Her discovery? That Putin was an enthusiastic womanizer and a violent bully who beat his wife. Schmidt-Eenboom, whose revelations were first published in the German newspaper "Berliner Zeitung," has dismissed suggestions that the information was given to him in order to discredit Putin as he prepares to resume his role as Russian president next year. The reporter claims he first heard the story of Lenchen -- who also went by the nickname "Balcony" because of her buxom chest -- while talking to a former senior BND official earlier this year.
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Intelligence expert Schmidt-Eenboom tells DW why this case is outrageous. Is that everyday business for secret services, or is it a huge scandal? Should this suspicion prove to be true, what kind of consequences would that spell for German-US relations? This would strain the political sphere, for sure. But in terms of secret services I would expect a more professional way of thinking, meaning: Intelligence services behave in a certain way; so after some disgruntlement, one proceeds with business as usual.
The employee was said to be sent specifically to cover the investigative committee that is conducting an inquiry into NSA surveillance. What sort of information could be of interest to the US?
For one, they want to make sure that they know everything that [Edward] Snowden tells the committee - even in secret meetings. The committee was most likely not caught off guard. It always had to assume that many foreign secret services - not just the US - were interested in its work. It would be wise to ban all authorities, which already have too much influence on these committees as it is, at least from closed sessions.
Initially it had been suspected that this employee was spying for the Russians. That still seems not completely off the table. In the intelligence business, it is possible to be recruited under false pretences. Meaning he could have been told he was working for an American agency by people actually working for Russian intelligence.
How does the BND recruit its employees? Is it through an ordinary application process, or different? Jobs are posted, there are applicants, and these applicants are of course scrutinized - both before they are employed, and then afterwards on a regular basis. What punishment awaits a spy who has been uncovered in Germany? It depends on the type of foreign agent activity.
Since we are dealing here with the case of spying on a constitutional body, I expect a high punishment of several years imprisonment without parole [if found guilty]. Is this an isolated case, or have incidents like this happened often in the past? Americans have always spied on German politics, military and society. There have also always been cases where BND [employees] have leaked information to American intelligence.
But we have never had such a serious case, of a German secret service employee spying on a constitutional body for Americans. Erich Schmidt-Eenboom is a well-known secret service expert and has published numerous books and articles on that matter. DW recommends.
Intelligence expert Schmidt-Eenboom: 'It's a huge scandal'