False Alarm? Germany Doubts Credibility of Terror Informant
The German government has growing doubts about the credibility of an informant whose testimony was partly responsible for a massive security alert issued last November.
According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, German anti-terrorism investigators have now lost contact with the insider. The man approached the German Federal Criminal Police Force (BKA) last November and warned them about "Mumbai-style" attacks that were supposedly imminent in Germany.
Given that US authorities had also warned about possible attacks, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière raised the threat level and ordered heightened security precautions. The dome of the Reichstag parliament building, one of Berlin's premier tourist attractions, was closed to visitors and heavily armed police officers were deployed at train stations and airports.
In several subsequent telephone conversations, the informant apparently remained vague about the nature of the threat. He demanded guarantees of security for him and his family and a seven-figure sum for further information. German authorities weren't ready to meet those demands.
Since then, contact with the man has been lost due to a slip-up on the part of the authorities. A few days ago, he came to the attention of airline staff when he bought a plane ticket. The airline enquired with the local German embassy as to whether the man's passport was genuine. But because it was the weekend and no diplomat could be reached, they didn't get an immediate answer. After that, the suspected al-Qaida man disappeared.
Some of the security measures introduced as a result of the November alert have now been scaled back.