West German spy chaser defects
BERLIN (AP) _ A top West German counterspy has defected to the Communist East in a developing espionage case that threatens West Germany’s network of secret agents.
Officials in Bonn warned of serious damage from the spy case, the biggest since 1974, when one of Chancellor Willy Brandt’s top aides was exposed as an East German agent.
East Germany’s official news agency, ADN, announced Friday that Hans Joachim Tiedge, who was in charge of tracking down East Germany’s spies, had crossed the border and asked for political asylum. He had been missing since Monday.
Three other people suspected of being spies for East Germany vanished earlier this month. One was a long-time aide to a Cabinet minister.
Press reports said West Germany’s spymasters were pulling their agents out of the East before Tiedge could betray them to the Communist authorities.
″East Germany has let the cat out of the bag,″ a commentator on West German radio said soon after the ADN dispatch about Tiedge appeared Friday morning. The news agency said East German officials were considering his request for asylum.
Tiedge, 48, was a top official of the Constitutional Protection Office, which is responsible for counter-espionage.
Hans Neusel, an Interior Ministry undersecretary in Bonn, said the government was investigating whether Tiedge led a spy ring, and added that his defection could endanger West German secret agents in East Germany.
Hamburg’s mass-circulation newspaper Bild, quoting sources in Bonn, reported that two important West German agents in the East had fled to West Berlin because Tiedge was about to expose them.
The Express newspaper of Cologne, which has good contacts among government officials, said West German intelligence had begun pulling its people out of the East in case Tiedge reveals their names.
Gerhard Jahn, a leader of the opposition Social Democrats, said the current spy scandal could be even worse than the one in 1974. Brandt, a Social Democrat, resigned when chancellery aide Guenther Guillaume was exposed.
Jahn said identification of West German agents could have ″disastrous consequences″ for the security of West Germany.
Neusel told a news conference at the Interior Ministry that Tiedge had spent 19 years in ″sensitive positions,″ most of them dealing with East Germany and counter-espionage.
He said Tiedge’s flight had provoked ″grave second thoughts″ about West Germany security, and the government assumed the defector would reveal secret information.
Karl Miltner, deputy chairman in Parliament of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democrats, called for ″all necessary measures″ to protect security and Herbert Schnoor, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphali a state, said the defection had caused ″immeasurable damage.″
Richard Meier, retired head of the counterspy agency, said Tiedge ″knew quite a lot about our methods. If he decides to give it to them it will do very much damage.″
″The real danger is that he can tell about our procedures, our methods, how we work, and that will take a couple of years to get reorganized,″ Meier said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. He retired in 1983 and said he knew Tiedge.
Hans-Gerd Lange, a spokesman for the counter-espionage office, said Tiedge had been distressed by the death of his wife three years ago and a year later underwent a special security check.
Kurt Rebmann, West Germany’s chief federal prosecutor, said investigators were searching the defector’s home and had begun a full investigation.
The missing Cabinet aide is Sonja Lueneburg, 61, who worked for Economics Minister Martin Bangemann and disappeared Aug. 6. Bangemann said she did not have access to sensitive information.
Ursula Richter, 53, dropped from sight last Friday after telling fellow employees at an exiles’ lobbying group she was taking a short vacation.
Lorenze Betzing, a 53-year-old acquaintance of Ms. Richter, vanished early this week. He was a a messenger in the army administration offfice.
Individual espionage cases have cropped up often since Germany was divided on ideological lines after World War II.
The largest one since the Guillaume exposure in 1974 occurred in early 1979. West German authorities arrested several women employed as government secretaries, but others fled to the East before the could be detained.