Wikileaks Suggest The CIA Ran A Hacking Hub From The United States Consulate In Frankfurt

German Prosecutors Studying CIA Leaks Over Report Of  Hacking Base In Frankfurt

911 Memorial at U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt, Presenting colors

Germany’s chief federal prosecutor’s office said yesterday (8 March) it would review new documents from anti-secrecy group Wikileaks that suggest the CIA ran a hacking hub from the US consulate in Frankfurt, and launch a formal investigation if warranted.

“We’re looking at it very carefully,” a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office told Reuters. “We will initiate an investigation if we see evidence of concrete criminal acts or specific perpetrators.”

Wikileaks on Tuesday (7 March) published what it said were nearly 8,000 of pages of internal CIA discussions about hacking techniques used between 2013 and 2016.

Reuters could not immediately verify the contents of the published documents, but several contractors and private cyber security experts said the materials appeared to be legitimate.

The latest revelations came days before Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit Washington for an initial meeting with US President Donald Trump, who has sharply criticised Berlin for everything from its trade policy to what he considers inadequate levels of military spending. 

US Republican presidential contender Donald Trump said German Chancellor Angela Merkel was wrong to let in thousands of migrants into Germany and that the refugee crisis could trigger revolutions and even the end of Europe.

The Wikileaks documents may also complicate bilateral intelligence ties that have just begun to recover after a series of scandals, including news in 2013 that the National Security Agency had bugged Merkel’s mobile phone. The consulate was already heavily investigated by German lawmakers after that incident. 

The German government has obtained information that the United States may have monitored the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel and she called President Barack Obama on Wednesday (21 October) to demand an immediate clarification, her spokesman said.

Merkel last month told lawmakers she did not know how closely Germany’s spies cooperated with their US counterparts until 2015 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the BND spy agency had for years passed on information to the NSA about European companies and politicians.

Germany scaled back the level of cooperation with the NSA after those revelations.

US officials have acknowledged that the consulate in Frankfurt is home to a CIA base. A facility adjacent to the city’s airport and the Rhein-Main Air Base has for many years been home to the CIA’s “Tefran” station, a US centre for collecting intelligence on Iranian activities in Europe, maintaining surveillance on Iranian officials and targeting potential defectors working in Iran’s nuclear weapons program. 

EU commissioners and experts expressed bewilderment after “worrying” revelations on Thursday (30 January) that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on heads of state during the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in late 2009.

Serious matter

Foreign ministry spokesman Sebastian Fischer told a regular government news conference that Germany took the issue seriously but more work needed to be done to verify the authenticity of the documents. Berlin was in close touch with Washington about the case and such matters generally, he said.

Officials at the German government news conference declined to answer questions about any knowledge Berlin might have about CIA activities in Germany. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany’s domestic intelligence agency was tasked with uncovering espionage activities in Germany, and carried out its work comprehensively.

Wikileaks reported CIA employees had been given diplomatic passports and State Department identities to carry out their work in Germany at the US consulate in Frankfurt, focused on targets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The documents included advice for CIA experts about life in Germany, including the fact that shops are closed on Sundays, and to have “your cover-for-action story down pat” when they passed through German customs.

One European official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Wikileaks material could in fact lead to closer cooperation between European spy agencies and US counterparts, which share concerns about Russian intelligence operations.

The European official said there was suspicion, still unconfirmed, that Moscow could have had a hand in the latest leaks. US spy agencies accuse Russia of meddling in the US presidential election last year, which Russia denies.

“It’s interesting and maybe significant that this leak coincides with stepped-up Russian attempts to influence upcoming European elections, intimidate the Baltic states and other former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe, and destabilise NATO and the European Union,” said the European official. 

Full of enthusiasm for Brexit and Trump’s election, the Kremlin will actively interfere with this year’s elections in Europe, first and foremost in France and Germany, but also in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, an opponent to Russian President Vladimir Putin told EURACTIV.com yesterday (17 January).

When a reporter at the German government news conference asked whether it was a double standard that Berlin tolerated US spying while trying to root out such activity by Russians, one spokesman said Berlin had good reason to suspect Moscow of seeking to influence Germany’s election. 

A European Commission official told an audience in the European Parliament on Tuesday (31 January) that in its effort to destabilise the EU, Russian propaganda is focusing on attacking German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 

Merkel’s phone tapped by the US, Germany claims

US spied on UN climate summit, NSA leaks show

The Kremlin ‘full of enthusiasm’ to interfere in EU elections

Commission: Russian propaganda focused on denigrating Merkel

 
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