Skip to Content

Rathaus, Cologne. Wikipedia

Calls for German spy vetting after Islamist terror plot is uncovered

German intelligence agents spotted an unusual user in a digital haven for Islamic militants a fortnight ago. The man claiming to be one of them, said he was a German spy. He offered to help Islamists infiltrate Germany's defences to stage a terrorist strike.

Published: December 1, 2016, 6:41 am

    Read more

    The spy was soon identified, and the 51-year-old was arrested by agents the next day.

    The German citizen of Spanish descent confessed to converting to Islam in 2014. He told investigators that he had converted in 2014, after telephone conversations with somebody in Austria who went by the name Mohammed. Mohammed Mahmoud, in Austria, joined the Islamic State and had previously run a website where he translated speeches of al-Qaeda leaders.

    Authorities on Tuesday said they had arrested him on suspicion of preparing to commit a violent act and for violating state secrecy laws. His arrest was first reported by the German weekly Der Spiegel.

    News of the case elicited little interest in Germany, even as critics said it raised questions about the country’s domestic spy agency, known as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

    German security officials have been credited with foiling plots. But they also have failed — including in the case of Jaber al-Bakr, a Syrian who was arrested last month on suspicion of planning an attack and who managed to kill himself while on a 24-hour suicide watch in a Leipzig jail cell.

    “It’s not only a rather bizarre, but also a quite scary, story that an agency, whose central role it is to engage in counterespionage, hired an Islamist who potentially had access to classified information, who might have even tried to spread Islamist propaganda and to recruit others to let themselves be hired by and possibly launch an attack” against the domestic intelligence agency, said Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of the Parliamentary Control Committee that oversees the work of the German intelligence services.

    The agency “needs to tell us immediately what exactly happened and how it could happen that somebody like this was hired,” he said.

    One senior BfV official, who discussed the matter with the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media defended the agency, said it was virtually impossible to protect against a breach like this.

    “How should anyone have known this? He had acted under different names and identities online,” he said. “Not his real name. One has to say that we were able to find out about all this very quickly and also actions were taken fast.”

    But in hindsight, officials in Germany were asking how such a lapse was possible.

    “With all the information coming out about this individual, the question has to be raised: how he was able to end up in the intelligence service and was able to hide all this from his workplace but also his family,” said the senior law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the case.

    In April 2016, the man began working for the BfV, charged with monitoring potentially violent Islamists in Germany. The ranks of Salafists — an ultraconservative sect of Islam — have been rapidly growing. In September, Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the domestic spy agency, estimated that there are at least 9 200 in Germany, up from 5 500 three years ago.

    German politicians charged with overseeing the domestic spy agency’s work were calling for a review of its vetting procedures.

    “One can be grateful that this came out,” said André Hahn, a member of the agency’s parliamentary control committee from the Left Party. “But it appears to have been rather a coincidence. It could also have happened that he would have worked there for years.”

    karin@praag.org

    Consider donating to support our work

    Help us to produce more articles like this. FreeWestMedia is depending on donations from our readers to keep going. With your help, we expose the mainstream fake news agenda.

    Keep ​your language polite​. Readers from many different countries visit and contribute to Free West Media and we must therefore obey the rules in​,​ for example​, ​Germany. Illegal content will be deleted.

    If you have been approved to post comments without preview from FWM, you are responsible for violation​s​ of​ any​ law. This means that FWM may be forced to cooperate with authorities in a possible crime investigation.

    If your comments are subject to preview ​by FWM, please be patient. We continually review comments but depending on the time of day it can take up to several hours before your comment is reviewed.

    We reserve the right to del​ete​ comments that are offensive, contain slander or foul language, or are irrelevant to the discussion.

    Europe

    German Teachers’ Association criticizes participation of students in climate strike

    BerlinThe German Teachers' Association (DL) has criticized the participation of students in the climate strike of the "Fridays for Future" movement (FFF) on Friday. "We refuse that compulsory schooling is lifted in favor of political actions – for example as part of a so-called climate strike," said DL President Heinz-Peter Meidinger.

    Norway reclassifies Covid-19: No more dangerous than ordinary flu

    OsloCovid-19 is treated in the mass media as a very dangerous disease in the face of which mass vaccination and severe restrictions for the whole society are applauded despite few deaths beyond the risk groups. But in Norway, it has now been decided to treat it like other respiratory diseases, such as influenza or the cold virus, because according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health it is no longer more dangerous than these.

    Elysee denies malicious Telegraph article on giving up its UNSC seat

    ParisFrance has formally denied being ready to give the EU its seat on the UN Security Council. "The seat is ours and will remain so," said the Elysee, in response to an article in a British newspaper.

    UK newspaper: France could offer its UN permanent seat to EU

    ParisFrance's seat at the UN could be given to the European Union to promote the creation of an EU standing force after Australia made it clear that it would be pursuing nuclear technology for its submarines together with the US and UK.

    Italy: Nationwide house raids against vaccine opponents

    MilanThe Milan Public Prosecutor's Office has launched searches of anti-vaccination opponents in six Italian cities. Allegedly the members of the Telegram group "The Warriors" planned violent demonstrations against the Covid-19 policy of the Italian government.

    Orban offers Pope copy of 1250 letter in which a Hungarian king pleads for help against Tartar invasion

    BudapestDuring his visit to Budapest on Sunday to celebrate mass, Pope Francis met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose anti-migration policy in Hungary he does not share. The Pope received a copy of a letter reminding him why he should be more circumspect in his views.

    EMA: Almost a third of Covid vaccination side effects are severe

    BrusselsThe reported suspected side effects for the four Covid vaccines, which have only been conditionally approved in the EU, are record-breaking after just 8 months. Serious side effects have been reported.

    Breaking news: UK government drops Covid passport

    LondonIn the UK, Health Minister Sajid Javid has told the BBC that Covid passports will not be introduced in his country. When will European countries come to their senses?

    France: Thousands protest against ‘health pass’ for 9th weekend in a row

    ParisOn Saturday, demonstrators took to the streets in the French capital for the ninth consecutive weekend to express their displeasure with the health passport policy of the Macron administration. The protest quickly degenerated into clashes with the police.

    Key Dutch ministers in bed with the WEF

    The HagueAt the end of May, the Forum for Democracy led by Thierry Baudet, submitted a parliamentary question on the relations between cabinet members and Klaus Schwab's World Economic Forum. "We received evasive or even no answers to these questions," said Dutch MP Pepijn van Houwelingen.

    Go to archive