The largest foreign intelligence service headquarters on the planet just opened its doors in Berlin, reports the Guardian—just not to the public. The new home of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service took 12 years to build and cost $1.23 billion. Covering a site where an East German sports stadium once stood, the building has a footprint the size of 36 soccer pitches. About 4,000 intelligence agents are expected to work in the secretive new building, where they will not be allowed mobile phones, private laptops, or access to personal emails or social media. The building, which swallowed up 4.8 million cubic feet of concrete and 20,000 tons of steel in its production, was supposed to open in 2011. It was postponed because of construction issues, and a bit of theft: In 2015, a group of thieves stole taps from toilets all over the massive complex, causing widespread flooding.
Memories of the Gestapo and Stasi are still very much alive in Berlin, explains the New York Times, and the Federal Intelligence Service has faced criticism in recent years. Germans value their privacy and are notoriously mistrustful of such agencies. A 2016 poll showed only a quarter of respondents having any trust in the service. Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at a press conference in Berlin announcing the opening of the new headquarters. “In an often very confusing world,” she said, “now, more urgently than ever, Germany needs a strong and efficient foreign intelligence service.” (Read more Germany stories.)