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German spy chief faces calls to resign

April 24, 2015

German politicians have expressed outrage following reports that the German Intelligence Service helped the NSA in spying in Europe. The opposition wants the organization's chief Gerhard Schindler to resign.

Symbolbild BND und NSA Spionageaffäre
Image: imago

Gerhard Schindler, the head of the German Intelligence Service (BND), faced calls to resign on Friday after a media report claimed that the spy agency passed information about European interests to US National Security Agency (NSA).

Bernd Riexinger, leader of the leftist the Left party called for Schindler to be sacked and tried for treason along with others who were responsible. The German government needed to be "brutally honest about disclosing how much German intelligence agencies, devoid of any form of democratic control, acted as stooges of US spy services," Riexinger demanded in the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

Green party parliamentary leader Anton Hofreiter also called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to "immediately dismiss" Schindler. Merkel would have to explain "why the German government lost control over the BND," Hofreiter said in comments to be published in Saturday's Bild newspaper.

The Social Democrats (SPD) - the junior partner in Merkel's grand coalition government - also demanded a commission to investigate the case.

"If it is revealed that the NSA has conducted economic espionage and spying in Europe, then there must be consequences to be dealt with," SPD deputy head Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel told reporters.

Support for Schindler

However, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) warned against taken any hasty steps to remove the spy chief. "The responsibility need not necessarily be with the leadership of the organization," the CDU's Patrick Sensburg told reporters, adding that the case needed to be investigated.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert refused to comment on Schindler's status, choosing instead to say that Germany desired close cooperation with US intelligence services against terrorism. In a statement released on Thursday, Merkel's office said it had "identified technical and organizational problems with the BND" and was "sending instructions on removing these."

German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday on the BND helping the US' National Security Agency (NSA) in spying on European targets, including German interests. According to the report, one of the targets was Airbus, Europe's leading airplanes and defense manufacturer.

mg/sms (dpa, AFP)