Just when you thought all the spies had come in from the cold, a nest of former turncoats and double agents turns up at, of all places, Germany’s pubcaster ARD.
At the height of the Cold War, the city of West Berlin was a hub of cloak-and-dagger activity in which CIA, MI5 and KGB agents sized each other up in local bars. But few ever imagined that ARD and its regional affiliates were so riddled with “unofficial informants” working for East Germany’s dreaded Stasi intelligence service.
Seeking to come clean with the baggage of German reunification, ARD launched a study three years ago to uncover the depth of Stasi infiltration at West German pubcasters and their manipulation of news coverage during the Cold War.
According to the 1,095-page report, 124 ARD employees had secretly worked for the Stasi, 61 of them West Germans.
The report found no collaborators in senior posts or on boards responsible for high-level programming decisions, but the Stasi did recruit plenty of others within the ranks.
In one case, a West German married couple working for ARD delivered information on how best to blow up broadcast facilities in West Germany.
“What they collected was material to use to intervene in a situation of crisis in West Germany,” says Jochen Staadt of Berlin’s Free University and co-author of the study. “We know that they supported terrorist organizations in West Germany and they had no problem using violence against institutions and people.”