German cybersecurity chief out amid reports of Russia ties

Oct 18, 2022, 6:19 AM | Updated: Oct 19, 2022, 9:06 am

BERLIN (AP) — The head of Germany’s national cybersecurity agency has been dismissed following reports of possible ties to Russian intelligence, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said that Interior Minister Nancy Faeser dismissed Arne Schoenbohm as head of the BSI agency following the allegations, which “damaged the necessary confidence of the public in the neutrality and impartiality” of his management, German news agency dpa reported.

Schoenbohm co-founded a cybersecurity group a decade ago that brings together experts from public institutions and the private sector. German media have reported that one of its members was a company founded by a former Russian intelligence agent, which the group said last week that it had thrown out.

The German government said over a week ago that it was investigating the reports comprehensively.

There is growing concern in Germany that the country’s critical infrastructure might be targeted by Russia because of Berlin’s support for Ukraine in the war.

Schoenbohm, 53, had been the head of the BSI since February 2016. There was no immediate word on who would succeed him.

The ministry said Faeser’s decision was also in the interest of Schoenbohm himself and of the agency’s 1,500 employees and their ability to work without speculation about the personnel issue, dpa reported.

It said that the allegations would be looked into and evaluated thoroughly, and that there is a presumption of innocence for Schoenbohm while that evaluation is ongoing.

German news weekly Der Spiegel quoted Schoenbohm as saying that, since there had been no “feedback” on the allegations, he had asked on Monday for disciplinary proceedings to be opened to clear up the matter.

He said he didn’t yet know “what the ministry has examined and what the concrete allegations against me look like.”

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German cybersecurity chief out amid reports of Russia ties