Third Party Trouble: Germany Arrests a Mole Spying for Moscow
Berlin’s new spy scandal is bad news far beyond Germany, including damage to the NSA-led Western intelligence alliance
Just in time for Christmas, Berlin yesterday announced the arrest of one of its intelligence officers on suspicion of spying for the Kremlin. The suspect, identified only as Carsten L. due to Germany’s stringent privacy laws, was taken into custody on Wednesday on suspicion of treason, specifically leaking classified information to Russian intelligence.
Berlin is being tight-lipped about this embarrassing case, but we know that investigators have searched the home and workplace of Carsten L., a career intelligence officer, as well as those of another, yet unnamed, person. Carsten L. works for the German Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND), which is Berlin’s main foreign intelligence agency.
BND President Bruno Kahl issued this statement: “After the BND became aware of a possible case of treason within its own ranks in the course of its intelligence work, the BND immediately launched extensive internal investigations … When these substantiated the suspicion, the Federal Attorney General was immediately called in.” Kahl added that the BND is pursuing several leads in this case but would not be releasing any further details: “Restraint and discretion are very important in this particular case … With Russia, we are dealing with an actor on the opposite side whose unscrupulousness and willingness to use violence we must reckon with. Every detail of this operation that becomes public means an advantage for this adversary in its intention to harm Germany.”
Carsten L. is the first BND officer to be arrested on espionage charges since 2014, when Markus R. was taken into custody for selling secrets to American intelligence, specifically the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as offering to sell BND secrets to Russian intelligence. Markus L. was convicted in 2016 and sentenced to eight years in prison.
This new arrest is poorly timed for Berlin, given that Germany is widely seen as a weak link in NATO regarding Russia and its aggression against Ukraine. The “lost years” of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship, from 2005 to 2021, which witnessed German appeasement of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin while rendering Germany dependent on Russian energy, are now seen in Berlin for the geostrategic catastrophe which they were. Merkel, once hailed as “the Leader of the Free World,” must now be viewed as, at best, a dupe of the Kremlin. Berlin’s recent promises that it will beef up its perennially low defense spending have not been kept, while Germany’s contributions to Ukraine’s defenses this year have also included more promises than weapons deliveries.
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