... the head of the German Foreign Intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler, last week told a select group of German lawmakers that intercepted communications had convinced German intelligence officials that Assad did not order or approve what is believed to be a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people in Damascus’ eastern suburbs.
... The German intelligence briefing to lawmakers described by Bild am Sonntag fits neither narrative precisely. The newspaper’s article said that on numerous occasions in recent months, the German intelligence ship named Oker, which is off the Syrian coast, has intercepted communications indicating that field officers have contacted the Syrian presidential palace seeking permission to use chemical weapons and have been turned down.
The article added that German intelligence does not believe Assad sanctioned the alleged attack on August 21.
Last week, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, also citing a briefing for German legislators, said that the Oker had intercepted a phone call between a commander from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and an official at an unidentified Iranian embassy saying that Assad had ordered the Aug. 21 chemical attack out of anger. The Hezbollah commander called the attack a “huge mistake,” Der Spiegel said. It was not clear if the two news accounts were based on the same or different briefings.(H/t Weasel Zippers).