Spooks break ground on new HQ in Berlin

Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency on Wednesday broke ground on the future site of its new headquarters in Berlin in a move intended to improve coordination with the country’s political leadership.

Spooks break ground on new HQ in Berlin
BND chief Uhrlau surveys the construction site. Photo: DPA

Around 400 officials are expected to attend the ceremony on the grounds of what was once an East German stadium in the heart of the German capital. Nearly 4,000 employees of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) – Germany’s equivalent of the CIA or MI6 – will move into the massive intelligence complex once it is completed in 2012.

Some 1,300 BND employees already work in Berlin, but the new €720 million structure will bring the country’s intelligence community closer to Germany’s political decision makers.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Thomas de Maizière, welcomed the move of Germany’s spooks from their current base in Bavaria to Berlin on Wednesday morning.

“The Bundesnachrichtendienst belongs near the political action so it can work well, can be controlled well and is integrated. It belongs in the capital,” he told broadcaster RBB-Inforadio.

The BND, which reports to de Maizière as head of the Chancellery, has come under fire lately for spying on German journalists reporting on Afghanistan. The intelligence committee of the German parliament issued a sharp reprimand to the BND leadership last month over the affair, but stopped short of demanding that its director, Ernst Uhrlau, resign.

De Maizière said moving the BND from its current provincial digs in Pullach outside of Munich to its new headquarters in Berlin would help push along a changing of the guard within the intelligence service.

“That will all make the BND more modern,” he said.