Status: 03.02.2020 6:30 p.m..
Former BND President Gerhard Schindler has written a book about his time with the secret service. But the Chancellery keeps the memoirs under lock and key.
By Florian Flade, WDR, and Georg Mascolo, http://main-news.website/i-feel-so-overwhelmed-and-stressed/ WDR / NDR.
When the President of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) travels, he often uses his own company plane. A three-jet machine of the type Falcon 900EX. But he often brings his own food with him, because the warmed up ready meals on board cost extra.
When visiting abroad, the head of the secret service occasionally hands over gifts. For example a football signed by the players of the German national team. In Arab states, people are happy about small daggers forged from the steel of the Tirpitz, a battleship sunk during World War II.
They are anecdotes from the everyday life of the German foreign secret service. You can find them in a book manuscript, 284 pages long, which has been in the Chancellery for some time. The work is entitled “Memories of the Federal Intelligence Service”, dedicated to “all active and former members” of the BND.
The author: Gerhard Schindler, who headed the secret service from 2011 until his surprise dismissal in June 2016.
Schindler headed the secret service until June 2016.
“Anyone who expects revelations will be disappointed”
Schindler began writing his memoirs shortly after his temporary retirement. The result is a book about the inner workings of the BND. Entertaining, thoroughly enlightening – and quite harmless.
The 67-year-old Schindler had already told many of the stories in small and large groups, to journalists and members of parliament. “Anyone expecting revelations will be disappointed,” says someone who knows the manuscript.
The memoirs of the former BND boss, however, will probably not appear. At least not in this form. According to information from WDR, NDR and “Süddeutscher Zeitung”, the Chancellery decided and informed Schindler shortly before Christmas.
This was preceded by an examination of the manuscript for almost two years.
As a former civil servant and holder of secrets, Schindler is not allowed to simply write what he wants. The confidentiality obligation continues to apply to him. Such tests – some even call it “censorship” – exist in many countries.
The White House, for example, is currently reviewing the memoirs of early National Security Advisor John Bolton. His book is considered explosive, because Bolton burdens Donald Trump heavily in the ongoing impeachment proceedings. It also contains “a significant amount of secret information,” write Bolton’s lawyers.
Some are probably even “top secret”.
White House wants to ban Bolton’s book.
Anecdotes and analyzes.
In the book of ex-BND boss Schindler there are no such state secrets, say the few readers who have been in the know. Rather, it is about experiences from his service. A mixture of anecdotes, curious experiences and analysis. The former paratrooper reports that as a young man he applied to the BND himself – and was not accepted.
He admits that he didn’t speak proper English at first, which is actually a must in this position. And that in 2011 he urged the analysts in the BND to make a hasty forecast, which later turned out to be wrong: The regime of Bashar al-Assad is at an end, the dictator in Damascus will soon fall.
Schindler also reports on the day-to-day work of the BND agents. How to get people to work as informants. With “money, money, money”, Viagra sometimes helps. Only in a few places did the ex-head of the secret service put political demands on paper: The BND had to be removed from the technical supervision by the Chancellery and subordinated to the Ministry of Defense.
Historically, the service was only a matter for the Chancellor because Konrad Adenauer wanted to use it for his own purposes, said Schindler.
Concerns from the Chancellery.
In his book, the lawyer criticizes the federal government primarily for its refugee policy, and the chancellor and the then head of the chancellery, Peter Altmaier, also get something here and there. Likewise journalists. Overall, however, it is not an explosive work of revelation. Nevertheless, the Chancellery took a lot of time to review the book.
Schindler had to wait almost two years for the result. The BND also read his book and considered only a few passages to be really critical. But then a second review by the Chancellery followed.
And there the work now doubled in size. All concerns, comments and deletions were added and commented on.
The government’s objections are highlighted in color: yellow stands for personal rights, blue are the comments made by the BND, and pink stands for “internals, methodology, AND (foreign intelligence services), organization and decision-making processes”. There are hardly any yellow and blue markings in the manuscript, whereas pink is now half the book.
Memories of how Schindler negotiated with the head of the Pakistani secret service ISI about the release of three BND agents were deleted. Or details on the intelligence service situation in the Chancellery, where the heads of the secret services meet with high-ranking government officials every Tuesday. Schindler has devoted a separate chapter to the round under the heading “Tuesday is a cult day”.
You sit at a U-shaped table, there is no particularly good food, in the past you could smoke. Schindler is not allowed to write more about it, everything else has been deleted.
Schindler for the complete move of the BND.
Book must not appear.
A look abroad shows that when it comes to the memories of secret service chiefs, there are very different attitudes. In Great Britain and France it is frowned upon to write about “time on duty”. In the USA, however, many write: Not only just about every former CIA, FBI or NSA boss, but also deputies, so-called station chiefs and even simple agents publish books.
And the need to communicate is obviously increasing.
With German intelligence chiefs, however, there has been a rather unclear regulation so far. The first BND president, Reinhard Gehlen, wrote his memoir “Im Dienst” without submitting it to the Chancellery beforehand. The book landed at number 1 on the “Spiegel” bestseller list in the 1970s, but it contained some crude theses and confused claims that historians criticized accordingly.
In the case of Schindler, it is now clear: his book may not appear in its current form. In the Chancellery it says: Of course, freedom of expression also applies to the ex-president. But the duty of confidentiality also applies.
Conditions like in the USA, where you make money with anecdotes after leaving, that is not at all compatible with the German civil service.
Non-fiction instead of memoirs.
In the meantime Schindler is said to have decided to write a non-fiction book. More analysis, less anecdote. The Chancellery and the Federal Ministry of the Interior also discussed whether a decree could regulate what civil servants can and cannot publish after they have left.
Ultimately, however, it was decided to continue with the individual assessment. Some in the government are convinced that ex-constitutional protection chief Hans-Georg Maaßen will also present a book.
Schindler does not want to comment on the decision of the Chancellery on his memoir. “Oh, please, I don’t want to comment on that,” he says on the phone. At an event of the long-time SPD member of the Bundestag Burkhard Lischka in Magdeburg, however, the former BND boss had made a statement some time ago. “I wanted to show what the Federal Intelligence Service is from my point of view,” said Schindler. “No organized crime, no hyperpeople, no James Bond.”