The head of Germany's foreign intelligence service confirmed on Thursday that his agency spied on journalists in the 1990s.
"Special Agent on Duty": Did BND agents observe journalists illegally?
August Hanning, presidentof Germany's Federal Intelligence Agency (Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND), said on Thursday that the BND did indeed spy on journalists in 1993 and 1994 and that he would closely examine the allegations.
"I take this extremely seriously and will follow up on it," said Hannig, who was not president at the time the alleged observations took place. "Apparently, what the media says is correct as far as we can tell," he said.
At the center of the case is Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, an investigative journalist, who says that members of the BND observed him after he published a book on the organization in 1993.
He claims BND officials wanted to find out who inside the agency supplied him with information. Schmidt-Eenboom said that some of the people that spied on him recently told him about the incident. They observed his private home and his office and even followed his family to the supermarket.
"It's strange to hear from a third person what kind of things I put in the trunk of my car years ago," he told Die Welt newspaper.
Others observed as well?
BND headquarters near Munich
He also says that several of his colleagues and other journalists who came to interview him about the book were followed by BND agents too.
"That's clearly illegal -- the BND is not allowed to conduct investigations inside the country," Schmidt-Eenboom told German daily Junge Welt.
While saying that BND officials could no longer be held accountable before a criminal court as the statute of limitations had expired, Schmidt-Eenboom said that he was still thinking about taking legal steps, such as demanding the release of files compiled from the alleged observations.
The allegations come just weeks after German Interior Minister Otto Schily came under pressure in connection with a raid on the newsroom of Germany's Cicero magazine after it had published information from a secret report from the Federal Criminal Police.