Ramstein NATO employee suspected of stealing state secrets
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A 60-year-old German citizen working for NATO was arrested Monday at Ramstein Air Base on suspicion of obtaining state secrets, according to German authorities.
The man, identified only as Manfred K. in keeping with German privacy laws, worked as a NATO civilian employee at the air base, said a news release from the federal prosecutor’s office. He is accused of illegally obtaining secret information and transferring it to his personal computer, the release said.
The man appeared in Germany’s federal high court in Karlsruhe on Monday and remains in German custody while the investigation continues, according to the release. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, Marcus Köhler, said he was considered a flight risk.
Köhler said the man had been arrested “at an early stage.” Police searched the suspect’s apartment and confiscated a number of digital data and files, Köhler said.
“The secured data are currently being evaluated,” he said. The investigation leading to the man’s arrest “led us to conclude that the data were to be given to a third party.”
Whether the suspect will be charged “depends [on] what the further investigations will show,” Köhler said.
He said the penalty for obtaining state secrets ranges from six months to five years in prison.
NATO’s press office at Ramstein did not immediately return calls Tuesday afternoon and its headquarters in Brussels referred inquiries about the case to German federal authorities in Karlsruhe.
The NATO mission at Ramstein is continuing to grow. In February, NATO announced plans to consolidate its air command headquarters, making Ramstein Air Base the hub for alliance missions that range from NATO’s air police operations to a growing missile defense program. The move was expected to begin sometime this year, and will likely continue into 2013.
The consolidation is part of NATO’s reorganization, which is aimed at finding efficiencies. The move will take NATO from 400 personnel at Ramstein to about 500.
Stars and Stripes reporter Jennifer Svan contributed to this report.