German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered on Friday an inquiry and discipline for espionage officials who used a computer virus to monitor the e-mails of an Afghan government minister, dpa reported.
Her spokesman, Ulrich Wilhelm, revealed Merkel's exasperation with the Federal Intelligence Service BND, which reports to the chancellery. Three senior officials were removed from their posts and Merkel had ordered an internal investigation, he said.
Controversy blew up this week when it was revealed that a German woman journalist's e-mails to Afghan Trade and Industry Minister Amin Farhang, a former academic in Germany, were read when the spies gained access to his computer hard drive in 2006.
While this was initially seen as a freedom of the press issue, the focus moved Friday to the damage done to relations with Kabul.
Farhang was quoted Friday in a newspaper, the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung, voicing outrage that the BND had monitored his e-mails and that it had suspected him of complicity with the Taliban.
He said he was "disappointed" that neither the German government nor the BND had apologized to him personally.
"This absurd lie that I was a kind of double agent has put me and my family in grave danger," he said.
Wilhelm said Merkel agreed with a parliamentary committee's finding Thursday that there had been a serious breach at the BND.
A head of department and the department head's chief of staff and liaison officer to BND president Ernst Uhrlau were removed from their posts and faced a disciplinary inquiry, Wilhelm said. A chancellery inquiry team would audit the department shortly, Wilhelm said.
Berlin said Friday it had not received any official protest from the Afghan government and its relationship with Kabul remained close.
Wilhelm said Germany changed its regulations in 2007 to ensure that surveillance with foreign-policy implications could not be initiated by lower-level intelligence officials.
A German newspaper, the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, was to report Saturday that other Afghan ministers feared they had been monitored as well by the BND, which had allegedly eavesdropped on Farhang's phone calls too.
Six of the 20 Afghan cabinet ministers have spent part of their lives in Germany and speak German, the newspaper said. Farhang holds a doctorate from the University of Cologne and taught at the University of Bochum before returning home.