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Germany set to pick foreign intelligence chief

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The president-designate of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, poses for a photographer in Berlin, April 27, 2016. (AFP photo)

Germany is to replace its foreign spy chief in an ostensible move to compensate repercussions of controversial cooperation between the service and intelligence agencies in the United States.

An official from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said in a statement on Wednesday that Bruno Kahl is to replace Gerhard Schindler in the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or the BND.

Schindler, 63, who has led the BND since 2012, will take early retirement from July 1, said Peter Altmaier, chief of staff of Angela Merkel's Chancellery. The official would not elaborate on the details of Schindler's departure. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment when asked at a regular press briefing.

However, Altmaier said the BND is heading into an era of changes that include the development of its profile given the changing security challenges.

“The BND faces major challenges in coming years,” Altmaier said, adding that the change in the BND leadership also represents the “organizational and legal consequences” of work of a committee investigating the BND’s connections to the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Results of an investigation released in October 2015 showed that the NSA had handed lists of European government offices as targets for espionage to the BND, demanding the results be sent to Washington. The report concluded that the BND had snubbed many demands of the NSA but still maintained cooperation with the service.

German media speculated that the replacement has been due to several factors, including the BND’s controversial services to the NSA, an issue involving revelations which badly rocked Germany’s foreign intelligence service.

Reports said the change at the top of the BND was also related to the agency’s new plans for reforms while the new chief could better monitor a complex move of the BND headquarters from the western city of Pullach to Berlin.

Kahl, a trained lawyer and a trusted aide of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, has played the top role over the past years in the ministry’s privatizations, investments and federal real estate.

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