Tech & Rights

Intelligence Services Reform Under Consideration in Germany

The German Federal Ministry of the Interior recently initiated a draft law to improve cooperation between the country's secret services. The bill had its first reading in the German Bundestag in late April.

by Adriana Kessler
Photo: Markus Winkler - Flickr/CC content

The German Bundestag is considering a legislative proposal that aims to improve effectiveness in the fight against extremist and terrorist movements by strengthening the cooperation between the BfV (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz), the German domestic intelligence service, and the 16 LfV (Landesämter für Verfassungsschutz), the regional intelligence services in each German state.

The lack of cooperation is said to be one of the reasons for the country's initial failure to uncover the National Socialist Underground murders. The far-right organization murdered nine immigrants and one police officer in different German cities between 2000 and 2006. The serial murders became public knowledge in 2011 and the criminal case is still before a court.

The legislative proposal is criticized for several reasons, among them:

  • It not only enables more and uncontrolled data flow—including personal data—between the German intelligence services, but it also broadens the BND's (German foreign intelligence service) surveillance competencies for cybercrimes—a topic highly debated at the moment because of the alleged cooperation between the NSA and the BND in past years without any effective control.
  • Although it regulates the use of undercover agents for the first time, which is good, the proposal could lead to unpunished crimes committed by undercover agents. According to the proposal, it is allowed to not prosecute crimes committed by undercover agents if: the use of the respective undercover agent had the aim to uncover plots or crimes against democracy or the German state; or the committed crime was expected from the undercover agent in such a way that the crime was indispensable to gain and secure information.

Further discussions on the proposal are expected.

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