- 8,000 pages internal CIA discussions between 2013 and 2016 leaked;
- U.S. Frankfurt base housed CIA agents, possibly spied Germany;
- Germany not as disturbed as Russian hackings;
Officials of the United State intelligence and law enforcement personnel have on Wednesday said the CIA had been aware since the end of 2016 of a security breach at the CIA that led to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks publishing of classified documents on its hacking tools.
The officials who spoke on conditions of anonymity confirmed to Reuters they believed the documents published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday were original.
Investigators are turning on CIA contractors as the likely source of data transfer to WikiLeaks, said the officials. WikiLeaks had published almost 8,000 of pages of internal CIA discussions about hacking techniques used between 2013 and 2016.
Germany’s chief federal prosecutor’s office Wednesday said it would review the Wikileaks published documents as some of the contents showed that the CIA had carried out a hacking unit from the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt.
“We’re looking at it very carefully,” a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office told Reuters. “We will initiate an investigation if we see evidence of concrete criminal acts or specific perpetrators.”
Although authenticity of the documents could not be promptly verified several contractors and private cyber security professionals and experts have said the materials look original.
These waves of latest leaks surfaced few days before German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit Washington for an initial meeting with U.S. President Donald
Trump, who has strongly criticized Berlin for its trade policy to what Trump considers inadequate levels of military spending.
Wikileaks publications may also compound bilateral intelligence ties which seems to be easing after series of scandals, including reports in 2013 that the National Security Agency had wired Merkel’s cellphone. The consulate was already heavily investigated by German lawmakers after that incident.
Last month Merkel told lawmakers she was never knew how closely German spies collaborated with their U.S. counterparts until 2015 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed the BND spy agency had been passing on information to the NSA about European companies and politicians for years.
After the revelations by Snowden, Germany had since slacked cooperation levels with the NSA.
While responding, officials of U.S. consulate in Frankfurt did acknowledged that its Frankfurt base housed a CIA base.
The CIA base in the region was opposite the city’s airport and the Rhein-Main Air Base which has in the year been residence to the CIA’s “Tefran” station; a U.S. center for gathering intelligence on Iranian activities in Europe, maintaining surveillance on Iran’s government officials and targeting potential defectors working in Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Spokesman for Foreign ministry Sebastian Fisher while addressing a government news conference said Germany took the issue seriously, however noted that more effort is needed to verity the legitimacy of the documents. Germany has been in close contacts with Washington about the recent leaks and such matters generally, Fisher said.
When asked whether Belin is knowledgeable about the CIA’s activities in the country, German officials present declined response.
Spokesman for government Steffen Seibert noted that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency was responsible for unveiling espionage activities in the country and it carried out its duties exhaustively.
According to the Wikileaks reports it noted that CIA employees had been issued diplomatic passports and State Department identities to carry out activities in Germany at the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, targeting officials of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Further details exposed by Wikileaks shows how the CIA advised experts about life in Germany, including the fact that shops are closed on Sundays, and to be abreast with “your cover-for-action story down pat” when they passed through German customs.
According to one European official spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that the Wikileaks material could possibly lead to closer cooperation between European spy agencies and U.S. counterparts, which share concerns about Russian intelligences operations.
The official said Moscow could be part of the latest waves of leaks published by Wikileaks though unconfirmed.
Earlier, U.S. spy agencies accuse Russia of interfering in the U.S. presidential election last year which Moscow refutes.
“It’s interesting and maybe significant that this leak coincides with stepped-up Russian attempts to influence upcoming European elections, intimidate the Baltic states and other former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe, and destabilize NATO and the European Union,” said the European official.
During the German government’s news conference a reporter asked whether it was double standard that Berlin tolerated U.S. spying while it tried to remove thwart such Russian activities; a government spokesman said Berlin had good reason to suspect Russia of trying to interfere in Germany’s election which is at the corner.