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August 18, 2005
The German Connection: More Threads (Updated!)

Thanks to CQ reader Elly in Australia, we have a couple of more threads from which to work on the arrests of Iraq spies in Germany during the same period that the 9/11 team leaders traveled through that country. She finds two German reports still available from the time of the arrests (March 1, 2001). The first, from Berliner Kurier, provides just a headline/flash report. The second, which Elly translates, gives more speculation than background:

Berlin Newspaper (Berliner Zeitung)

Two Iraqis on remand on suspicion of espionage

Federal Prosecutor's office accuses them of acting as intelligence agents / no details on the background to the arrest

Berlin, March 1 (2001). The Federal prosecutor's office has had two Iraqi men arrested on Sunday and Tuesday of this week. They stand under urgent suspicion of espionage activity, the Prosecutor's Office explained on Thursday.

On the background to the arrests no information was given.

Information from ARD (German radio/news) as to which the Iraqis were located in the area of Heidelberg, was not confirmed by a spokesman for the agency. In an explanation it said solely that the two under arrest "stand in suspicion, since the start of 2001, of carrying out missions for an Iraqi intelligence agency in various German states." As to whether these missions had a political background or were in the service of preparing possible attacks, the Prosecutor's Office spokesman would not comment. He also left unanswered the question of whether the Iraqis might have been engaged in business- or weapons-espionage, "for inquiry-tactical (?) reasons".

Dealings in Germany

In its Intelligence Service report for the year 1999, the Cologne Federal Agency mentioned intensifying efforts by the Iraqi intelligence service to boost intelligence gathering activities also against Germany. To this end, the report said, the officers recruited primarily "provisionall / interim (?) naturalized and asylum-seeking Iraqis in Germany."

In addition, it concluded that the intelligence services of Iraq had intensified their efforts to procure from German technology companies products which relevant to their weapons production. Involved in these procurement arrangements were Iraqi officials, who traveled to Germany in order to close the respective deals in person.
Also, in an October 1999 study on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the Intelligence Service (German) pointed out the activity of the Iraqi intelligence service. According to it, Iraq is seeking, in Germany and other West European states, to buy and source companies which could work together with the nation's weapons program.

Target US Army?

It is as yet unclear whether the two arrested Iraqis were preparing potential attacks on facilities of the US Army in Germany. Iraq threatened retaliation after recent air attacks/raids on targets near Baghdad.

The spokesman for the US Army in Europe, Jim Boyle, commented on the arrest of the Iraqis only with the words: "We have spoken with the Federal Prosecutor's Office." However, the spokesman said he will make no comment pending the determinations / inquiries.

This didn't come from any background briefing but from the journalist's own speculation and prior intelligence analyses, notably from 1999, an analysis which would have been over a year old. The assessment of German intelligence for 2001, curiously, does not appear on the Verfassungsschutz site, at least not in English. The 2002 assessment does have an interesting description of a nexus for neo-Nazis, Iraqi agents, and radical Islamists (page 86-87):

2. German right-wing extremists contacts to Iraq and radical Islamist circles

There were only isolated indications that German right-wing extremists had contacts to radical Islamists and representatives of the Iraq regime. For example, on his website Gary Rex LAUCK (see 3 below) reported that leading functionaries of the Kampfbund deutscher Sozialisten (Combat Alliance of German Socialists, KDS) had attended a reception at the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin on 17 July. On its homepage, the KDS declares that it practises active solidarity with Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

Swiss revisionist and right-wing extremist Ahmed HUBER (see 1 above), who has maintained links with German right-wing extremists for years, is thought to be pursuing contacts to radical Islamists.

The NPD national party chairman, Udo VOIGT, and the NPDs representative in the Federal Constitutional Courts proceedings to ban the party, Horst MAHLER, were among those attending an event with links to the radical Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir (Islamic Party of Liberation) held at the Technical University in Berlin on 27 October.

Their shared anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism is what brings right-wing extremists, radical Islamists and Iraq together.

The 9/11 report makes no mention of this nexus, of course.

All of this background would appear to have been superceded by the information reported by al-Watan al-Arabi in Paris two weeks later. The summary from MEIB demonstrates more immediate sourcing specific to the arrests, and reports that the CIA and FBI had participated in the investigation (emphases mine):

Iraqi Spies Reportedly Arrested in Germany 16 March 2001

Al-Watan al-Arabi (Paris) reports that two Iraqis were arrested in Germany, charged with spying for Baghdad. The arrests came in the wake of reports that Iraq was reorganizing the external branches of its intelligence service and that it had drawn up a plan to strike at US interests around the world through a network of alliances with extremist fundamentalist parties.

The most serious report contained information that Iraq and Osama bin Ladin were working together. German authorities were surprised by the arrest of the two Iraqi agents and the discovery of Iraqi intelligence activities in several German cities. German authorities, acting on CIA recommendations, had been focused on monitoring the activities of Islamic groups linked to bin Ladin. They discovered the two Iraqi agents by chance and uncovered what they considered to be serious indications of cooperation between Iraq and bin Ladin. The matter was considered so important that a special team of CIA and FBI agents was sent to Germany to interrogate the two Iraqi spies.

Given the German assessment of national-security threats that they developed for 2002, it seems that the Germans may have connected a few more dots than the Americans along those lines. Far from insisting that no such cooperation occurred, their intelligence showed that Iraqis and Islamists had bridged together on occasion through neo-Nazis and other extreme right-wingers within Germany. This assessment, mind you, came out more than a year after 9/11, when the American political bureaucracy kept insisting that no such connection existed.

We seem to have moved the ball in a significant manner with this information. We need more information from Germany, probably information only German or German-speaking bloggers can access. One direction would be to find public reports of operations or campaigns that included all three elements (Iraq, Islamist, neo-Nazi). We also still need to find out what the CIA and FBI found out when interrogating the two Iraqi spies, and whether the network the Germans found ever had any contact with the known AQ agents working on the 9/11 plot.

Addenda: The German assessment for 2000 does not include any of the data linking the three elements; that intelligence got developed either in 2001 or 2002, making it a rather new development. Why didn't the 9/11 Commission know anything about that, and why haven't American media sources paid attention to it?

Tom Maguire
joins me in asking for German bloggers and researchers to find more references to this nexus. I will float this post at or near the top all morning long, so scroll down to find newer posts.

BUMP: Back to top. I'm getting some preliminary information on other German resources, but just pointers at the moment. I'll keep you posted, of course, on any new developments.

It might be helpful, to start, to find out why this document (their 2001 assessment) isn't offered in English as in other years. For CQ readers fluent in German, perhaps they could read through this and determine whether the report mentions these arrests and any AQ/Iraqi connections, especially earlier in the year. A search on 'Irak' turns up 28 references within the document; 'Qaida' turns up 20.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 18, 2005 1:00 PM

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