Bonn shocked that East Germany knew more of its secrets than it imagined

BONN, GERMANY — BONN, Germany -- It did not end the way cloak-and-dagger stories are supposed to, with briefcases exchanged on foggy bridges, or midnight dashes across nameless borders.

Instead, one of the most thrilling chapters in Cold War espionage closed with a German nursery rhyme sung by a lonely, drunken spy:


"All my little duckies, swimming on the pond . . . heads deep in water, tails to the sky."

The bizarre shortwave broadcast from East Germany to its legion of spies around the globe that evening last May 23 hid a sobering message.


The game -- their game -- was over.

And the skill with which they played it is only now coming to light.

Just over two months into unity, the Bonn government is finding to its amazement and embarrassment that all three West German intelligence agencies harbored double agents at high levels and that this rampant treachery for decades provided the East bloc a treasure trove of Western secrets.

Intelligence analysts say that the damage is impossible to assess, and defense attorneys for the alleged spies being arrested on an almost daily basis argue that German unification makes it all moot, anyway.

Virtually every niche of the West German civil service apparently had moles on the payroll of Communist East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, whose lust for information was so consuming that they even bugged the church confessionals of their own countrymen.

"We now figure they recruited 5,000 to 6,000 agents in West Germany. We thought they only had 3,000," said Peter Frisch, vice president of the country's internal security agency, the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution.

The real surprise, though, was that so many West Germans turned traitor.

Recruitment techniques varied. During the late '70s and early '80s, for example, East Germany planted handsome young men in West Germany to woo unwed secretaries in ministries. At one point, the so-called "Romeo escapade" included four secretaries working in the office of the West German chancellor.


On other cases, West Germans, such as a senior counterintelligence official, Klaus Kuron, approached the East Germans and spied for money. Mr. Kuron doubled his income during the eight years he admittedly worked as a double agent for East Germany.

Still others spied for ideological reasons. A diplomat, Hagen Blau, told investigators that he had been an impassioned leftist since his student days in Berlin, where a friend who joined in the cafe debates confided to Blau that he was a Stasi member.

The "friend" waited two years before turning Blau, who was then embarking on his foreign service career. Blau would spend the next 30 years supplying the East Germans with West German documents and information concerning foreign policy, purportedly rebuffing all offers of payment until the very end.

A common language and culture, as well as West Germany's open-door policy for East German refugees, gave East Germany a unique advantage in espionage, intelligence experts say.

And although West Germany also had no language or cultural barriers to cross, the closed society and iron-fisted Communist rule made it far more difficult for West Germans to plant their own spies in the East, and far more dangerous for East Germans to turn traitor.

Meanwhile, in West Germany, the infiltration was so thorough, according to Mr. Frisch, that even the home telephones of at least one-third of his agency's 2,500 employees proved to be tapped by the East Germans.


"They also had the capability of listening in on all telephone traffic between West Berlin and East Germany," Mr. Frisch said, adding that about 25,000 telephones in West Germany could also be scanned by East German computers.

Federal prosecutors are now investigating hundreds of cases and have made more than 100 arrests so far, more than triple their usual caseload.

"It's going to take years to unravel," said an intelligence source speaking on condition of anonymity.

Intelligence officers say that the KGB no doubt reaped a gold mine of information over the decades from its loyal East German ally.

"The East Germans were just about the KGB's most reliable allies," said Chris Andrew, a Cambridge professor who wrote "KGB: The Inside Story."

He described the scale of East German spying on West Germany as "simply astonishing.


"They were pretty blatant about it," he added in a telephone interview. "East German radio would nightly broadcast messages for 'moles.' The head of East German foreign intelligence, Markus Wolf, had the reputation of being the ablest foreign intelligence chief."

Mr. Wolf, who has an arrest warrant pending against him in Germany, recently finished a book titled, "I'm No Spy," and is said to be in exile in Moscow, hoping for amnesty from Bonn.

He has hinted in interviews published by the German press that some of his ex-agents still remain unexposed in Bonn government circles.

"Anybody who was familiar with the West German scene and the zeal with which the East Germans pursued their recruitment efforts had to realize that the West German government was very porous and easily penetrated," former CIA Director George Carver said.

"With each wave of revelations, you had to realize there would be another one," added Mr. Carver, now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

He said that Germany's NATO allies were "very well aware of the German problems" in intelligence matters, and "you adjusted yourself accordingly."


Lutz Stavenhagen, the junior minister in Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government responsible for intelligence services, refused

several requests by the Los Angeles Times for information about the growing spy scandal. The chancellor's office and the government press office also refused to discuss the matter.

There has been no political fallout from the spy disclosures, although the intelligence agencies themselves and many politicians readily acknowledge that the damage is more widespread than that from the notorious case of Guenther Guillaume, the East German mole planted in then-Chancellor Willy Brandt's office. Mr. Guillaume's unmasking in 1974 resulted in a scandal that forced Mr. Brandt to resign.

Intelligence sources say that the fall of the Iron Curtain and the loss of so many valuable East German agents is forcing the KGB to revamp its network.

"Of course, they're still spying," one of the sources said of the Soviets. "But probably we'll see their interests focus much more intensely on the industrial level. They're generations behind in high technology and can't afford the licenses and royalties to obtain such information legally."

Bonn intelligence officials say that the KGB already has taken over an undetermined number of the agents and Stasi files. But the Bonn officials are concerned about the great numbers apparently left behind in hiding, seeing them as potential targets of KGB blackmail.


"They were only offering sanctuary to the very top agents," a West German intelligence source said of the KGB. "What use would the others be to them now back in the Soviet Union? They can't even feed and shelter their own people, let along thousands of former German spies."

German law limits access to criminal suspects, and attempts by the Times to interview any of the admitted spies awaiting trial were fruitless. Their defense attorneys, for the most part, argue that no damage was done, since the two Germanys are now united and the Cold War is over.

Still unresolved is just what should be done with a generation of crack spies who, thanks to German unification, have been left out in the cold.

Parliament is expected to debate soon about giving amnesty to East German spies, informants and Stasi members, but such clemency is unlikely to cover West Germans who worked for the very people winning pardon.

Among those charged so far are Mr. Kuron; Gabriele Gast, an officer with the German equivalent of the CIA who helped prepare weekly intelligence briefings for Chancellor Kohl and was caught trying to flee across the Austrian border; and Blau, a career diplomat who admitted that he had been working for the East Germans for nearly 30 years while posted in London, Tokyo, Sri Lanka and the Bonn Foreign Ministry. Blau was recently sentenced to six years in prison.

Ex-Stasi agents also disclosed that the deputy chief of the West German military intelligence agency, MAD, spied for the East Germans for at least 10 years before leaving the service in 1984. The man, Joachim Krase, has since died.


The Defense Ministry acknowledged in a statement that the damage was "critical" and effectively blocked the agency's gathering of military intelligence.

"This is not a simple case of treason," Gerd Komossa, former head of MAD, wrote in a commentary for the daily newspaper Die Welt. "Through him, the Stasi not only got a glimpse of our defense; our methods were betrayed here."

The editorial page editor of Die Welt, Enno von Loewenstern, wrote recently that "it is a frightening phenomenon that men in high positions, apparently tried and tested, betrayed their country with apparently no more scruples than a traveling salesman switching to another brand."

Mr. Kuron's confession led to the immediate arrest of eight other spy suspects, and investigators say that others are cooperating as well, including several ex-Stasi officers who have come forward to offer names and files in hopes of currying favor with their new government.

A special hot line exists for spies to turn in themselves or other agents.

"The flood is yet to come," said Werner Hecker, the Koblenz attorney who defended Blau.