U.S. to Shut Spy Station in Germany
BERLIN (AP) - For years, European critics have suspected
that a U.S. Army listening post set against the snow-peaked Bavarian
Alps does more than just spy for the military.
Allegedly part of a super-secret global eavesdropping network the
United States has never confirmed, the Bad Aibling station now is
set for closure next year because it's no longer needed, U.S. officials
About all the Pentagon says about the Bad Aibling Station, located
some 35 miles southeast of Munich, is that it helps U.S. forces keep
tabs on the Balkans.
But in Germany, media reports and politicians persistently linked
the spy post in recent years to alleged attempts by the U.S. National
Security Agency to spy for economic advantage after the end of the
Cold War. The NSA denies it conducts industrial espionage.
Just this week, a European Parliament report cited Bad Aibling among
some 20 stations worldwide believed to play a role in the U.S.-led
The report, prepared after seven months of testimony by communications
and security experts, concluded that the network - dubbed Echelon
- exists despite U.S. denials.
It was allegedly set up at the start of the Cold War for intelligence
gathering and has grown into a girdle of stations mainly meant to
intercept private and commercial communications, not military intelligence.
However, the parliament's vice president, Gerhard Schmid, conceded
the group could not prove that Americans were passing on European
trade secrets to give U.S. business an advantage.
The report also backed off an earlier study by the European Parliament
that claimed the spy network listens in on ``billions of messages
per hour,'' including telephone calls, fax transmissions and private
Still, German officials are unlikely to miss the station, which is
scheduled to close Sept. 30, 2002. The base will be handed back to
Germany - minus the snooping equipment, said Shirley Startzman, a
spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.
``Nearly 12 years after the end of the Cold War, this is an overdue
step,'' said Wolfgang Gerhardt, leader of a small pro-business party
in the German parliament.
``The Americans have never been able to banish rumors that it was
also used for economic espionage against German companies,'' he said.
The German magazine Der Spiegel reported last June that German lawmakers
were invited inside the Bad Aibling station in an unusually open attempt
by U.S. officials to dispel rumors of economic espionage.
The lawmakers were told that the U.S. listeners tune in only to Russian
satellites and telephone conversations in Yugoslavia as well as African
crisis regions, the report said.
An NSA spokeswoman at the secretive agency's headquarters in Fort
Meade, Md., on Friday declined to comment on that report. The spokeswoman,
speaking on condition of anonymity, said only that Bad Aibling's tasks
would be performed by ``other technologies'' once it shuts down.
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