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Human rights, dictatorships and German knowledge

In mid-February, the German ZDF editorial team Frontal 21 (operation Rubikon), the US Washington Post (how the CIA used Crypto AG encryption devices to spy on) and the Swiss television series “Rundschau” unveiled the “Secret Service coup of the century"with a joint publication project.

The object of the declassification is the more than twenty years of eavesdropping by the US and German intelligence services CIA and BND on some 130 States between 1970 and 1993. Both had secretly taken over the then world’s leading Swiss cipher machine manufacturer Crypto AG for the equivalent of 24 million euros, earned tens of millions of francs with the orders of those 130 countries and listened to them through the back door by manipulating the original algorithms; a dirty business that seems scandalous from the point of view of “customer loyalty” alone. However, the reports published in the three cited media in mid-February should serve as mere appetizers. In any case, ZDF announced a complete, 60-minute TV documentary entitled “secret operation Rubikon” for the coming 18th of March.

The BND, “operation Rubikon” and " company Cóndor”

Two references to South America have attracted my attention as the political value of the revelations so far only hinted at: CIA and BND are said to have co-opted the Malvinen/Falkland war between Great Britain and Argentina in 1982 in favour of the British and both intelligence services were aware of the brutal human rights violations, which in Argentina alone culminated in the “disappearance” – read: the murder – of nearly 30,000 opposition members.

How do the three quoted media want to have received the evidence? Through inspection of a 280-page file in the USA. It states that”(encrypted) diplomatic and military reports of many important countries of the third world, but also of European states ( … ) could be read everywhere”.

What should interest the democratically oriented German public? First of all, that the file inspection took place in the USA – and not in Germany. As a second aspect, the multiple, critical indication that it is probably not a complete, but a partial view and, thirdly, that the television viewer should take a close look and listen to the ZDF documentary announced for March 18, which will then be revealed as a previously unexplored secret.

In the case of the Malvinen/Falkland War, however, it could be argued that the then federal government made common cause with Chile’s bloody dictator Augusto Pinochet at least indirectly against Argentina, since the BND and CIA knew about Pinochet’s secret missions against Argentina on behalf of Margaret Thatcher. If Great Britain engaged in a war against Argentina, the dealings of the two NATO powers, the USA and Germany, were highly ambiguous and senseless. I want to explain this claim with an obscene sideshow of operation Rubikon, reported by a CIA Telegram (see photo) dated April 7, 1978.

The report

The secret dispatch is a tiny part of the CIA secret files handed over to Argentine human rights organizations by then US President Barack Obama during his state visit to Buenos Aires in 2016. The documents confirmed findings, but also the active CIA participation in the most murderous campaign of all times of South American military dictatorships, which according to different data was responsible for 400,000 imprisoned and up to 60,000 murdered or “disappeared” people.

Isolated leaders of the secret society – including Argentina’s former Junta leader Reynaldo Bignone-have been tried and sentenced to high prison terms over the past twenty years. In his book “Trial of Henry Kissinger”, the late British publicist and writer Christopher Hitchens not only held the former US Secretary of state responsible, but also FBI agents for the mass murder. In an adequate description, The British public broadcaster BBC described the Cóndor secret society as a genocidal “killing enterprise”.

The declassified CIA dispatch proves in black and white that EU countries – including the government of what was then West Germany-met representatives of the military dictatorships of Chile, Argentina and Brazil in the late 1970s with the aim of taking over the Modus Operandi of “Unternehmen Cóndor”. According to the CIA, the European agents were planning to introduce the South American murder squads to Europe under the pretext of combating terrorism. Of course, the governments of the Federal Republic, Italy and France had to defend themselves against the bloody activities of the RAF, Brigate Rosse and armed Maoists. This right was and should still be considered indisputable today-but with the " consultation” of South American genocides?

The BND involvement in the” Cóndor company " took place during the social democratic government of Helmut Schmidt (1974-1982) and during Georg Wessel’s term as head of the BND. The former Wehrmacht officer and founding member of the organization Gehlen led the BND for ten years, also during the government of Willy Brandt (1969-1974), and only on December 31, 1979, The Secret Service leadership passed to the Liberal Klaus Kinkel.

In an exchange of information with the German intelligence expert Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, he informed me last February that “if German intelligence officers of the BND were in Buenos Aires in 1978 for the said meeting, it could only have been a very high-ranking Delegation from department I (operational procurement), i.e. at least one sub-division head at the top. Names cannot be determined without BND file inspection”.

Business with mass murderers and the scandalous handling of the Zieschank and Käsemann cases

I have the scene almost before my eyes. After a meeting of the Latin American student community in Germany (AELA), Klaus “Claudio” Zieschank whispered in the ears of a handful of confidants, to whom I belonged, that he would fly discreetly to his mother’s home country of Argentina in a few days for a visit, but also planned to do an internship at the piston and auto parts factory Buxton. That was at the beginning of March 1976 and we never saw Claudio again. The German-born Argentine was a scholarship holder and Student at the Technical University of Munich and we knew that he was sympathetic to a political organization in Argentina that went underground a few weeks later, after the military coup of March 24, 1976.

Two days after the coup, four Ford Falcons waited at the front gate of the Buxton company and Zieschank was forcibly abducted by heavily armed agents of the new regime. The kidnapping was witnessed by several Buxton workers of the company. On the same day, his mother’s house was ransacked without a court order, and the kidnappers robbed her of her assets and personal belongings. Claudio’s mother, Ana María Gmoser-Zieschank, asked the embassy and the federal government for help.already in the summer of 1976 she took part in a hunger strike on Bonn’s Market Square, but all efforts for Claudio’s release, or for his lively appearance before an Argentine court, were unsuccessful. Although Chancellor Helmut Schmidt had written to the Argentine dictatorship in this regard, the trial failed, in particular because of the indifference of Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

The relatives of the German sociology student and South American intern Elisabeth Käsemann, daughter of the renowned Protestant theologian Ernst Käsemann, who was murdered a year later, were similarly affected. Several serious allegations were made against the then government of Helmut Schmidt. The focus was on the accusation that the social-liberal coalition’s good economic relations with Argentina were more important to the Junta than the observance of human rights and the rescue of German abductees.

Zieschank and Käsemann were the most well-known name couple, but in total dozens of Germans and Germans of German origin were killed in nearly 340 secret prisons of the dictatorship. In at least two issues from 2014, Der Spiegel confirmed the serious allegations. According to classified documents from the Federal Foreign Office, Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt sympathized with the Argentine Junta.

The statements of Schmidt’s officials about the bloodiest of all dictatorships at the time are an endless scandal. Jörg Kastl, German ambassador in Buenos Aires, commented that the military takeover was the “only viable way”. The head of the department responsible for Latin America at the time from the Federal Foreign Office wrote that Bonn was “interested in the existence of the Videla government”. After a visit to Buenos Aires, Minister of State Karl Moersch (FDP) reported that the military were certainly “not cynical dictators”.

While the Junta murdered nearly 30,000 people – including 74 Germans and Germans of German origin – within seven years, the social-liberal coalition focused, among other things, on a hundred-fold million-dollar business with the Export of the Atucha nuclear facilities to Argentina; a similar approach to the billion-dollar nuclear business of 1975 with Brazil’s military dictatorship and arms exports to Chile, for which the helicopters of Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm used by the brutal carabinero police, which is still denounced worl

The cynical handling of the social-liberal coalition with the bloody military dictatorships of Latin America can be summed up with the frightening motto of the then head of Department Karl-Alexander Hampe quoted by Der Spiegel: “our commitment to the human rights issue should not go so far as to lead to a decisive and lasting impairment of the German-Argentine relationship”.

Schmidt - eenboom expressed his unequivocal judgment: “according to our findings from Operation Rubikon, the BND knew about the brutal human rights violations by its Argentine partner service both from a top human source and through the technical clarification. And of course this knowledge resulted in information for the Federal Chancellery and in country reports for the Federal Foreign Office.”

As an epilogue, a final look at the scene of Colonia Dignidad.

The BND and the case of Colonia Dignidad

Probably the most classic and similarly unscrupulous case of cooperation of the BND with the relevant military dictatorships of South America – which according to domestic and international law have been repeatedly referred to as criminal organizations because of their thousands of human rights crimes – is Colonia Dignidad in Chile. It begins with the BND leadership by Wessel and is continued by his successors Klaus Kinkel (1979-1982), Eberhard Blum (1982-1985) and Hans-Georg Wieck (1985-1990) until the German terror sect is exposed and the majority of its hierarchs are arrested in 1990.

But Wieck’s Social Democratic successor, Konrad Porzner (1990-1996), of course also managed for six years those files on Colonia Dignidad, which were kept secret until today and which former Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier was not allowed to release in 2016: the Dignidad-BND files. They meticulously document German knowledge of previously only suspected crimes. For example, the activities and arms deals of the former member of the Waffen-SS and BND and CIA multiple agent Gerhard Mertins, alias “Uranus”.

As a participant in the SS Einsatzgruppe Otto Skorzenys for the liberation of Benito Mussolini, Mertins not only escaped criminal prosecution during the founding period of the Federal Republic of Germany, but also enjoyed “heroic fame” and initially served on the management boards of Volkswagen and Daimler-Benz. However, the former paratrooper made a career with his company Merex AG as an arms dealer, first in the Middle East, then in Latin America. But already in 1956 he was employed by the BND as an Agent. After the disclosure of Mertin’s best contacts with dictators and secret arms deals by Der Spiegel, the Bonn prosecutor’s office filed charges in the 1970s for the illegality of the Arms Trade. But lo and behold: Mertins was acquitted in 1980 and on top of that received a DM 5 million compensation from the federal government because he was able to prove that the arms exports were handled on behalf of the BND.

In Chile, Mertins went in and out of the sect “Kolonie Würde”, directed with an iron hand by the child abuser Paul Schäfer, which could not survive without political helpers, protectors and donors. Thus, in 1978, the BND agent Mertins founded the German “circle of friends Colonia Dignidad”, which was also expanded in Chile with members of the Pinochet dictatorship-such as president Sebastian Piñera’s currently acting Justice Minister Hernán Larraín. The circle of friends was supported by Pinochet’s secret police DINA, whose chief, General Manuel Contreras, had already received Mertins in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975.

Of course, Mertins and the BND knew that Dina agents were trained in the use of modern weapons by German Dignidad settlers, that the Dina also maintained a secret torture center on the colony grounds, in which at least 150 Pinochet opponents were brought in and murdered until 1978, and that the colony operated a secret radio station for foreign contacts with secret services, which officially belonged to the Dina, but had apparently been set up by the German sect members. However, a former Chilean soldier reported that the Germans even provided the Dina with portable high-performance transmitters when it needed them. The references to the transmitter come from the AA Files Released by Steinmeier. This had been seen by the London BBC and rightly wondered “whether the powerful radio station of the colony was used as part of the so-called Operation Condor”.

Murder does not expire

Against this background full of atrocities and crimes against humanity, the words of the former chancellor’s Office minister and coordinator of the German secret services, Bernd Schmidbauer, are an inexcusable scandal. The Christian Democrat confirmed the intelligence operation Rubikon and explained to ZDF succinctly that it “certainly contributed to the fact that the world has remained a bit safer”.

Intelligence expert and multiple author Erich Schmidt-Eenboom proposes an appeal to the current federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “He should use the moral power of his office to push for the opening of the BND files, if his visit to Colonia Dignidad was not just window dressing. The Initiative should also point out that US presidents such as Clinton and Obama have approved file releases despite the fact that the US is much more heavily burdened by the support of military dictatorships.”

However, the cynicism of Schmidbauer, but also of his still living, socially liberal predecessors and former BND bosses, should be criminally punished. He deserves a reprimand for knowing and encouraging mass murders and serious crimes against humanity.