3rd German spy chief stumbles over neo-Nazi probe

Reinhard Boos is the third high-ranking German intelligence official to resign over alleged intelligence failures that allowed NSU to operate for yrs.

Dresden: The head of an agency which tracks extremists in the German state of Saxony has resigned after his staff failed to provide lawmakers with intelligence records related to a small neo-Nazi group that killed 10 people over a seven-year period.

Reinhard Boos is the third high-ranking German intelligence official to resign over alleged intelligence failures that allowed the National Socialist Underground, or NSU, to operate undetected for years.

Earlier this month, the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Heinz Fromm, stepped down after revelations that an official in his agency destroyed intelligence files on neo-Nazis shortly after the extent of the NSU`s activities became public last November.

His counterpart in the state of Thuringia, Thomas Sippel, stepped down days later, also in connection with intelligence failures in the case.

The third resignation in less than 10 days has added to the authorities` embarrassment about the NSU, which is suspected of killing eight Turkish men and a Greek between 2000 and 2006 and a policewoman in 2007 in attacks across the country.

For years, authorities suspected organized crime rather than racist violence.

Saxony`s Interior Minister, Markus Ulbig, told the state Parliament in Dresden today that intelligence officials had failed to provide lawmakers with transcripts of telephone tapping operations dating back to 1998.

The surveillance program was aimed at people believed to have been loosely linked to the NSU. The group counted just three members, but is believed to have relied on a network of sympathizers to operate undetected for so long.

"The reason why (the existence of the surveillance files) has only just become known appears to be due to blatant misconduct by individual members of staff," Ulbig said. He added that Boos had resigned as a matter of principle because he had given lawmakers his word that all files related to the case would be presented to them.

"Under these circumstances he couldn`t continue his office with the necessary level of trust."

The intelligence failures have prompted several opposition parties, including Germany`s main far-right party, to call for the abolition of the country`s domestic surveillance system.

The National Democratic Party, which is represented in the Saxony legislature, claimed Wednesday that the NSU trio, which for many years was based in the state, couldn`t have gone undetected by intelligence officials for so long.

"You can assume there`s an undercover policeman at every right-wing political meeting, so it`s crazy to say they didn`t know," NPD lawmaker Arne Schimmer said.