Posts Tagged ‘Frankfurt’

Brexit: City of London office leasing at a ten-year low — Britain is living in ‘fantasy land’ over hopes for a ‘basic’ Brexit, senior EU officials and diplomats say

November 4, 2017

Property firm says uptake has slowed down after the Brexit vote

By Neil Callanan

The Independent

Firms are continuing to delay decisions about leasing space in London’s main financial district after the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, according to Brookfield Property’s chief executive Brian Kingston.

“Leasing activity is slow,” Mr Kingston said on a call with analysts on Thursday.

“The leases that are getting done, rents are still holding in pretty well. But the level of activity I think is probably the lowest it’s been in over a decade in the City of London.”

Brookfield has been one of the biggest developers of office buildings in the so-called Square Mile since it began buying up land plots in 2010.

It sold its stake in the 20 Fenchurch Street tower known as the Walkie Talkie in the third quarter at a capitalisation rate of 3.5 per cent, one of the highest prices on record for the financial district.

Mr Kingston also said it will be difficult for some firms to move people overseas.

“The idea of moving jobs or moving people from London to some of these other centres is not as simple as just picking up and moving it,” he said.

“London benefits from a tremendous amount of infrastructure including housing and schools and just generally quality of life that many of these other cities just don’t have” and “wouldn’t be able to turn on overnight.”


Image result for Disney, magic kingdom, photos

Britain is living in ‘fantasy land’ over hopes for a ‘basic’ Brexit, senior EU officials and diplomats say

The Telegraph


The British government is living in “fantasy land” if it believes that it can an amicable break-up with the EU in the event of a ‘basic’ Brexit, senior EU officials and diplomats have told The Telegraph.

Three separate EU sources in both Brussels and a leading EU capital have warned that British expectations of a “no deal, deal” had failed to understand the ramifications of the UK pulling out Europe without paying its bills.

The tough European line raises serious question about the value of assurances given by David Davis to the Lords this week that Europe would do a “basic” deal with Britain in the event that both sides were unable to negotiate a trade deal.

The Brexit secretary told the Lords EU select committee that in the “very, very improbable” event that a deal proved beyond the two sides, worst-case scenarios would be averted.

“Whatever happens we will have a basic deal without the…

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Asia markets gain after Wall Street notches up records

October 3, 2017


© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP | People take cover at a country music festival in Las Vegas after a mass shooting left at least 59 dead and hundreds injured

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets gained Tuesday following fresh records on Wall Street, with investors cheered by the release of strong economic data.All three US indices ended at records, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 0.7 percent Monday.

Analysts said the markets were unaffected by a mass shooting at a Las Vegas hotel that left at least 59 dead and hundreds injured.

“The global markets trudge on searching for opportunities realising these tragedies are becoming all too commonplace,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

“And as cynical as that may seem, that is the reality we’ve come to accept,” he added.

US manufacturing activity rose to its highest level in September in 13 years, making investors bullish about the third-quarter US earnings season, which begins in around 10 days.

Companies in the S&P 500 are projected to report a five percent year-over-year gain in operating earnings-per-share (EPS), according to CFRA Research.

US President Donald Trump’s market-friendly tax reform proposals, including a plan to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, have also buoyed investors.

Hong Kong rose 1.5 percent after a long weekend and Tokyo gained 0.7 percent while Singapore edged down 0.2 percent.

Japanese banks and automakers were higher despite an announcement from Nissan late Monday it was recalling some 1.2 million cars in Japan that had failed to meet domestic rules on vehicle inspections.

The gains came after the Bank of Japan’s Tankan survey showed business confidence had hit its highest level in a decade.

– ‘Risk aversion waning’ –

“Global growth folks, global growth. That’s the economic story of the night as the raft of manufacturing PMI’s released in the past 24 hours tell the story of a continuation of this trend toward synchronisation and strength,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

“Gold continues to fall as the global economy grows… (and) as risk aversion wanes,” he added.

Equity markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt also rose but Spain’s IBEX index fell 1.2 percent and the euro slid against the dollar following a police crackdown on the banned Catalonia independence referendum.

Catalonia’s leader declared victory in the referendum to secede from Spain, prompting a warning from Madrid that it would do “everything within the law” to prevent the region from declaring independence.

The referendum was marred by shocking scenes of police violence with security forces moving in on polling stations across the region to stop people from voting, in some cases using batons and firing rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

– Key figures around 0300 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 20,558.23 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.5 percent at 27,974.68

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1712 from $1.1733

Dollar/yen: UP at 113.07 yen from 112.71 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3250 from $1.3277

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 16 cents at $50.42 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 23 cents at $55.89 per barrel

New York – DOW: UP 0.7 percent at 22,557.60 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,322.82 points (close)

Copenhagen Joins Battle to Lure Financial Firms From London After Brexit

September 29, 2017

LONDON — Denmark’s business minister was meeting financial technology firms in London on Friday as part of a two-day drive to lure them from Britain after Brexit.

Copenhagen faces fierce competition from Frankfurt, Paris, Luxembourg and Dublin in the battle to attract firms needing an EU base after Britain leaves the bloc in 18 months’ time.

“That’s a tough game,” Danish business minister Brian Mikkelsen said in a telephone call from Level39, the fintech hub in London’s Canary Wharf financial district.

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London’s Canary Wharf financial district

“We are going to make it cheaper and easier to be in Denmark.”

Denmark, which has already begun a review of regulation and taxes to remove burdens on financial companies and staff, is meeting 25 firms in London, including Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, State Street and BlackRock.

“We would like to be the northern European hub for the financial sector,” Mikkelsen said.

He said Denmark will launch a “sandbox” to allow fintech firms to experiment with new apps on actual customers without having to go through burdensome licence applications and regulatory approvals first.

Sandboxes were spearheaded by Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority and are being quickly copied across the world by governments keen to attract fintech firms along with the jobs and growth prospects they bring.

Mikkelsen said no financial firm from Britain had applied for a licence in Denmark, which is mainly focussing on fintech and asset managers, rather than seeking big lenders, pitting it against smaller rivals such as Dublin and Luxembourg, rather than Paris or Frankfurt.

“Our aim while we are here is the asset managers and fintech start ups. We have a very well educated and flexible labour force and in Denmark we are very digitised.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones)

Frankfurt is winning the battle for Brexit spoils — Britain’s economic heart goes to Germany — 10,000 new banking jobs and an extra 88,000 jobs in other sectors

August 29, 2017
Frankfurt is set to benefit from the UK’s Brexit decision. GETTY IMAGES

Viewed from the 38th floor of a newly-built skyscraper in the centre of the city, Frankfurt resembles a construction site.

The gridiron streets that surround the now-iconic towers of Deutsche Bank, UBS and Commerzbank are eclipsed by layers of scaffolding.

Meanwhile, continually moving giant orange cranes loom above the few green spaces that remain in the increasingly urbanised financial district.

Despite its small size – it is home to under a million residents – and its unfair but unshakable reputation for being somewhat dull, Frankfurt is winning the battle for the spoils of Brexit Britain’s economic heart; the City of London.

Egged on by Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, and enthusiastic emissaries from the state of Hesse, many of Europe’s largest financial institutions have already announced their intention to relocate jobs here.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has been keen to promote Frankfurt as a financial centre. Getty

Many banks’ patience with the protracted Brexit negotiations, through which regulatory frameworks for foreign exchange trading and conditions for access to the Single Market must be thrashed out, seems to have run out.

Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Standard Chartered are among those who have chosen Frankfurt as their new European base, while others such as Goldman Sachs and UBS have promised to move thousands of jobs to the German hub.

Predictions for the number of bankers set to descend on Frankfurt vary wildly, from tens of thousands, up to 100,000.

Last week, a study by the WHU-Otto Beisheim management school suggested that the city could gain 10,000 new banking jobs and an extra 88,000 jobs in other sectors in Frankfurt and the surrounding Rhine-Main region.

Frankfurt - the central financial district
Some suggest Frankfurt and its region could gain up to 100,00 extra jobs. Getty

There have also been reports speculating that the city is fast running out of office space.

Quite the contrary, says Oliver Schwebel, the man in charge of Frankfurt Economic Development, a city-backed body tasked with enticing companies to the area.

“We have a plan for 20 new skyscrapers,” he says, surveying the ever-changing skyline of the city locals dub “Mainhattan”.

There is approximately a million square metres of office space in Frankfurt available for immediate occupancy, he says, and an extra 250,000 sq m will be available in the next few years. That’s almost triple the current level of demand.

Careful not to seem triumphant, Mr Schwebel adds that while there has undoubtedly been a boost in real-estate investment in anticipation of an exodus from the City of London, “these are all plans from the last 10 or 15 years, nothing to do with Brexit”.

A pro-EU demonstration in Frankfurt earlier this year. Getty

Elvin Durakovic, a partner at estate agents Knight Frank, also downplays the supposed Frankfurt surge.

“Last year, when Brexit was announced, I got calls: ‘Elvin, are you partying? Elvin, are you happy everyone is coming to Frankfurt?'”, he recalls.

“But unfortunately, it is not really the fact.”

Although “10 or 11” companies with offices in the city have called to say they are double-sizing, “the truth is people are coming, looking around, but not making decisions.”

Part of this, says Mr Durakovic, is down to a reluctance to abandon the cosmopolitan British capital – where many bankers have built comfortable lives.

“No one is aware of what will happen in one or two years, what will be the result of Brexit, what payments they will be forced to make if they stay in London,” he explains.

“They feel very comfortable in London, but they have to be prepared.”

Brexit poster
Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Standard Chartered are among those who have chosen Frankfurt as their new European base

City and state officials balk at talk of a “race” for Brexit exiles; the somewhat undignified scramble for the business of the City of London is not in step with the self-assured image Frankfurt prefers to project.

But representatives have nonetheless been employing the “hard sell”. A recent video campaign produced by the German government as part of its bid for Frankfurt to host the European Banking Authority – filled with shots of millennials skating and surfboarding to a pulsating soundtrack – looks more like a chart-topping music video than a policy proposal.

And as Mr Schwebel is keen to point out, Frankfurt has a lot going for it: its manageable size, its largely English-speaking population, its convenient air and rail connections, and its family-friendly suburbia. For bankers, its favourable time zone also allows for a “never-ending day”: Asian markets can be serviced in the morning, the US in the evenings.

ECB headquarters
Frankfurt is already Germany’s financial capital and most banks have offices here. Getty

Then there is the price.

“Here we are talking about 38.50 euros (£35) a square metre a month,” says Knight Frank’s Elvin Durakovic, referring to the cost of office space. “In London it is approximately double”.

Yet Frankfurt’s pole position in the post-Brexit contest is largely down to pure convenience – most banks are already in the city, all they need to do is expand.

They won’t be doing so without some local consternation.

Rolf Janssen, a veteran of the local Mieterschutzverein, a tenant’s rights agency representing some 20,000 renters in the Frankfurt area, is concerned that the city – already one of the costliest in Germany – will become even more expensive for those not on the high salaries that are common in the financial services industry.

Half of Frankfurt’s inhabitants earn an average of 2,000 euros a month, while rent for a modest flat can be around 1,200 or 1,300, he explains.

“Thousands of people will come who have a lot of money,” he says of the anticipated post-Brexit influx.

“This is a very difficult situation. It used to be difficult for students or temp workers [to afford rent], but now it’s a problem for regular employees, and the middle class.”

Crucially, higher rents affect the Mietspiegel, or rental index, which is compiled by calculating average property prices for the previous four years, and used to regulate the rental market.

Pedestrians waling through Waterloo Bridge with the skyline of the City of London in the background
Despite Brexit, many bankers are reluctant to leave London. Getty

Nonetheless, Mr Janssen is keen to point out that he’s not suggesting UK workers be prevented from coming to the German financial capital.

“It is very important that so many British bankers are coming to Frankfurt,” he says.

“We don’t live in the middle ages, so we can’t say this is a castle and we keep the drawbridge up.”

Instead, the Mieterschutzverein wants to see more investment in affordable public housing – an issue that is already a talking point in the upcoming federal elections.

For city administrators, meanwhile, the lack of clarity on numbers is proving to be a planning headache.

“If 10,000 people show up in one year do we have space? Absolutely not,” says Paul Fochtman, the head of Frankfurt International School, which educates many of the children of those who work in the city’s skyscrapers.

The institution is bracing for a surge in pupils, but determining the capacity required is an impossible task.

“We ask ‘how many are you bringing’ and [the banks] say ‘we can’t tell you that yet’,” says Mr Fochtman, betraying some frustration.

“They are certainly coming – no question,” he adds.

“But how many and how quickly, that remains elusive”.

Frankfurt leads Paris in race to lure London bankers for post-Brexit banking world

July 26, 2017


© AFP/File / by Benoit TOUSSAINT | In the race to attract post-Brexit banking, Frankfurt has the edge over Paris, for now

PARIS (AFP) – In the competition to attract bankers fleeing London due to Brexit it appears Frankfurt is beating out Paris, although experts say the race is far from run.”In the first wave of relocations Frankfurt clearly has been a step ahead of Paris, which hasn’t had much to show,” said Nicolas Veron, a fellow at the Brussels think tank Bruegel as well as the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Thousands of well-paid jobs are at stake as banks and other financial companies plan to move out of London some operations and staff that handle European business ahead of Britain exiting the EU in 2019.

Several large international banks have already shown their interest in “Mainhattan”, the nickname given for Frankfurt’s financial district which is a stone throw from the river Main that flows through the city, home to the European Central Bank.

Among them are US heavyweights Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Daiwa Securities and Nomura, as well as Britain’s Standard Chartered.

“But remember that Paris wasn’t really on the radar until the end of the electoral cycle this year,” said Veron.

“There are structural changes underway with the new government but those are very recent and will take time to become credible.”

– Political stability –

“Some international banks already have a subsidiary or branch in Frankfurt. It is much easier to use these entities as a base than build one from scratch in an unfamiliar jurisdiction,” said one French banker on condition of anonymity.

Paris can at least count on the large French banks bringing back employees when they scale down their operations in London.

But it hasn’t had any announcements by international banks to show for its efforts since HSBC’s announcement last year that it was to relocate a thousand employees to the City of Light.

Even this was a mitigated victory, as HSBC already has a local unit in France, so Paris was always going to be a natural choice for the bank.

With competition to attract financial companies stiffening between Frankfurt, Dublin, Luxembourg, and Amsterdam “Paris suffers from negatives not linked to banking, like for example its labour laws,” said Nicolas Fleuret, an associate at Deloitte.

“Banks also want a modicum of political stability. The beginning of the year, with the French presidential election, fed concerns,” he told AFP.

“More generally, comparisons in this area haven’t been favourable for France in the past few years.”

One German financier said France’s new business-friendly President Emmanuel Macron arrived on the scene too recently to change people’s minds about his country’s drawbacks.

“Another big drawback for Paris was having a president (Francois Hollande) who said in his campaign that finance was the enemy” said the financier on condition of anonymity.

“The president has changed but for many banks it was too late, they had already made their decisions.”

– Jury still out –

But the game is far from over, experts said, noting that numerous banks haven’t announced their intentions while many institutions have only planned for a minimum transfer of staff and operations given the lack of visibility on the terms of Britain’s relations with the EU after it exits the bloc in 2019.

“We know of around a hundred banks searching for a new home for their European operations and only a couple dozen have made their choice,” said Hubertus Vaeth, director of Frankfurt Main Finance, the association promoting the city to foreign banks.

“By the number of announcements, Frankfurt is certainly ahead, but you’ve got to look into the details of how many jobs are effectively being moved, and most importantly which positions are being moved,” said Fleuret.

Paris Europlace, the group which is lobbying to attract London banks to the city, is unfazed by the recent announcements in favour of Frankfurt.

“The several dozen jobs announced for Frankfurt don’t represent yet a real relocation choice,” said Arnaud de Bresson, Paris Europlace’s managing director.

“When it comes to relocating market operations it is Paris which will be best placed. Paris is the capital of the markets on the continent, while Frankfurt is a city of traditional finance,” he said, noting that Paris already counted 150,000 jobs in the finance industry compared 70,000 for its German rival.


Leaked UK memo accuses Paris of wanting to sink City of London

July 17, 2017


© Leon Neal, AFP file picture | The City of London financial district, including the Gherkin (right) and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ (front) towers.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-07-17

France is pushing for a hard Brexit in a bid to weaken the City of London, the British finance sector’s EU frontman warned in a leaked report published on Sunday.

“They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London,” Jeremy Browne, a former government minister who is now the City’s Brexit envoy, said in a memo.

The leaked report, published by the Mail on Sunday tabloid, was written as a summary to ministers of a trip made by Browne to France in early July.

“The meeting with the French Central Bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU. They are in favour of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption,” he said.

Browne acknowledged there may be political benefits to France of playing “bad cop” in the negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, which began last month and resumed in Brussels on Monday.

But “we should nevertheless have our eyes open that France sees Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners”.

According to Browne, this approach was not confined to a few officials, but was a “whole-of-France collective endeavour, made both more giddy and more assertive by the election of (Emmanuel) Macron” as president in May”. Aside from his meeting with the French Central Bank, he did not specify which other officials he had spoken with.

Browne added that “every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further”.

He said they are “seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary”.

Many cities in running to replace London

Paris is competing with Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt, Madrid and Luxembourg for an expected shift in finance jobs out of London as a result of Brexit.

With Britain at risk of losing the “passporting rights” financial firms use to deal with clients in the rest of the bloc, employees in direct contact with customers may need to be based on EU territory in future.

The day after Britain voted to leave the EU in June last year, Valérie Pécresse, the head of the Paris regional government, sent out hand-signed letters to 4,000 small, medium and large international enterprises in London, underscoring the benefits of moving their businesses to Paris.

And in October, Paris’s financial centre La Défense launched the PR-campaign “Tired of the fog? Try the frogs” aimed at attracting companies across the Channel. In November, the city of Paris, the Paris regional government and the French chamber of commerce also set up a so-called “Brexit cell”, dubbed Choose Paris Region, a team exclusively dedicated to responding to queries — many of them anonymous — from companies considering a potential move from London to Paris in the light of Brexit.

Earlier this month, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe laid out a raft of measures aimed at boosting Paris’s attractiveness, including eliminating the top income tax bracket.

Browne, who was an MP for the pro-European Liberal Democrats until 2015, served as a junior foreign office minister in former prime minister David Cameron’s coalition government.

He was appointed special representative to the EU by the City of London Corporation, which represents the financial sector, in September 2015.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Pushback: Thousands of Kurds protest against Turkey’s Erdogan in Frankfurt

March 18, 2017


People carry flags during a demonstration organised by Kurds, in Frankfurt, Germany, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Around 9,000 Kurdish supporters demonstrated in the German city of Frankfurt on Saturday against Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and an April referendum that would give him sweeping new powers.

Protesters chanted “Erdogan terrorist” and “freedom for Ocalan”, referring to Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), with many waving flags featuring Ocalan’s face. The European Union and United States consider the PKK a terrorist group and it is banned in Germany.

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Abdullah Ocalan

“The Europeans should hear us, empathize with our suffering and help us. It would be best if they imposed economic sanctions on Turkey,” demonstrator Sinan Anin said.

Several hundred police officers were deployed at the demonstration, which police said was peaceful.

On Wednesday Martin Schaefer, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said the German government had approved voting by the estimated 1.4 million Turks living in Germany who are eligible to cast ballots in the April 16 referendum.

Erdogan is seeking support among Turks abroad for the referendum. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has said Erdogan is taking advantage of a sentiment many people of Turkish origin have in Germany that they are neither accepted nor welcomed.

Demonstrator Mustafa Bostan said if Erdogan won the referendum, things would worsen: “It could be that he’ll say: ‘I’ve won again’ and then he’ll start fighting again and destroying Kurdish towns or killing Kurds.”

Relations between Ankara and Berlin have been burdened by the arrest of a Turkish-German journalist in Turkey and by Erdogan’s description of bans on planned rallies by Turkish ministers as “fascist”.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Dale Hudson)

German Prosecutors Examining WikiLeaks Report on CIA Base

March 8, 2017

BERLIN — Germany’s federal prosecutors say they are examining a WikiLeaks report suggesting that the Central Intelligence Agency used the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt as a base for covert hackers.

The federal prosecutors’ office says the reports published Tuesday are being reviewed, but that this is a standard procedure.

Prosecutors said Wednesday that “if it turns out there is an initial suspicion of a concrete crime committed by a specific person then a preliminary investigation may be opened.”

German foreign ministry spokesman Sebastian Fischer said authorities were trying to verify the authenticity of the alleged CIA documents published WikiLeaks.

“The rest remains to be seen,” he said.

Relations between Berlin and Washington took a hit after Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA eavesdropping. It later transpired Germany had partly cooperated with the NSA.


Frankfurt used as remote hacking base for the CIA: WikiLeaks

March 8, 2017

WikiLeaks documents reveal CIA agents were given cover identities and diplomatic passports to enter the country. The base was used to develop hacking tools as part of the CIA’s massive digital arsenal.

Image may contain: sky, plant and outdoor

WikiLeaks released a trove of CIA documents on Tuesday that it claimed revealed details of its secret hacking arsenal.

The release included 8,761 documents that it claimed revealed details of “malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation.”
Wikileaks reveals CIA spy techniques

The leaks purportedly revealed that a top secret CIA unit used the German city of Frankfurt am Main as the starting point for numerous hacking attacks on Europe, China and the Middle East.

Frankfurt base

WikiLeaks reported that the group developed trojans and other malicious software in the American Consulate General Office, the largest US consulate in the world. The programs focused on targets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The documents revealed that CIA experts worked in the building under cover and included advice for life in Germany.

“Do not leave anything electronic or sensitive unattended in your room,” it told employees, also advising them to enjoy Lufthansa’s free alcohol “in moderation.”


The Frankfurt hackers, part of the Center for Cyber Intelligence Europe, were said to be given diplomatic passports and a State Department identity. It instructed employees how to safely enter Germany. A WikiLeaks tweet published an section of the Frankfurt information.

View image on Twitter

CIA tips for its hackers going to the covert CIA hacking base hidden in the US consulate in Frankfurt 


The consulate was the focus of a German investigation into US intelligence capabilities following the 2013 revelation that NSA agents had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.

German daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported the building was known to be home to a vast network of intelligence personnel including CIA agents, NSA spies, military secret service personnel, Department of Homeland Security employees and Secret Service employees. It reported the Americans had also established a dense network of outposts and shell companies in Frankfurt.

Televisions turned into bugs

An intelligence expert who examined the dump, Rendition Infosec founder Jake Williams, told news agency Associated Press the documents appeared legitimate.

Bob Ayers, a retired US intelligence official currently working as a security analyst told AP the release was “real bad” for the agency.

Jonathan Liu, a spokesman for the CIA, told AP: “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”

According to WikiLeaks the documents revealed that the CIA could remotely activate certain Samsung smart televisions equipped with cameras and microphones to turn them into bugs.

Smartphones hacked

WikiLeaks also claimed that if the CIA had hacked a cell phone, it could then bypass encryption methods used by popular chat programs such as Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal and Confide. This prompted some concern at first online that all such messaging “Apps” were no longer effectively encrypted – but the exploit only applied to people whose phones are already compromised. According to the leaks, the CIA has undocumented exploits on popular smartphone models.

In a series of tweets NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said deliberately leaving vulnerabilities in software and hardware open left public users susceptible to attacks.

If you’re writing about the CIA/@Wikileaks story, here’s the big deal: first public evidence USG secretly paying to keep US software unsafe.

The CIA reports show the USG developing vulnerabilities in US products, then intentionally keeping the holes open. Reckless beyond words.

Evidence mounts showing CIA & FBI knew about catastrophic weaknesses in the most-used smartphones in America, but kept them open — to spy. 


Snowden said the documents appeared to be genuine.

The documents also revealed that the CIA had the ability to conduct false flag attacks using malware stolen from other nations.

According to WikiLeaks the trove showed that the CIA had lost control of its arsenal of hacking tools.

WikiLeaks said it was given the files by an anonymous source who wanted to shed public light on the hacking programs.

The collection of documents vastly outnumbered the trove on the NSA released by Snowden.

aw/msh (dpa, AP)

European cities ramp up security for New Year after Berlin attack

December 30, 2016


German policemen patrol with submachine gun at the Brandenburg Gate, ahead of the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations in Berlin, Germany, December 30, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
By Oliver Denzer and Geert De Clercq | BERLIN/PARIS

European capitals tightened security on Friday ahead of New Year’s celebrations, erecting concrete barriers in city centres and stepping up police numbers after the Islamic State attack in Berlin last week that killed 12 people.

In the German capital, police closed the Pariser Platz square in front of the Brandenburg Gate and prepared to deploy 1,700 extra officers, many along a party strip where armored cars will flank concrete barriers blocking off the area.

“Every measure is being taken to prevent a possible attack,” Berlin police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf told Reuters TV. Some police officers would carry sub-machine guns, he said, an unusual tactic for German police.

Last week’s attack in Berlin, in which a 24-year old Tunisian ploughed a truck into a Christmas market, has prompted German lawmakers to call for tougher security measures.

In Milan, where police shot the man dead, security checks were set up around the main square. Trucks were banned from the centres of Rome and Naples. Police and soldiers cradled machine guns outside tourists sites including Rome’s Colosseum.

Madrid plans to deploy an extra 1,600 police on the New Year weekend. For the second year running, access to the city’s central Puerta del Sol square where revellers traditionally gather to bring in the New Year will be restricted to 25,000 people, with police setting up barricades to control access.

In Cologne in western Germany, where hundreds of women were sexually assaulted and robbed outside the central train station on New Year’s Eve last year, police have installed new video surveillance cameras to monitor the station square.

The attacks in Cologne, where police said the suspects were mainly of North African and Arab appearance, fueled criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to accept nearly 900,000 migrants last year.

The Berlin attack has intensified that criticism.

In Frankfurt, home to the European Central Bank and Germany’s biggest airport, more than 600 police officers will be on duty on New Year’ Eve, twice as many as in 2015.

In Brussels, where Islamist suicide bombers killed 16 people and injured more than 150 in March, the mayor was reviewing whether to cancel New Year fireworks but decided this week that they would go ahead.


In Paris, where Islamic State gunmen killed 130 people last November, authorities prepared for a high-security weekend, the highlight of which will be the fireworks on the Champs-Élysées, which some 600,000 people are expected to attend.

Ahead of New Year’s Eve, heavily armed soldiers patrolled popular Paris tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre museum.

Across France, more than 90,000 police and thousands of soldiers will be on duty for New Year’s Eve, authorities said.

On Wednesday, police in southwest France, arrested a man suspected of having planned an attack on New Year’s Eve.

Two other people, one of whom was suspected of having planned an attack on police, were arrested in a separate raid, also in southwest France near Toulouse, police sources told Reuters.

In Vienna, police handed out more than a thousand pocket alarms to women, eager to avoid a repeat of the sexual assaults that blighted Cologne’s New Year’s Eve in 2015.

“At present, there is no evidence of any specific danger in Austria. However, we are talking about an increased risk situation,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said.

“We leave nothing to chance with regard to security.”

In Ukraine, police arrested a man on Friday who they suspect was planning a Berlin copycat attack in the city of Odessa.

(Additional reporting by Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt, Kirsti Knolle in Vienna, Teis Jensen in Copenhagen, Isla Binnie in Rome, Sarah White in Madrid and Robert Muller in Prague; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Louise Ireland)