Shorter German Intelligence Agencies: We need to criminalize dissent

Right-wing populism poses new problem for German intel

German authorities are unsure how to deal with the new rise of the populist right, according to a leaked paper. The boundaries between extremist margins and the “decent, middle” of society are dissolving.

A report leaked from a meeting of Germany’s domestic intelligence agencies has revealed some uncertainty about how to deal with the rise of the populist far-right in the country.

All 17 agencies of the domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, representing Germany’s 16 states plus the federal government), met in Cologne late last week to discuss the threat presented by the new populist movement in the country – embodied on a political level by the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

But it soon became clear that the officials were unsure about the best strategy. According to a report in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” the federal agency’s 12-page guide to the state agencies was withdrawn at the last minute by BfV chief Hans-Georg Maassen on the grounds that it was not yet ready. Instead, the meeting went on to discuss just one particular strand of the far-right threat –
the so-called “Reichsbürger” movement, one of whose members killed a police officer in October.

Not only that, the contents of the unready paper – leaked to the SZ – showed just how muddy the waters had become at the right end of Germany’s political spectrum, and how difficult this made the BfV’s job. Distinguishing between an extremist threat and democratic opposition has become harder than ever.