Spy v Spy – Russian penetration of Germany’s intelligence services

Lee Heidhues 12.29.2022

This story is not receiving major coverage. Yet.

Deutsche Welle wrote about it a week ago. Since then the mainstream media has been generally quiet.

The article in today’s Wall Street Journal shines more light on the arrest of German intelligence officer Carsten L.

Perhaps the lack of coverage can be explained by the embarrassment the Germans are feeling due to this serious security lapse.

Excerpted from The Wall Street Journal 12.29.2022

BERLIN—A senior German intelligence officer arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia had access to a trove of top-secret information about the war in Ukraine as well as knowledge of how it was collected by the U.S. and its allies, Western officials say.  

The case could be the worst example of Russian penetration of Germany’s intelligence services since 1961, when a senior BND employee who was spying for the Soviet Union exposed a network of 100 CIA spies, said Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, who has written several books on the BND.

Prosecutors are trying to determine whether the material was shared with Moscow. If so, it could have alerted Russia to its own vulnerabilities and given away Western intelligence-gathering methods and capabilities.

German Spy Museum – Berlin

American and British officials said they were trying to determine the scope of potential damage in Ukraine and elsewhere. One U.S. official said there was “grave concern” about the case.

The suspected spy, identified as Carsten L. by German prosecutors, worked for the signals intelligence branch of the country’s Federal Intelligence Service, which conducts electronic surveillance and works with the U.S. National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters.

Prosecutors said the man was being held on suspicion of committing treason as their investigation continues.

The German intelligence service, known as the BND, confirmed the arrest but has declined to comment further, citing national security risks. The NSA and GCHQ declined to comment.

The Kremlin didn’t respond to a request for comment. Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, declined to comment.

Spy on the run

The Kremlin’s suspected penetration of Germany’s most secretive security agency is the latest evidence of Moscow’s aggressive tactics in Europe, where Russia has been accused of killing political opponents, sabotaging infrastructure and trying to steal industrial secrets.

The BND received a tipoff about the suspected spy from an allied intelligence service earlier this year, German officials said. After an internal investigation, the case was passed to the federal prosecutor, who then ordered the man’s arrest last week.