The CIA has agreed to give Germany copies of 320,000 files that belonged to the Stasi, the former East German intelligence service, officials said yesterday.
After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the United States obtained the Stasi's files in a still-secret operation, one of the last intelligence coups of the Cold War. The German government has been pressing for the return of the material, which it hopes will lead to the identification of former spies.
U.S. and German officials said the CIA will turn over copies of a significant part, but not all, of this huge archive in January. One of the key documents that Germany will receive is a master list of 320,000 "identities": real names, code names and pseudonyms of East German and West German citizens. Files relating to foreigners who worked for the Stasi in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere will not be turned over, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Based on earlier experience with Stasi files, many of the "identities" will turn out to be innocent people who were under surveillance, a German official said. "Only a small number--some 10 percent to 15 percent--will have worked as agents," he said.
The material has both political and emotional resonance in Germany, where a special governmental committee has been tracking former Stasi agents and, by law, publicly identifying them if they work today in any German governmental, political or educational position.
Since 1994, the CIA has quietly allowed Germany and other NATO allies to review files on their own citizens. But until last week the CIA refused to admit publicly that it had the Stasi archive.
At a speech last week at Georgetown University, CIA Director George J. Tenet acknowledged possession of the files for the first time. "We have promised the German government we will provide them with as much information as is possible about all the German cases in these files," he said.
In an initial handover of material five years ago, the CIA gave Germany copies of material on 18,000 identities, which helped identify some 2,000 former Stasi agents. Among them was Rainer Rupp, who was convicted of passing NATO secrets to East Germany for more than a decade.
Enormous secrecy still surrounds the files and how they were obtained in a mission code-named Operation Rosewood. CIA officials say that, even now, some former East German intelligence operatives may try to find and kill the people involved.