Enemy Combatants

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - Germany's foreign espionage Federal Intelligence Service (BND) communicated mobile radio data on terror suspects, collected in Afghanistan to the USA's NSA military espionage service. This has been reported in the media. According to these reports, this data permits the establishment of a movement profile, which according to experts can serve to locate individuals and can possibly lead to the summary execution of suspects using combat drones. Whereas jurists are strongly criticizing the practice of so-called targeted killing, the German government is explicitly supporting this practice. It was based on this official standpoint that recently a court case to shed light on the summary execution of a German citizen in Pakistan was discontinued. It has been known for years that German troops have been involved in the preparation of summary executions, therefore, recent articles on the communication of mobile radio data are implicating involvement also of the BND, at least indirectly.

Locating Persons

The BND, according to various media reports, communicates data from mobile telecommunications within its theatre of operations to the USA's NSA military intelligence service. Whereas Afghanistan [1] has explicitly been named in this context, which other countries remains unknown. Although the BND alleges that the data cannot be used for "precise pinpointing" of mobile telecommunication sets and their operators, experts confirm that this data, by all means, can be of help. "When this sort of data is collected over a prolonged period of time," it becomes, in fact, "useful for intelligence services in locating individuals," according to a specialist in information science in Hamburg.[2] In principle, it is possible for US services to use the BND surveillance data to carry out their infamous "targeted killing" of suspects - if necessary with drones. The BND has confirmed that "since around 2003 / 2004" it has been transmitting mobile telecommunications data to the USA. In an ordinance dated November 24, 2010, the German Ministry of the Interior has confirmed that this is the practice.[3]

Cell Phone Number Transmitted

A case in point had recently engaged the German system of justice. In October 2010, the German citizen, Bünyamin E. was killed in a US drone attack in the region of Pakistan bordering on Afghanistan. For a long time, it had remained a riddle how the USA had been able to locate him. According to a recent report based on information from German "security circles," Germany had transmitted "his German cell phone number (...) to the US partners" as well as "the phone number of a contact person in Turkey." This had facilitated the pinpointing. However, not the BND, but "another German authority had made the transmission."[4] The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) is usually mentioned in this context.


Jurists have been heavily criticizing summary executions, such as the murder of Bünyamin E. Following the murder of Osama Bin Laden, two years ago, for example, German judge and professor of law at the University in Gottingen, Kai Ambos, confirmed that even terrorists have a right to a regular court trial. If they are killed without, their killing would constitute a summary execution, in other words, a crime usually "tyrannies are summoned to answer for in front of Human Rights instances." When the West refuses "the human rights and the rights to life of its terrorist enemies," it enters practically "their league."[5] However, the German government holds a different legal point of view. According to a German Defense Ministry paper, Bundeswehr soldiers are authorized to carry out targeted attacks on "enemy combatants, if necessary, even outside of their participation in concrete hostilities," which "can also include the use of lethal force."[6] The German government is therefore declaring summary executions legal, in as much as the person murdered has been labeled an "enemy combatant."

No War Crime

The Federal Public Prosecutor, fully in accord with this line of reasoning, dropped all charges in the penal case concerning Bünyamin E.'s summary execution, on the grounds that, having been a member of "an organized armed group," Bünyamin E. could be considered an "enemy combatant." Therefore, his execution is "not a war crime," on the contrary, it is within the law.[7] According to this logic, there would be nothing to prohibit the BND's transfer of mobile telecommunications data to the NSA. As the BND has explained, this transfer of data is only authorized, if it does not lead to torture or a "death sentence."[8] Neither is the case, if an "enemy combatant" is summarily executed. The German foreign intelligence service expounds further, data will also not be transmitted, if the "interests worth protecting of those affected are outweighed by the general interests of the transfer." This consideration is weighing the "interests worth protecting" of an "enemy combatant" with the "general interests" of the "war on terror."

Military Objectives

That the Bundeswehr has been involved in so-called "targeted killings" has been known for years. For example, in the summer of 2010, the German Ministry of Defense, declared that "German forces' reconnaissance data" have aided in "identifying and determining potential military targets within the framework of ISAF targeting."[9] At that time, it was the "Joint Prioritized Effects List" (JPEL), a list of the names of "enemy combatants" (accompanied by a letter stipulating whether they were to be captured ("c"), or to be killed ("k").) In fact, also some of those added by German troops to the list were killed. It has been known that the BND - like other German authorities - has been participating with US services in the abduction of suspects for interrogation.[10] The most recent reports indicate that this authority has possibly also been implicated in the preparation of summary executions in the so-called "war on terror." A comprehensive elucidation will not be possible, until the secret accord between the NATO countries, following the declaration of the enactment of the Mutual Defense Clause in October 2001, is made public. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[11]) It would probably show what else the "war on terror" cooperation consists of, besides surveillance, abductions of suspects and support for "targeted killings."

Other reports and background information on this subject can be found here: Allied Services (I), Allied Services (II), Friend and Foe, The Case of NATO's Mutual Defense and Still in the Dark.

[1] BND übermittelt afghanische Funkzellendaten an NSA; www.spiegel.de 11.08.2013
[2] Unmut über BND-Chef Schindler; www.sueddeutsche.de 10.08.2013
[3] BND gibt Handynummern an andere Geheimdienste weiter; www.spiegel.de 09.08.2013
[4] Haben BND-Telefondaten geholfen, Terroristen zu töten? www.bild.de 11.08.2013
[5] see also Tyrannical States
[6] see also Gezielte Tötungen
[7] see also The Case of NATO's Mutual Defense
[8] BND bestreitet Mitwirkung an gezielten Tötungen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12.08.2013
[9] see also Gezielte Tötungen
[10] see also Examined and Interrogated and Boycott through Silence
[11] see also The Case of NATO's Mutual Defense