Dienstag, 14.09.2021 / 13:29 Uhr

Wie ein syrischer Geheimdienstler in Österreich versteckt wurde

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken



Der New Yorker ist eine der wenigen Publikationen, die ihren Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeitern die Zeit lässt, notfalls oft monatelang für einen Artikel zu recherchieren. Und das tun diese dann, verfügen über exzellente Quellen und eben die Zeit, die für eine so gute Reportage nötig ist.

Und die hat es in sich, es lohnt sie ganz zu lesen, vor allem die Teile über den österreichischen Geheimdienst, seine Geschichte und Funktionsweise. Aber auch den Rest, der sich teilweise wie der Plot eines Thrillers von Don Winslow liest aber leider nur Realitäten in Europa beschreibt. Es geht um syrische Geheimdienstler, ihre Verbrechen, den Mossad, verschiedene andere Dienste und die ganze verfehlte Syrien-Politik in Europa, aber immer wieder auch um Österreich und seine Vergangenheit, über die der Autor folgendes schreibt:

In 1986, it emerged that Austria’s best-known diplomat, Kurt Waldheim—who had served for most of the previous decade as the Secretary-General of the United Nations—had been a Nazi military-intelligence officer during the war. At first, Waldheim, who was running for President of Austria, denied the allegation. But, as more information came out, he began to defend himself as a “decent soldier,” and claimed that the true “scandal” was the effort to dredge up the past. Other politicians came to his defense. “As long as it cannot be proved that he personally strangled six Jews, there is no problem,” the head of Waldheim’s party told a French magazine. Waldheim won the election, and served until 1992. The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that he had taken part in numerous Nazi war crimes, including the transfer of civilians for slave labor, executions of civilians and prisoners of war, and mass deportations to concentration and extermination camps. For the rest of his term, Waldheim was welcome only in some Arab countries and at the Vatican.

It took until after Waldheim’s Presidency for the Austrian government to begin acknowledging decades-old crimes. And only last year did Austria begin offering citizenship to descendants of victims of Nazi persecution. A shadow still hangs over the country. “The Austrians, in European war-crimes circles, have a reputation for being particularly fucking useless,” said Bill Wiley, whose first war-crimes investigation, in the nineties, was of an Austrian Nazi who had escaped to Canada. “You just never know what is driven by incompetence and laziness and disinterest, and what’s driven by venality.”

In recent years, Austria has been cut out of European intelligence-sharing agreements, including the Club de Berne—an informal intelligence network that involves most European nations, the U.K., the U.S., and Israel. (Austria withdrew after the Club’s secret review of the B.V.T.’s cyber-infrastructure, building-security, and counter-proliferation measures—all of which it found to be abysmal—was leaked to the Austrian press.) Senior Austrian intelligence officers have been accused of spying for Russia and Iran, and also of smuggling a high-profile fugitive out of Austria on a private plane. An Iranian spy, who was operating under diplomatic cover in Vienna and was listed in a B.V.T. document as a “possible target for recruitment,” was convicted of planning a terrorist attack on a convention in France; Belgian prosecutors later determined that he’d smuggled explosives through the Vienna airport, in a diplomatic pouch. “The Austrians are not considered to have a particularly good service,” a retired senior C.I.A. officer told me. The general view within Western European intelligence agencies is that what is shared with Vienna soon makes its way to Moscow—a concern that was amplified when Vladimir Putin danced with Austria’s foreign minister at her wedding, in 2018.