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Kohl Assails Counterspy Agency Over Defection

August 28, 1985|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

BONN — West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl sharply criticized his counterintelligence agency Tuesday for allowing one of its senior officers, who defected to the East last week, to stay in office even though he was known to have a drinking problem.

Kohl's criticism, at a Cabinet meeting, fueled speculation that a former head of counterintelligence, Heribert Hellenbroich, will be forced to resign his new post as chief of the federal intelligence agency.

Hellenbroich took over the new assignment on Aug. 1 in what was regarded as a promotion. As head of counterintelligence, he had been the immediate superior of Hans Joachim Tiedge, head of the agency's East German department, who fled to East Germany and asked for asylum.

Blow to Security

Tiedge's defection was regarded as perhaps the worst single blow to the West German security apparatus since the division of Germany at the end of World War II, because he was in charge of tracking down East German spies in West Germany.

At a news conference Tuesday, Friedhelm Ost, a government spokesman, said Kohl found it "totally incomprehensible" that no action had been taken against Tiedge in light of his background of personal difficulties.

Tiedge served in West German intelligence for 19 years and, according to friends, behaved normally in public until three years ago, when his wife died.

Her death was ascribed to head injuries incurred in an accidental bathroom fall, but an investigation into the cause was reopened by Cologne police Monday after neighbors disclosed that Tiedge, 48, had beaten his wife on a number of occasions.

Three Others Missing

Tiedge's defection coincided with the disappearance of two highly placed secretaries in West German government ministries and the arrest of a third who worked in the office of President Richard von Weizsaecker. Another Defense Ministry worker has also disappeared and is widely thought to have fled to East Germany.

In still another case, Franz-Arthur Roski, 36, a security chief in the border police, went on trial Tuesday in Koblenz. He is accused of passing secret information to the East Germans.

Kohl's criticism of the counterintelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, came as the Cabinet heard a preliminary report on the situation from Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann.

Calls for Resignation

Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party, Hans-Jochen Vogel, demanded that Zimmermann resign, since his office has responsibility for the counterintelligence agency.

Vogel, who is a member of the Parliamentary Security Control Committee, which had been briefed earlier by Zimmermann, said he would call an emergency meeting of Parliament if Zimmermann refuses to step down.

Zimmermann said he had not known that Tiedge was behaving erratically or that he had personal problems. He appeared to be focusing the blame on Hellenbroich, who admitted that he had been aware of Tiedge's drinking but added that he considered it safer to keep him on than to dismiss him.

Hellenbroich has a previously unblemished record that qualified him, at 48, to head the federal intelligence agency, or BND, which is based outside Munich and deals with external espionage activities. The intelligence agency is considered the senior department in security matters.

Decisions Due This Week

Ost, the government spokesman, said Chancellor Kohl will decide later in the week whether there will be any dismissals. "He is determined to take decisions on the case this week," Ost said.

The scandal has raised questions in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization about the wisdom of trusting West German officials with top-level secrets.

According to reports from Washington, some U.S. officials are skeptical about allowing the West Germans to take part in developing the technology for President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative--the "Star Wars" program.

But diplomatic sources in Bonn said that a "leaky" West German government has come to be a fact of life in NATO and that the Tiedge incident will not jeopardize Kohl's desire to take part in the space defense program.

Despite the furor, West German political figures say they do not want to harm relations with East Germany, which have been improving in recent months.

Visits Still Planned

Ost, the government spokesman, said that an official of the Economics Ministry, Dieter von Wuerzen, will go ahead with a planned visit to East Germany's trade fair in Leipzig next week. Franz Josef Strauss, the powerful state premier of Bavaria, is also expected to attend the Leipzig fair.

A spokesman for the Social Democratic Party said party leader Willy Brandt will go to East Berlin on Sept. 18 as planned to meet with Erich Honecker, the head of the East German Communist Party.

The visit will be Brandt's first to East Germany since he was forced to resign as chancellor in 1974 after a key aide, Guenter Guillaume, was found to have been a longtime East German agent.

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