Over 3,000 German spies posted abroad could be at risk after it emerged that a double agent unmasked last year stole a list of their real identities and may have sold it to a hostile foreign agency, according to a media report.
The double agent, who has been identified only as Markus R under strict German privacy laws, obtained a top secret list of the real names, aliases and locations of 3,500 German intelligence officers posted abroad, Germany's Bild newspaper reported.
According to the DPA news agency, German intelligence sources have sought to downplay the incident, briefing that the list in question was out of date and contained far fewer than 3,500 names.
The arrest of Markus R last year caused a major diplomatic rift between Germany and the US, after it emerged he had acted as a double agent for the CIA.
He had also approached Russian intelligence and offered to sell them secret information, and there are fears he may have passed the list of German spies' names to a hostile foreign agency, the newspaper said in its report.
An employee of the BND, Germany's equivalent of MI6, Markus R worked in the registry section of its overseas operations department, where he had access to top secret documents including the identities of operatives posted abroad.
The stolen list, which is said to date from 2011, is believed to contain the real identities and aliases of BND officers posted under cover as diplomats to various embassies around the world, and of those working secretly in countries where the German military has missions abroad, including Afghanistan.
The list was found on a hard drive seized during a search of his home after his arrest, which has only recently been properly evaluated.
Markus R's unmasking was one of two spying scandals that badly shook US-German relations last summer, and saw Angela Merkel's government ask the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country.
Markus R has reportedly confessed to passing the CIA more than 200 secret documents over a period of two years, in return for payments of 25,000 Euros.
He appears to have been motivated by money rather than ideology, and it is the possibility that he may have sold German spies' real identities to a hostile foreign intelligence agency that will be of most concern now, the report said.