Schmidt-Eenboom admits, “It would have been better to send back the money.” But beyond that he denies any wrongdoing. He claims the facts he fed the BND weren’t facts at all, but “disinformation.” “It was a cat-and-mouse game,” he argues. “The goal was to get information without giving any away. I think a lot of my colleagues in other places — France, Great Britain, the United States — are doing the same.”
But some of his German colleagues aren’t so sure. “It’s a tragedy,” says Wolfgang Krach, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s managing editor. “He betrayed sources. He informed on other journalists. And he was supposed to be the hero of this story. He’s the one who revealed that the rest of us were under observation.”
The BND kept mining Schmidt-Eenboom for information until well into 2005. In July of that year Bessel visited the author at his home on the quiet Weilheim cul-de-sac. When he arrived, Schmidt-Eenboom handed him a scrap of paper describing a top-secret operation. Its name: Operation Emporio.
Word of Schmidt-Eenboom’s discovery touched off a panic inside the BND. Then-president August Hanning sent a memo ordering staff to “use any means necessary to track down the source of the leak.” Bessel did his best to comply. He met Schmidt-Eenboom at a Munich café on August 12 and shoved a sheet with twenty-some color passport photos on it across the table. Then he asked the author to finger the culprit. But this time, Gladiator wouldn’t play along.
Mariah Blake, a former assistant editor at CJR, reports regularly on Germany and transatlantic affairs.