September 27, 2016 / 1:16 AM / 3 years ago

Germany's No.2 spy to become parliamentary watchdog - report

BERLIN (Reuters) - Guido Mueller, vice president of Germany’s foreign spy agency, is slated to become the country’s first parliamentary intelligence watchdog, broadcaster rbb reported on Tuesday, a move that could deepen criticism of proposed intelligence reforms.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats have agreed to name Mueller to the post, which is being created as part of a long-delayed reform of the parliamentary control committee, rbb said, citing sources familiar with the decision.

Mueller began lobbying for the job in February, according to media reports. The role will entail overseeing the work of the foreign, domestic and military intelligence agencies on behalf of parliament.

But some conservative lawmakers said at the time that it would be hard to explain why such a senior official from the foreign spy agency was being named to a key oversight role.

The cabinet in June approved draft legislation to tighten control of the activities of the spy agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND, after revelations in 2015 that it had helped the U.S. National Security Agency spy on European allies.

Both the reforms of the parliamentary control committee and of the BND have come under fire from members of the Green party and the radical Left party as well as from free speech groups and former BND chief Gerhard Schindler, who left the job abruptly in April, two years earlier than planned.

Critics worry that the reforms will give the spy agency more leeway to increase surveillance under the mantle of counterterrorism. Some of the groups have vowed to challenge the new legislation in the country’s highest court if it passes in its current form.

The ruling right-centre coalition had hoped to get the reforms approved before the end of the year, with the reform of the parliamentary oversight function to take effect in January.

Government officials say the legislation will provide clear rules for the spy agency’s work for the first time, banning industrial espionage and surveillance of German and European citizens, governments and institutions, except in the case of suspected terrorist activity.

The draft legislation also calls for the creation of an independent body that includes judges from Germany’s highest court and chief federal prosecutor’s office to approve strategic foreign espionage activities.

Mueller joined the BND in 1987 and has served as its vice president since 2013.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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