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Head of German spy agency to be replaced after series of scandals

Published 27/04/2016

Bundesnachrichtendienst boss Gerhard Schindler speaks in Berlin (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)
Bundesnachrichtendienst boss Gerhard Schindler speaks in Berlin (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Germany's spy chief is to be replaced in July, Chancellor Angela Merkel's office has announced.

Ms Merkel's chief of staff did not give a reason for Gerhard Schindler's early departure, saying only that it comes as the country's foreign intelligence agency faces "major challenges that affect all areas of work".

Mr Schindler, who has led the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) since 2012, will step down on July 1.

Bruno Kahl, a senior official in the finance ministry, has been selected to replace him.

The move came as little surprise - Mr Schindler had been caught up in a number of scandals including the revelation that his agency had for years failed to vet lists of eavesdropping targets it received from the US National Security Agency.

The targets have been reported to include European companies and government officials.

Mr Schindler acknowledged the agency's mistakes to a parliamentary intelligence oversight committee last year, but warned that dragging details of the agency's failings into the limelight could jeopardise co-operation with Germany's allies.

The 63-year-old said BND staff only informed him about the questionable targets last year, three years into his job.

In December, Mr Schindler's office took the unusual step of publishing a report on Saudi Arabia that suggested the Gulf kingdom's ties with regional allies could be endangered by the policies of its ambitious young defence minister.

The report caused a diplomatic stir, with Germany's foreign ministry publicly distancing itself from the findings.

And last month a 32-year-old former BND employee was convicted of violating the country's official secrets law and sentenced to eight years in prison for providing classified information to the CIA and the Russians.

Ms Merkel's office said the BND faces "major challenges" in cluding a parliamentary inquiry into the NSA's activities in Germany and its co-operation with the agency, new security threats, the agency's move of most operations to Berlin, and an overall restructuring.

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