Circling the Lion's Den


Erich Schmidt-Eenboom: The downfall of Putins main domestic enemy has been a success of German foreign intelligence

Erich Schmidt Eenboom is a well-known journalist and a recognized secret service expert for Europe, North America and the middle east. He is an author of numerous books to the topic, among them, the Federal Intelligence Service Schnueffler without nose" (1993), the Schattenkrieger. Klaus Kinkel and the Federal Intelligence Service" (1995) and  Undercover. The Federal Intelligence Service and the German journalists" (1998), Also he is head of research institute for peace policy - Forschungsinstitut f?r Friendenspolitik (Upper Bavaria). 

He makes comments to Irina Borogan / Agentura.Ru / on very specific attitudes between the Russian and German secret services which have developed during Putin's presidential board: 

- Whats your opinion about last spy scandal in Hamburg when Alexandre Kuzmin representative of Russian consulate had to go home?  It is true, that chief of BfV personnaly visited chief of SVR Sergei Lebedev for asking him to take away Kuzmin?  What do you think why this scandal cant spoil relations between Russian and German secret services?

- During the cold war Mr. Kuzmin would have been expelled as a persona non grata without more ado. The reported fact that the chief of the BfV Mr. Fromm travelled to Russia to ask for the withdrawel of Kuzmin shows a special relationship between German and Russian intelligence services. But the relations are not as good as those with Germanys old Nato-partners because if an officer of the CIA or British MI6 undertakes unfriendly activities in Germany there would be a secret bid to take him away. 

From an intelligence point of view the scandal isnt a scandal - only business as usual including the German-American attempts to recruit Kuzmin as a mole in GRU. Thats why the relations can not be spoiled by a few isolated cases especially if there is a political umbrella of strategic partnership.

- These relations seem to be very close. We see so many spy scandals in Germany related to Russian intelligence (In october 2003 Germans found two GRU moles, September 2004 - Parliament Comission was looking Russian mole in BND after book of Norbert Juretzko etc). But there is an impression these scandals dont influence relations between special services. For example in 2000 BND director visited Chechnya, and it was very unusual, as I understand. In 2003 German counterintelligence has warned about opportunity of acts of terrorism of the Chechen terrorists in the Europe (and it was very profitable for Russia). Whats a nature of these relations? 

- Indeed, the relations between the BND and its Russian partners - code-named SEQUOIA - are very good and getting better and better since in 1991 the exchange of legal representatives in the embassies was arranged. At first there were some irritations on the Russian side because Mr. Kretschmann, former chief of station in the Netherlands until 1982, in London from 1986 on and the first legal representative of the BND in Moscow wasnt able to speak the Russian language. He was sacked in 1992 after failing to foresee the coup despite the fact that he as a member of the liberal party in Germany had the support of foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher.

Dont mix up the mole cases. In the case when Volker Foertsch (until 1998 head of the security division of the BND and before for many years working against the Soviet Union) was said to be a mole I do not trust Norbert Juretzko - a former BND captain convicted for fraud. In my opinion an old boys network (former KGB-general Yurij Dosdrov and others) tried to take revenge for VIKTOR - the KGB colonel who spied for the BND with the case officer Mr. Foertsch from the early 70s to 1985 - and to disrupt the BND.




On the other hand SWR and perhaps more GRU are spying in Germany especially in the field of economic espionage with about 130 intelligence officers. But the BND is doing the same in Russia and the former republics of the Soviet Union. Remember the case when Christopher Lez - a teacher from the George-Marshall-Center in Bavaria - in September 2000 was arrested in Moscow, delivered to Minsk and there sentenced to 7 years in prison for being the German head of a spy network all over Eastern Europe. So no side can blame the other for doing the espionage job. Despite strategic cooperation the Game of the Foxes - as Ladislav Farago called the intelligence war in the 40s - still goes on and also all the rabbits between Portugal and Poland, between Sweden and Romania try to play the same old game.
At the top level of the German and Russian intelligence services we found in the same time strong cooperation and support including the German warnings about Chechen terrorism you mentioned. And more. According to the Paris based INTELLIGENCE chancellor Gerhard Schr?der handed a BND report to Vladimir Putin, when the latter visited Berlin on February 10, 2003. This report contained the results of an investigation from the company IWR, which in behalf of the BND has been looking for the money of the former East German communist party, which disappeared shortly before Germanys reunification. During this investigation IWR stumbled across the name of the Russian firm Avisma und the Menatep bank, main shareholder in Yukos. The report also detected money-laundering operations by Platon Lebedev and Alexej Golubovich, two cronies of Khodorkovski, and gave Russian officials the opportunity to put Lebedev under arrest in July and jail his boss in September. In this way the downfall of Putins main domestic enemy has been a success of German foreign intelligence.

- Has BND got any special opportunities in Chechnya? May be Russian and German secret services have any special joint antiterrorism programm? 

- At first, BND traditionally has special opportunities in Afghanistan and some other Islamic countries which are important to analyze and fight terrorism in Russia. For example Al Zarqawi - deputy of Bin Laden and top terrorist in Iraq - recruited fighters in a camp near Herat (Afghanistan) for the rebels in Chechnya in summer 2000 and bought weapons for his operations from Chechnya. And Zarqawis accomplice in the Pankisi valley in Georgia Abu Ingila developed poison and chemical weapons there for the use against Russians. So the main German contribution to Russian counter-terrorism in Chechnya is providing facts on former Afghan freedom fighters hired by the CIA in the 80s. When Mr. Hanning - then and now director of the BND - visited Chechnya in 2000 it was only the culmination of an ongoing cooperation.

Beside this the BND has some contacts to Chechen opposition groups in their exile.

Call it a program or not: German and Russian services exchange information on terrorism on a daily basis. Typically Mr. Kaundinya - from 1992 until 1998 the second chief of station in Moscow and now in New Delhi - was after his duty in the Russian capital for two years the head of counter-terrorismn in Pullach (Headquarters of BND).

- Btw, what do you think, why Al-Qaeda cells used Germany (Hamburg) as operative base for preparing 9/11? Not France, where are traditionnaly so many muslims, or Italy, but Germany? Is it a problem of BfV? 

- Not to forget Spain as current trials show. At the time of Cold war Germany was the host nation for a lot of different Islamic groups: Algerians from the FIS, Persians who fled from the Shah and then those who left the country after the revolution in 1979, Afghan people from every wave after the political system changed there up to the Hizbollah. There was a silent arrangement that they could use Germany as a rest room as long as their activities are no threat for their host nation. After 9/11 the situation changed not without some American pressure. Instead of only keeping an eye on them they are now under strict control and some preventive pressure.

- How do you estimate level of competency of BfV now? I know in Cold war BfV was very weak. Has this situation changed? 

- In some ways the BfV in its early years was a Disneyland-Gestapo concentrated on anti-communist activities in every field from counter-espionage (due to the moles in the organization without success) to propaganda (with some more success in the domestic area). The counter-espionage experts checked which postman might be a communist and they called it intelligence.

Despite the problems with the federalist structure of the 16 offices for the protection of the constitution and despite the insufficient information exchange with European partners by now the BfV seems to be successful in controlling the domestic terrorist threat.

- You are one of most respectable experts in Echelon problem and SIGINT, what do you think, why this subject now is not so popular as five years ago? Whats going on around Echelon and other attempts of Western governments to introduce total listening now? 

- When the European parliament started the campaign against ECHELON supported by specialists as Duncan Campbell it was an attempt to stop or limit the activities of the anglo-saxon Big Brother. Governments in Western Europe gave some support to these efforts because they fear that its impossible to keep their own secrets - as seen in 2003 when the National Security Agency tapped all communication lines of the countries in the anti-Iraq-war-coalition.

But the victims of the signal intelligence of the United States are prevented by their own growing capacities and interests in this field from taking legal steps on the international stage to forbid such activities.

- Mr. Schmidt-Eenboom, your activity is well known in our country but we know nothing about you personally - as example there are some rumours you are former Stasi colonel. Is it true? Can you describe your biography? 

I was born in 1953 in northern Germany. In 1973 I joined the German army and in my officer`s training course studied Science of Education and History at the Bundeswehr university in Hamburg. After 12 years of service in some anti-aircraft-artillery units I left the army in 1985 and began to work for the Forschungsinstitut f?r Friedenspolitik, a research institute of the peace movement.

I published various articles and books dealing with the strategy, infrastructure and troop force composition in NATO. Since May 1990 I have been Director of the Institute and concentrated my work on intelligence and security services in Europe, Japan and North America.

Im always amused to hear that some people argue I must have been a former intelligence officer either in BND or in the MfS. Thats because they cant imagine that investigative journalism is able to find out so many secret affairs.

- You had very active and oppositional position in Kosovo conflict and Balcan wars, have you got any problems with German services? 

- I had problems for some years when in 1993 my book Schn?ffler ohne Nase appeared and in 1995 the next book on the former foreign minister and BND director Klaus Kinkel called Der Schattenkrieger (The Shadow Warrior) with a main point on the Balcan wars and their secret past history. But all the legal affairs with the BND and former BND officers have been without any success for them. For some years now the problems of phone tapping and slander are away and its possible to discuss affairs with former high ranking BND officers.

- Have you got any plans to publish your books in Russian? 

- Its my publishers task to look for translation. In 2004 I published together with Peter F. and Michael M?ller the book Gegen Freund und Feind (Against Friends and Enemies) in the Rowohlt publishing company. The work is the most comprehensive study on German foreign intelligence between 1947 and 2003. I think its worth stimulating public interest in Russia and we are open for any offer.