Germany — Bruno Kahl: Why is the BND spying on journalists?

“We are disappointed to hear these claims. The BBC’s mission is to bring accurate news and information to people around the world, and our journalists should be able to operate freely and safely, with full protection for their sources. We call upon all governments to respect the operation of a free press.”

BBC spokesperson

BND chief Bruno Kahl

 

During a recent interview, BND chief Bruno Kahl, 54, spoke with SPIEGEL about Turkey, possible Russian interference in German elections and what to expect from the Islamic State. Kahl also answered some questions about the surveillance of journalists by the BND. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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The Facts

On February 24 2017, the SPIEGEL revealed that the BND has monitored at least 50 telephone and fax numbers or e-mail addresses of journalists or editors around the world with their own so-called selectors.

BND

The BND –Bundesnachrichtendienst — is the foreign intelligence agency of Germany, directly subordinated to the Chancellor’s Office. The BND acts as an early warning system to alert the German government to threats to German interests from abroad. It depends heavily on wiretapping and electronic surveillance of international communications.

Surveillance program of journalists

The surveillance program of journalists by the BND  began in 1999. The BND monitored journalists from the BBC, Reuters news agency and the New York Times as well as many others around the world.

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The spy ‘targets’ include more than a dozen British BBC journalists in Afghanistan and at the headquarters in London, as well as editors of the international program BBC World Service.

A correspondent of the “New York Times” in Afghanistan was also on the list. Mobile and satellite telephones of the news agency Reuters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria were monitored.

The BND has refused to comment on the allegations but its Director was asked a few questions during an interview with SPIEGEL.

The Interview with Bruno Kahl

SPIEGEL: Will you continue to conduct surveillance on journalists?

Kahl: We will adhere to the rules that are now law. There are different levels for Germans, Europeans and those journalists who work and operate in non-European countries. If a foreigner in Raqqa claims to be a journalist, we are going to conduct surveillance anyway if he is affiliated with Islamic State.

SPIEGEL: Yet you apparently didn’t draw any distinction between such a person and reporters working for the BBC and the New York Times. Where is the boundary?

Kahl: That’s not so easy to answer from where we sit. But we have no interest in investigating journalists on the whole. Neither domestically nor abroad. We are searching for information that is relevant to our security and looking for people who are planning evil deeds. It can’t be avoided that these people sometimes communicate with others who are less suspicious.

Belgian journalist Arnaud Zajtman

In September 2006, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, included Belgian journalist  Arnaud Zajtman’s two Congolese telephone numbers in the agency’s surveillance list as so-called “selectors.”

Arnaud Zajtman, 44, has been reporting from Africa for almost 20 years, with a keen interest in Congo.

For 10 years, he was stationed in Kinshasa as a correspondent, first for the BBC and then for the television broadcaster France 24. His stories focused on the forgotten children of Congo, on the battles fought by the rebels and on the country’s first free elections since 1965. [SPIEGEL]

The German intelligence agency declined to comment on the allegations.

“Regarding operative aspects of its activities, the BND comments exclusively to the German government or the committee responsible in the German parliament,” the BND press office stated.

Belgian journalist Arnaud Zajtman is quite concerned by the news.

“It isn’t a good feeling to know that somebody was listening in when you’re dealing with highly sensitive sources.”

REFERENCES

BND bespitzelte offenbar ausländische Journalisten — SPIEGEL ONLINE

BBC dismayed at German ‘BND spying on journalists’ — BBC

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Germany — Bruno Kahl: Why is the BND spying on journalists?

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