Storm clouds are gathering over Germany’s foreign intelligence service in a growing scandal into allegations it illegally spied on journalists for decades.
The BND also paid journalists to spy on their colleagues, according to a report by the former chief judge of the Federal Court of Justice.
It says the BND was especially interested in people working for the weekly magazine Der Spiegel.
Another prime target was Erich Schmidt-Enboom who has published several books on Germany’s secret service. According to the magazine Focus he has admitted receiving payment from the BND in exchange for information.
He says the it was a complex process: “The chancellorship gave a lot of leeway to the BND, which passed on orders to various middlemen who passed them on to operators on the ground. The end effect was one huge unauthorised act.”
The government says it cannot comment on the top secret report which will be considered by parliamentary authorities in June.
“But let me assure you that the German government has always defended freedom of information as a fundamental right of our democracy,” said government spokesman Thomas Steg, adding that the government would never back dishonourabler acts of any kind.
The scandal comes at a bad time for the BND which is already involved in an official investigation into allegations German spies in Baghdad helped in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.