Unfortunately, ex-BND chief Uhrlau can not remember
Overseeing a secret service is not an easy job. However, it gets a little heavier if the intelligence agents always start to mumble or even shut up to explain what they are doing. For the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and the Federal Chancellery, this seems to have been the case for many years.
Ernst Uhrlau was invited on Thursday for the second time as a witness before the NSA committee of the Bundestag. Uhrlau was the department head of the Federal Chancellery responsible for intelligence services and later became chief of the BND. He should shed light on several important and hitherto unanswered questions. For example, what the Federal Chancellery, after all, the competent supervisory authority, said about the eavesdropping of the BND and the NSA at the US Internet node of the telecom.
The operation had the internal name Eikonal and is the core of the BND affair that has been discussed for two years. From 2003 to 2008, the BND at the Internet node Frankfurt, Germany, millions of phone calls and mails and shared his knowledge with the NSA . Among other things, the committee wants to determine, among other things, what and what the Federal Chancellery knew - and who bore the political responsibility for the illegal action.
Uhrlau responded to the many questions of the deputies verbatim. The process was not clearer. In particular, it is about the so-called carte blanche: The Telekom had reservations about the operation Eikonal. The company was afraid of violating laws and refused to let agents go. The telecom demanded that you guarantee her that everything went right. In 2003, Uhrlau wrote a letter in his capacity as head of department at the Federal Chancellery. But letter is exaggerated, there were only a few and very general lines: "The enlightenment approach planned by the Federal Intelligence Service in your company is from the point of view in accordance with applicable law."
Central question now: Was the letter approved by the head of the Chancellery, then Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD)? Had he read it? Did he even know about it?
Unfortunately, the witness could not answer this question. At the time, Uhrlau had signed the letter, not Steinmeier himself. Why? Uhrlau did not know that anymore. He also could not remember when and how he could have informed his superior, the politically responsible Chancellery minister, about the letter. He merely repeated the sentence he had already said in his first interrogation that Steinmeier had been "involved." How exactly? Uhrlau could not say it. "Would you have signed the license to Telekom without Steinmeier's knowledge?" Asked the head of the union, Nina Warken. "I think that's out of the question." Whether Steinmeier was informed before or after sending the charter? No memory. Was the letter his idea or Steinmeier's? "
Virtually no files received
Perhaps the memory of the 69-year-old Uhrlau is no longer the best. But perhaps the political controllers of the German foreign intelligence service have to put together much of what they are supposed to control. Although they are somehow informed, but apparently not exactly what happens next - that was at least the impression according to the testimony.
A detail on the side: The committee had received virtually no files that show how the charter was created. The committee chairman Patrick Sensburg complained at the meeting. One can not understand the genesis of the process. That's no coincidence. For the BND at that time had demanded from the Federal Chancellery to send all papers and files to the BND for charter. Again, the service told its master to relinquish all files about a very delicate process? And he did it? How should control be possible? Uhrlau, who served for a long time in both authorities, could not comment on that.
The problem of scrutiny was also evident in a second key issue in the Committee's investigation: the service is accused of having deceived the G10 Commission. This commission of the Bundestag may authorize secret operations if there is a danger that the communication of Germans overheard and then the Article 10 of the Constitution is limited. The BND allowed her to approve only a few keywords with which he wanted to search the internet for terrorists or weapons smugglers. But then he did not specifically search these terms on the net, but used them as a justification to store all the data he could find in Internet cables.
Led behind the spruce?
According to law, the BND is allowed to listen in on a maximum of 20 percent of telecommunications between Germany and abroad and search it according to terms approved by the Commission. Communication, which is only conducted between foreign countries and foreign countries, ie without German participation, he may completely listen to. The service calls this the "routine traffic". But he now invented a "virtual foreign country" to listen to international communication that runs at the hub in Frankfurt on German territory and thus technically comes from abroad to Germany. For the Telekom to play along, he just got the license from the Chancellery - and pro forma a G-10 permit.
Uhrlau should clarify whether the G-10 commission should be "behind the spruce", as the green chairman Konstantin von Notz always calls. Quotation Uhrlau: "The Commission approves search terms, which are the filters to use, if there are hits, fundamental rights holders to use this information too, all that is not through the filter is routine traffic and this routine traffic is used That has always been present to the Commission in the meetings. "
This means that the Commission could have put it all together that the BND, even on German soil, for the first time divulged everything. Clearly, the service apparently never has it to the controllers. It was "in principle known to the G-10 Commission," said Uhrlau. He did not want to see a lie or a trick in it. "Knowingly trying to deceive the G-10 Commission was not the intention." The question of whether the Chancellery had decided to use such a G-10 permit as a door opener for all data from the cable, could not answer Uhrlau: "I do not know."
Members of the G10 commission, on the other hand, had said in the commission of inquiry that they had been well deceived. They would never have approved if they knew that it was not about individual terms, but about entire power cord on German soil. It is also known from internal BND files that it was also clear to the BND that he actually needed a new law in order to be able to record the data, but that he saw no chance to bring such a law through the Bundestag .
Today, all parliamentary groups in the Bundestag agree that there is no legal basis for this scavenging of "routine traffic" that the BND should never have done so.
Who decided the door opener trick then, which elected representative took over the responsibility for it? Uhrlau could not help with the clarification. He has the question afterwards with an interesting passive construction: "The need to connect to the cable in Frankfurt has certainly been discussed with the head of the Federal Chancellery." When, how, exactly? No memory.