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German intelligence agency comes clean on secret sites

BERLIN--Germany's foreign intelligence agency officially lifted the lid on some of its worst-kept secrets Friday, acknowledging that half a dozen facilities around the country are in fact spy stations — as anyone with Internet access could already figure out.

The Federal Intelligence Service, known by its German acronym BND, maintained the facade for decades that it had nothing to do with sites bearing cryptic names such as "Ionosphere Institute." But amateur sleuths long suspected their true identities and posted them on websites such as Wikipedia.

The subterfuge wasn't helped by the fact that some sites sport unmistakable signs of spy activity, like the giant golf ball-shaped radomes in Bad Aibling, near Munich — until now, the "Telecommunications Traffic Office of the German Armed Forces."

The agency officially attached its logo to the site's entrance at a ceremony Friday, and BND chief Gerhard Schindler posed for photographers in front of the radomes.

The rebranding is part of an effort by Schindler to make the work of Germany's spies more transparent. The agency has sought to distance itself from some of its counterparts following Edward Snowden's revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency, insisting it follows the law and doesn't conduct unwarranted mass surveillance.

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