The newly unveiled Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) HQ located in Berlin is now home to the world’s largest intelligence service in terms of geographical size.
The new site, with a footprint of 25 hectares has cost an estimated £870m to construct.
The complex, using 135,000 cubic metres of concrete and 20,000 tonnes of steel, took 12 years to complete. Its creation has proven controversial, as it was finished significantly later than expected and over-budget.
The completed site is located in the heart of Berlin close to the former Berlin wall, after being moved from Pullach on the outskirts of Munich where the BND was founded in 1956.
The construction process was plagued with problems, from blueprint plans being stolen, to huge floods resulting from thieves removing the taps off sinks, nicknamed ‘Watergate’ by the German press. This fiasco threw into doubt the capacity of the BND to secure the perimeter of the site whilst it was under construction.
The Promise of a Rejuvenated BND
When stationed outside of Munich, the BND wasn’t regarded as a serious world-beating institution. But former BND chief Hansjörg Geiger believes that after the move to Berlin, the BND will “be taken more seriously” as it will be able to play a much more proactive role in intelligence gathering, with a greater capacity to act.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel stated at the opening of the new site, that “now, more than ever, Germany needs a strong and efficient foreign intelligence service”.
The BND is a symbol of Germany’s belief in becoming a world leader in intelligence, despite the history of intelligence gathering being viewed with staunch contempt in Germany. The distrust of such organisations is rooted in memories of the Stasi and Gestapo.
When addressing this issue at the complex’s inauguration, Merkel said that “a healthy distrust is helpful, but being overly suspicious is a hindrance”.
When it was revealed that German intelligence services co-operated with British and American services to spy on European officials and companies via digital communications, it shocked many and led to reduced US-German interactions.
Angela Merkel hopes that the move will secure Germany’s BND transition from Pre-to-post-Cold War context and responsibility. She also hopes to build the reputation and trust-levels of the institution.
Merkel clearly believes in the grandeur of the new site, stating that it would “impress any foreign intelligence service”.