Wikileaks Threatened with Criminal Prosecution by the BND

The global whistleblowing website Wikileaks has been threatened with criminal prosecution by the head of Germany’s spy agency Ernst Uhrlau, President of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), if they do not remove all “files or reports related to the BND”.

According to a Wikileaks press release, “the spy chief claims to have already engaged the BND’s legal machinery.”

Threats against the journalists were triggered, according to Wikileaks, by the publication of my article, “The End of the Affair? The BND, CIA and Kosovo’s Deep State,” (Antifascist Calling, December 7, 2008) on their website.

I did not seek to become part of the story; nevertheless Uhrlau’s threats cannot go unchallenged. The censorship and prior restraint he demands are toxic to a free society.

In addition to my piece, the “files or reports” which the German spook insists they remove is a 2005, 25-page BND dossier on corrupt senior Kosovo politicians as well as unredacted pages from the Bundestag’s 2006 Schaefer Report pertaining to illegal BND domestic operations targeting journalists and left-wing political organizations in Germany.

In denouncing this unwarranted provocation, Wikileaks said: “The BND, like the CIA, is forbidden by law to engage in domestic activities. Yet the threats, which were made in German as well as in English, hold no legal power outside of Germany. They must be assumed to be an attempt to engage Wikileaks via its German component–or does Mr. Uhrlau suggest it is now BND policy to kidnap foreign journalists and try them before German courts?”

My article explored the parapolitical connections to a recent scandal in which three BND officers working under deep cover, were arrested and deported from Kosovo. What sparked the scandal was the arrest of one of the operatives when he was caught photographing the headquarters of the European Union Special Representative in Pristina, bombed under mysterious circumstances November 14.

The affair exposed the agency’s extensive covert operations in Kosovo through a cut-out, the “private security firm” Logistics-Coordination & Assessment Services (LCAS). Information on LCAS was in the public domain after exposure by German investigative reporters writing in Spiegel International. Compromising notebooks and electronic files were subsequently seized by Kosovan authorities.

While the “evidence” presented linking the agents to the blast was slim at best, one cannot rule out that Thaci’s intelligence service, with prompting by some “other government agency (OGA),” a foreign service with close ties to the corrupt statelet perhaps, exploited the agents’ poor tradecraft to roll-up their operation because of fears of what they might have discovered.

I speculated whether the operatives were convenient foils of a plot hatched by the Kosovan government in cahoots with the CIA over BND disclosure of extensive links amongst Thaci and his henchmen to international criminal syndicates involved in the global drugs, arms and sordid trade in human beings. Revelations which Thaci and the CIA would prefer never come to light. I speculated that one motive for rolling-up the BND’s operation may have been that the seized operative’s notebook contained information that Camp Bondsteel continues to serve as a CIA “black site” where prisoners are illegally detained and tortured.

Additionally, I cited Wikileaks documents that revealed the BND’s illegal manipulation of the media to influence domestic coverage of the spy agency through the infiltration of Focus Magazine as well as intelligence operations that sought to gain knowledge of journalists’ confidential sources.

Wikileaks German correspondent Daniel Schmitt and Investigative Editor Julian Assange, said that the Schaefer Report “in general shows the extent to which the collaboration of journalists with intelligence agencies has become common and to what dimensions consent is manufactured in the interests of those involved.”

Following Schmitt and Assange’s reporting, one must now add the criminal lengths that unaccountable spy agencies will go to prevent journalists from exposing their dirty and illegal operations.

Wikileaks also disclosed and posted a document that revealed the IP addresses “of an internally distributed mail from German telecommunications company T-Systems (Deutsche Telekom)” containing over two dozen IP “address ranges” used by the BND.

I cited this document in relation to a Berlin internet prostitution service ( and said the following: “While the document does not spell out who was running the sex-for-hire website, one can’t help but wonder whether Balkan-linked organized crime syndicates, including Kosovan and Albanian sex traffickers, are working in tandem with the BND in return for that agency turning a blind eye to the sordid trade in kidnapped women.”

That question, as well as many others, is still unanswered.

My article cited open-source media reports from Spiegel International, the World Socialist Website, Mother Jones Magazine, as well as the work of scholars and investigative journalists Misha Glenny, Christopher Deliso, Michel Chossudovsky and Peter Dale Scott. Are journalists and researchers now expected to submit copy to spooky censors for appropriate redactions before publishing their findings? I think not.

I stand by my conclusions and denounce Uhrlau’s threats as an attack on the rights of investigative- and citizen journalists to reveal information that agencies such as the BND would rather never see the light of day.

Wikileaks should be commended, not attacked, for their brave documentary project and supported by everyone who upholds the rule of law, a free press and an open, democratic society.

As the heroic Israeli journalist Amira Hass told The Independent’s Robert Fisk “our job is to monitor the centers of power,” not shill for them.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His articles are published in many venues. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press. Read other articles by Tom, or visit Tom's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on December 23rd, 2008 at 12:04pm #

    Mr Burghardt is grossly exaggerating the importance of his article, which merely contained material culled from sources which were in every media outlet in Europe weeks ago. It said absolutely nothing that the whole of Europe didn’t already know! No one could possibly object to the same information being re-hashed yet again, therefore. On the other hand, the documents may well be secret.

    All European countries have fairly strict laws as to what may be published concerning the military and the intelligence services. Whether anything on the Wikileaks website infringes German law is a matter for the public prosecutor. All Mr Uhrlau can do is report the matter to the appropriate prosecutor and it is then totally out of his hands. The BND has no “legal machinery” to engage!

    By the way, all Wiki sites are American and may be described as “global” only in the sense that they are available in every country.

  2. John Hatch said on December 23rd, 2008 at 2:07pm #

    Tom Burghardt is a first-rate journalist whom I take very seriously. That a secretive German government agency is using its power to threaten anyone with regard to the dissemination of information to do with the latter’s nefarious activities is information everyone needs to know. Look at what the CIA tries to get away with.

  3. Tom Burghardt said on December 23rd, 2008 at 8:19pm #

    I’m neither disturbed nor insulted by Mr. Kenney’s comments. Far from “grossly exaggerating the importance” of my article, my purpose was to point to an attack on independent journalists to report inconvenient facts by those in power, not as a publicity stunt as Mr. Kenny implies. If he chooses to think otherwise, so be it.

    As far as the information in my original piece being “re-hashed yet again,” I must point out, as an American writing primarily (though not exclusively) for an English-speaking audience, the facts concerning the German state’s intervention along with their U.S. “partner” in fomenting and exacerbating the crisis that led to wholesale bloodletting in the former Yugoslavia is neither well-known in the U.S., nor generally reported by corporate media.

    Perhaps Mr. Kenney would care to cite a single article by U.S. print journalists where the phrase “Thaci government” and “organized crime” appears in the same sentence since the statelet declared “independence” last February.

    Whether or not Wikileaks can be described as “global whistleblowers” I leave to the discerning readers of Dissident Voice. The briefest perusal of the site’s latest posts is answer enough.

  4. Andres Kargar said on December 24th, 2008 at 12:28am #

    This is the reality of “democracy” in the Western world. As long as the people submit to the will of their government in a sheepish manner, they can enjoy all appearances of “democratic” privileges, but heaven forbid if the political or economic circumstances make these same citizens a possible threat. That is when the government’s fangs become evident. Where is Reporters without Borders or the Committee to Protect Journalists when these types flagrant violations occur?

  5. kalidas said on December 25th, 2008 at 9:43pm #