German intel officer arrested for plotting terrorist attack
A 51-year-old intelligence officer was arrested earlier this month for leaking secrets to Islamists and plotting an attack on Germany's domestic intelligence agency in Cologne.
The unnamed suspect recently converted to Islam and had been with the domestic intel agency, the BfV, for only a short while.
The man was caught trying to recruit other Islamists to join the BfV on an extremist website in order to carry out terrorist attacks.
An official with the intelligence agency said the man attempted to pass on “sensitive information about [the agency], which could lead to a threat to the office.”
The suspect also used online chat rooms in an attempt to recruit radical Islamists to the spy agency to mount attacks against “non-believers.” The man was caught after chatting with an undercover agent from the office, according to Der Spiegel.
Germany is currently under a high-threat terrorist alert following a series of attacks in western Europe this past summer. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned in April that ISIS had terrorist cells in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy similar to those operated by the jihadists who carried out attacks in Paris and Brussels.
The Guardian has more on the suspect:
The man has been identified as a 51-year-old Spanish-born German citizen who converted to Islam in 2014, in a telephone recruitment process. He is believed to have sworn an allegiance to the preacher and recruiter Mohamed Mahmoud, a prominent Salafist from Berlin who is believed to be fighting with Islamic State in Syria.
He is accused of revealing agency secrets and of attempting to “pass on sensitive information about the BfV that could have endangered [the agency],” said the BfV spokesman.
In a partial confession the man said his goal had been to infiltrate the BfV and gather information for a terrorist attack on the BfV’s headquarters in the Cologne district of Chorweiler.
The accused also admitted to making Islamist statements under a false name on the internet.
The BfV said it had no information that the man was planning a specific bomb attack on the agency’s headquarters. “There is no evidence so far that there is a concrete threat,” the spokesman said.
The man was described by his employer as having previously “behaved inconspicuously” during his recruitment, training and while undertaking regular duties.
A bank employee and father, the man had been employed by the agency from April 2016 as a lateral entrant with the specific task of observing the Islamic scene in Germany.
There appears to be some confusion in the media about what exactly the unnamed suspect was up to. The New York Times and The Guardian downplay the idea that he was preparing an attack. There is even confusion about how he became radicalized, with The Guardian believing that his extremist views are the result of his allegiance to an Islamist cleric, while the German newspaper Deutsche Welle says he was "self-radicalized."
What is clear is that the German government has no idea if the suspect was acting alone or whether he was successful in recruiting others to join the BfV. They don't know where the information he leaked went to, nor how damaging the leaked information was.
The Germans pride themselves on how well they treat Muslims – even if it means relaxing vetting procedures so as not to offend them. I wonder how much longer that sort of attitude will prevail in German intelligence agencies.