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Germany announces new head of BND foreign intelligence service

The chancellor's office has named Bruno Kahl as the new head of Germany's foreign intelligence service. The current BND president is being unexpectedly sent into early retirement.

Media reports speculating

on a pending change at the head of the German foreign intelligence service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) were confirmed on Wednesday when Peter Altmaier, Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, announced that Gerhard Schindler would be replaced by Bruno Kahl from June 1.

Bruno Kahl

Bruno Kahl

A statement from the chancellery said Altmaier "thanks President Schindler for his longtime, commendable work" at the helm of the BND.

Schindler had served as head of the BND for four years and had another two to go. A statement from the chancellery said Schindler would be placed in "temporary retirement." Kahl moves from a position as the head of the privatization, industrial holdings, and federal real estate division of the Finance Ministry into the top post of the BND, an agency that reports directly to the chancellor's office.

Altmaier said the BND "was facing major challenges in the coming years." These include "changes in the role of the BND" in light of changing security policy challenges, "organizational and legal consequences stemming from the NSA investigating committee," and the pending move of many of the BND's offices from Bavaria to Berlin.

The BND had come under fire for eavesdropping on communications of several of its allied countries until late 2013. This was conducted partially under the guidance of the US National Security Agency, but also on the BND's own initiative. The NSA had commissioned the BND for years to spy on German and foreign targets, but the BND may have added its own targets when carrying out surveillance - an act which would fall outside its constitutional mandate and qualify as illegal.

Prior to official confirmation of Schindler's dismissal, German public broadcaster ARD speculated that it was believed that Schindler's remaining two years were not enough to effectively implement these changes.

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