Montag, 15. Juni 2020

The hidden political agenda: Why not shutting down the BND?

Many years ago, Wolfgang Schäuble - at that time interior minister of a German federal state - had the idea of installing the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung as a kind of secret service instead of the traditional intelligence agencies as BfV or BND.

Well, now is the opportunity to implement his idea and, moreover, to make the decades of work of certain German and foreign political circles a reality: the complete shutdown of all German secret service work and to lead necessary, efficient government advice to an end.

(For those who are not so familiar with irony: The following screenshot is irony)

With the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court of May 19, 2020 (1 BvR 2835/17) the German Foreign intelligence agency BND has been weakened: According to the verdict, the BND will have to base its strategic telecommunications reconnaissance abroad, which is SIGINT and therefore the surveillance of persons abroad, on the German constitution. This means that, for example, Islamist terrorists or members of Mexican drug cartels will in principle be able to refer on Article 10 of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) in the future. This protects the confidentiality of individual communication. The new verdict does not generally prohibit this operations of the BND, but will require a new regulation by the end of 2021 at the latest, with which professional groups such as foreign journalists and their sources are to be given special protection. This is associated with great bureaucratic and legal hurdles. A timely and efficient surveillance of relevant targets, who are actually viewed as a threat to the German Basic Law - terrorists, organized crime, arms dealers and the spies of enemy powers, - is hardly possible anymore. The parliamentarian controls and bureaucratic regulations of German security authorities have been intensified for many years. At the same time, current developments show that due to this bureaucracy some dangerous delays in the necessary investigation became obvious.

The first reactions of Western intelligence services regarding the verdict show the great frustration: International cooperation with the BND has now been made more difficult. But: Germany needs this cooperation! Without the help of the partners in Cheltenham and Maryland many horrible threats to Germany would have been realized!

The verdict explicitly restricts the "Third Party Rule", which has been tried and tested for years, according to international partners determine which information the BND must not pass on to German parliamentarians. One goal is the protection of sensitive sources that have repeatedly been extremely endangered or leaked as part of the German investigation committees and controls. The mutual exchange of information between BND and foreign partners will now be massively hindered again, because the new verdict requires the establishment of a new, powerful supervisory body in Germany, which must be informed about every detail of this cooperation. The partner state must meet certain legal criteria parallel to the German law. In the future, foreigners who feel that the BND is watching them can file a lawsuit in Germany. This can block investigative proceedings for years. The strategic telecommunications reconnaissance has already been intensively controlled by the so-called "Independent Board" since 2016 and has been accepted with good results.

In view of this drastic verdict, there is a presumption that there is a political agenda behind it, which apparently wants to change the BND in its current structure: Supporters of the mostly foreign plaintiffs include some people who have been left-wing radicals for many years criticizing the German intelligence services, engaging politically and publishing in radical leftist media. This also includes bloggers who had published BfV classified documents on the Internet and were therefore (unsuccessful) investigated 2015 because of treason. One thing is for sure: The new verdict is in the interest of every hostile intelligence agency.

Something else is alarming: The verdict shows the influence of political interests on security policy institutions in Germany. Although some of the plaintiffs had rather unclear arguments, their lawsuit was successful. For example, the Dutch journalist Paul van Gageldonk explains: "Of course, I can not prove that my contacts to right-wing and right-wing populist actors in Germany and the Netherlands have led to the BND’s pursuit of my activities. In my experience with surveillance I would not be surprised."

The rather unknown German journalist Michael Mörth claims that “local and foreign intelligence agencies might be interested in intercepting my communication and spread the information in global intelligence networks." 

One must also ask why the plaintiffs chose the BND, which - compared to many other Western intelligence agencies - is now monitored by a large number of supervisory authorities. The Mexican plaintiff José Raúl Olmos Castillo is particularly impressive in his naivety and arbitrariness. He only says that “the confidentiality of digital communication is essential for our work. Without that, sources and colleagues do not trust us. Therefore I'm very worried about global surveillance and support the project against the BND law.”

In passing, why are so many people convinced that they are so important? It is astonishing how many people assume that they are being watched - by dark powers, by secret services, by the Illuminati and of course - this is the knighthood - by the BND. I seem to have overlooked the insidious BND officers' throwing journalists and activists into gulags, ban their family members from studying or traveling, and putting people without trial into jail.

Apparently, the lawsuit was not interested in e.g. Russian, Iranian or Chinese secret services and their aggressive operations against human rights groups and journalists. The plaintiffs were represented, among others, by the Iranian-born lawyer Bijan Moini, who also gives various interviews to the Marxist “Junge Welt”. This newspaper is described by the BfV as the largest left-wing extremist print medium. In his book "Rettet die Freiheit“ (Save Freedom), published in January 2020, Moini claimed that the BfV "would trigger more scandals than hunt terrorists". He therefore calls for a massive strengthening of the supposedly more important Federal Constitutional Court - which has now decided in his spirit: The BfV is of course also affected by the verdict against the BND's foreign operations.

German security authorities are increasingly concerned about such politically motivated decisions: In March 2020, the left-wing radical party "Die Linke", represented in the Bundestag, declared at a conference that "one percent of the rich would be shot dead after a revolution." An employee of this party in the Bundestag demanded that "information should be taken from the state apparatus" and „leaked to the extra-parliamentary movement". In May 2020, Barbara Borchardt was finally elected judge in the State Constitutional Court of the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. She is not only a member of the party “Die Linke”, but also of the “Anti-Capitalist Left”, which is observed by the BfV as an anti-constitutional, left-wing extremist organization. Like the BfV, the constitutional court has the mandate to protect Germany from threats to the constitution.

The verdict itself was announced by the new court president Stephan Harbarth. The lawsuit was directed against parts of the BND amendment in 2016: At that time Harbarth himself voted for the amendment. And he talked to the parliamentarian audience:

On December 1, 2011, Harbarth voted to "continue the participation of armed German forces in the EU-led Operation Atalanta to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia". 

For every student of International Relations, first semester, it is obvious: The security of this operation was ensured, among other things, by the BND's strategic telecommunications reconnaissance. 

Apparently he didn't think about it when he pronounced his judgment. Maybe he just forgot it. New job, new opportunities!