In the summer of 2011, the CIA station chief in Berlin asked one of the most powerful intelligence officials in Germany to go on a private walk with him, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reports. The American spy had an important message to convey: one of Germany’s own senior officials was leaking information to the press.
The suspected leaker, Hans Josef Vorbeck, had been in contact with Spiegel, the station chief told the German official, Günter Heiss. Head of Division 6, Heiss is responsible for coordinating Germany’s intelligence services. Vorbeck was his deputy.
At the time, Vorbeck was responsible for managing German counterterrorism efforts. Following the meet-up, Vorbeck was discreetly transferred to a less prestigious post, overseeing historical archives for the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service.
For four years, the conversation that led to Vorbeck’s demotion remained secret. It has now become public, thanks largely to a German intelligence inquiry launched in the wake of Edward Snowden’s historic leak of top-secret NSA documents. The walk — and its implications for U.S.-German relations — were detailed Friday by Spiegel.