “revelations” are perhaps more revealing than the “revelations” themselves. Take, for instance, the following passage from an article in today’s Berliner Zeitung referring to the findings of a parliamentary committee charged with oversight of German intelligence agencies:

It is 10 PM Wednesday night in Cairo. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is speaking with some close associates at a reception in the Cairo Opera House, where Germany will be the guest of honor at the largest book fair in the Arab World. The Foreign Minister’s cellphone rings. On the other end of the line, it is Olaf Scholz, a colleague from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), who has just gotten back from the Parliamentary Control Committee. The committee, which meets in secret, has questioned the two BND officers who remained in Baghdad during the Iraq War…. Olaf Schulz tells the Foreign Minister: now even the most skeptical representatives of the Greens and the Left Party are saying that they believe the BND’s claims that its secret agents never actively participated in the war against Saddam’s regime. Steinmeier seems relieved….

Note that, given the “charges” that were being addressed, “no active participation” should mean “provided no actionable intelligence”, notably on the whereabouts of Baathist targets: something that the intelligence agency of a supposedly allied country, even if its military did not take part in the intervention, might precisely be expected to do under the circumstances. So, Steinmeier is “relieved” that Germany did nothing – but absolutely nothing – to contribute to the overthrow of the Baathist dictatorship. What a relief!

But what, then, were the “two” BND agents doing in Baghdad during the war? Interviewed by the Berlin weekly Jungle World [link in German], Erich Schmidt-Eenboom – a specialist on the BND, whose investigations have even earned him the privilege of being himself spied on by the agency – had this to say:

In the meanwhile, it has been admitted that the BND was present in Iraq during the Iraq War. During that time, it undoubtedly maintained its very good contacts with the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein. At the same time, it was under pressure, in the context of a political ice age between Washington and Berlin, not to let its contacts with the Defense Intelligence Agency completely die out.

Summary: Intelligence agencies are known to play double games. (Dare I say that, historically, German intelligence agencies have been particularly well known for this?) And American media organizations are known to be naïve.

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