Schindler's parents are from Siebenbürgen and Bessarabia. He completed his Abitur in 1972 and spent his military service in a Paratrooper division of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces. He is an Oberleutnant of the reserves. He began studying legal science in 1974 at Saarland University in Saarbrücken. He passed the first and second German legal exams in 1980 and 1982 respectively.
Schindler served as a Law Enforcement Officer for the Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Border Guard). In 1985, he became an instructor in the Civil Defense department of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. He served at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Cologne from 1987 to 1989 as a division head. In 1989, he returned to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. He served as director of the budget department, permanent representative of the leader of the headquarters and leader of the "Modern State - Modern Administration" administrative department. In 2003, he became the leader of the Counter-terrorism department. Since 2008, he has been Undersecretary for Public security. Within this role, he has provided supervisory oversight for the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. He is seen as an authority on crime, terrorism, IT security, and computer crime. In 2012, he replaced Ernst Uhrlau as president of the Bundesnachrichtendienst.
He is married and has one child.
Schindler made headlines in May 2012 when he used his personal agency airplane (a Dassault Falcon 900) to transport a rug weighing 30 kilograms (66 lb) from Afghanistan back to Germany for free as a "personal favor" for Dirk Niebel, the Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development. Niebel did not make a customs declaration or payment of duty until after the issue had been investigated by Der Spiegel, a German newsweekly. Schindler and Niebel's public statements contradicted each other.
In July 2013, Schindler was pressed for answers in the wake of the Global surveillance disclosures when it was reported that the German Army was using PRISM to support its operations in Afghanistan as early as 2011. The BND stated that a separate NATO platform was in use, which was contested by the Federal Ministry of Defence.
Beginning on 10 August 2013, German media reported that under Schindler's direction, the BND was passing mobile phone data to the United States that was used in the U.S.'s targeted killing program.
In April 2015, Schindler was criticized by politicians of all parties in the German Parliament for the BND's cooperation with the NSA for spying on European firms and politicians, including German interests. The Left and the Green Party called for Schindler to be fired; the Social Democratic Party, the junior coalition partner, called for an investigation.
- Rolle der Deutschen in der NSA-Affäre: Schäubles Musterschüler beschnüffeln die Bürger, in Stern, 24 July 2013
- Geheimdienst: Gerhard Schindler (59) wird neuer BND-Chef in DerWesten, published by Funke Mediengruppe, 7 December 2011
- Ex-BND-Chef Schindler wird Unternehmensberater.
- Vom BND-Chef zum Unternehmensberater.
- "Minister hits turbulence over flying carpet affair". The Local. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
- "German minister under fire for Afghanistan carpet flight". Telegraph. 2012-06-08. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
- "German minister chided for flying carpet from Kabul". GEO TV. Archived from the original on 13 June 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
- Gebauer, Matthias; Gude, Hubert (2012-06-07). "Afghanistan-Souvenir im BND-Jet: Minister Niebels fliegender Teppich" [Afghanistan Souvenir in a BND Jet: Minister Niebel's Flying Carpet] (in German). Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
- Teppich im Geheimdienst-Jet: BND-Chef widerspricht Minister Niebel in Spiegel Online, 14 June 2012
- "The German Army was using PRISM to support its operations in Afghanistan as early as 2011". Der Spiegel (in German). 17 July 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
- BND-Chef Schindler: Der NSA-Lehrling in Spiegel Online, 22 July 2013
- Kooperation mit US-Geheimdiensten: Unmut über BND-Chef Schindler, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10 August 2013
- Eckart Lohse: Kanzleramt übt heftige Kritik an BND Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 April 2015
- "German spy chief faces calls to resign following NSA revelations". Deutsche Welle. Deutsche Presse-Agentur. 2015-04-24. Retrieved 2015-05-08.