Europe

Germany replaces NSA scandal-plagued spy chief

53-years-old Kahl replaces Schindler as Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND chief, German government announces

Ayhan Şimşek   | 27.04.2016
Germany replaces NSA scandal-plagued spy chief

Berlin

BERLIN

The director of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND, Gerhard Schindler, will be removed from office, the government announced on Wednesday amid scandals surrounding the spy organization.

Without mentioning any particular reason for the change, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier said in a short statement that Schindler would be sent to early retirement on July 1.

Altmaier thanked Schindler for his long years of “meritorious” work as head of the agency since 2012.

63-years-old Schindler faced growing criticism recently due to the BND’s reported secret cooperation with the American spy agency NSA, and its spying on allies and friendly nations. 

Controversial practices 

A cooperation agreement signed between the BND and NSA in 2002 had allowed the agencies to spy on telephone and internet communications in conflict regions from a base in southern Germany, but recently-leaked files revealed that the NSA had not only monitored conflict regions but also spied on European politicians, institutions and companies, including German citizens.

Last year, Schindler defended himself during a hearing at a parliamentary investigation committee by saying that he only found out about such practices in autumn 2013, and claimed to have removed controversial search parameters in consultation with the German Prime Minister’s Office.

Despite the scandal, he defended the agency's cooperation with the NSA, stressing that it was vital for the security of Germany and of its soldiers stationed abroad.

“The NSA is not threatening German interests, but it is supporting us,” he said, arguing that it was impossible for the BND to fulfill its responsibilities without international cooperation.

Media reports in October last year revealed that apart from the cooperation with the NSA, the BND also carried out individual surveillance activities targeting EU institutions and allies, including the U.K., France and Austria. Israeli Prime Minister’s Office was among the targets of the BND’s surveillance activities. 

New spymaster 

Altmaier named 53-years-old Dr. Bruno Kahl, a senior bureaucrat who worked for many years in the German Interior Ministry, as Schindler’s successor.

“The BND will face huge challenges in the coming years, in order to do its work in all areas,” Altmaier said in the written statement.

Adapting the agency to new security challenges and drawing organizational and legal conclusions from the work of the parliamentary commission investigating the NSA scandal would be among the main challenges in the coming years, he said.

He also underlined the need for strengthening the technical and personnel capacities of the agency.

Schindler was widely criticized by opposition politicians for failing to exert an effective control on various departments of his institution.

Kahl is a close aide of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, one of the most influential politicians of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

When Schaeuble served as the interior minister from 2005 to 2009, Kahl was a director in the ministry. Since 2010, Kahl has been working at the German Finance Ministry, as a director responsible for investments, privatizations and government real estate.

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