THE HEAD of Germany’s military intelligence said in a rare interview published yesterday that one of his main challenges was to protect defence projects from industrial espionage by the Chinese and Russian secret services.
The Military Counter-intelligence Service has until now kept a much lower public profile than Germany’s two larger federal spy agencies – the BND, which gathers foreign intelligence, and the BfV, charged with domestic intelligence.
Chief Ulrich Birkenheier told the Die Welt newspaper that “espionage against international defence projects” was a growing challenge, with foreign agents trying to get hold of information about military trials of new defence products.
“Russian and Chinese secret services are trying to recruit German soldiers. We have to investigate that and prevent it,” Birkenheier told Die Welt in the agency’s first media interview in its 57-year history.
Germany’s intelligence services were seriously criticised after the discovery in 2011 of a small far-right cell, the National Socialist Underground, which murdered nine immigrants and a policewoman, carried out a bomb attack and robbed 14 banks over a decade without being detected.
Birkenheier said that affair had convinced his spy agency “how useful it is to explain our task and our work”. The service had 1 150 staff with agents in seven overseas locations including Afghanistan, Kosovo and Djibouti, where the German military was participating in joint missions. – Reuters