Bonn's spy scandal not expected to threaten Kohl Cabinet. Firing Cabinet members would only please East Berlin, officials say
Bonn — The internal security shakeup ordered by Chancellor Helmut Kohl has claimed its first victim. Heribert Hellenbroich, chief of the Federal Intelligence Agency, said in a television interview Wednesday that he had been dismissed. The shakeup follows the emergence of a major spy scandal in West Germany last week, when senior counter-espionage official Hans-Joachim Tiedge asked for asylum in East Germany.
One or two other dismissals are expected to follow, but the shakeup is not likely to extend to the level of Mr. Kohl's carefully-balanced coalition Cabinet. There is little chance that Kohl will bow to the demand of opposition Social Democrats and dismiss Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann, the Cabinet minister responsible for internal security. Zimmermann gave Kohl a second, more detailed report Wednesday of the circumstances surrounding Tiedge's defection.
Kohl's spokesman had already said that the chancellor had no intention of dropping Zimmermann. The chancellor pounded the point home by instructing Zimmermann to take whatever measures were necessary to contain the damage resulting from the defection.
Various government officials wanting to remain anonymous said Kohl felt it would be a mistake to do the communists the favor of firing a Cabinet minister each time an East German spy decamped or was discovered. The West German news agency said that another such communist agent has fled to East Germany. The agent was a friend of a member of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution -- where Tiedge worked and which is responsible for domestic security. The federal prosecution confirmed that an inv estigation is underway but said no arrests have been made.
Christian Lochte, director of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the city-state of Hamburg, said that Tiedge's defection to East Berlin means the immediate retirement of all double agents working for West Germany.
Double agents are communist spies who have been ``turned around'' to work for the West. Such persons are supplied with ``play material'' -- deliberate disinformation -- to give their communist contacts, in hopes of receiving more valuable information in return. Tiedge will be able to name all such double agents, which means they are now useless. Intelligence experts say it will take years to replace them all.
The arrest Aug. 25 of an East German couple in Switzerland for allegedly spying for East Germany may be connected with the Tiedge affair. Swiss authorities said the couple apparently often visited West Germany, which indicated that they controlled other agents there from a Swiss base.
The current spy scare in Bonn was triggered by the disappearance earlier this month of three persons now being officially investigated by the federal prosecutor on suspicion of spying for East Germany. One of the three was private secretary to Economics Minister Martin Bangemann.
None of these three have yet reappeared, although the Bonn government assumes they are all in East Germany. Many returning agents, once exposed in the West, are interviewed on East German television about their exploits.
But the East Germans may delay a TV appearance of Bangemann's secretary until after Bangemann has visited next week's Leipzig trade fair, where East and West German firms do a lot of business. To give the secretary publicity before the fair might force Bangemann to cancel, hurting business relations.
Kohl's initial angry reaction to news of the three defections has been toned down. His aide now says that relations with East Germany will be maintained at their current level in hopes of improving conditions for East Germany's 17 million people.