Once a year, all three German intelligence chiefs have to face the parliamentary control committee of the Bundestag (PKGr) in a public meeting. Bruno Kahl (BND), Thomas Haldenwang (BfV) and Christof Gramm (MAD) had their professional officer smile on Monday in the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus in Berlin. But her smile in front of the cameras looked strained.
No wonder: the past few months have been characterized by constant revelations about extreme right-wing networks in security agencies and in the Bundeswehr Special Forces Command (KSK); the practices of the constitutional protection are discussed again in the course of the trial against the alleged murderers of Walter Lübcke and in February a racist in Hanau murdered ten people. And a pandemic with serious consequences.
In his opening statement, BfV chief Haldenwang named right-wing extremism and right-wing terrorism as the “biggest threat” at the moment. The potential rose by 33 percent to around 32,000 followers last year. Anti-Semitic violence and crimes by right-wing extremists have increased by around 17 percent each. Haldenwang also reported that since last week the association “One percent” has been classified as a suspected case in the field of right-wing extremism. The new rights, to which this is to be counted, are increasingly being considered.
Networks and structures
MAD chief Gramm again stated that a “new dimension” of right-wing extremism could be seen in the Bundeswehr. Military intelligence has not yet found an “underground army”. »Networks and structures of different quality« do exist, however. The Uniter association is now classified as a suspected case. Another focus of the defense against extremism is the elite KSK. So far, the MAD has processed 30 suspected cases, 20 more are currently being examined. Three “extremists” and five people with a lack of constitutional loyalty were found, from the MAD’s point of view a preliminary stage to extremism. Gramm complained of a “wall of silence” in the unit, which made investigations more difficult. Gramm did not reveal how he intends to break through this. He also did not comment on the question of whether he sees the KSK as capable of reform.
In the meantime, explosive information was mentioned on the sidelines of the hearing: A joint working group from BfV and MAD examined the activities and attitudes of more than 1,000 reservists. as a result, 800 of them were “planned out”. The law makes it easier to separate from reservists than from active members of the Bundeswehr, Gramm said.
BND President Kahl said the corona pandemic acts as a catalyst for existing conflicts. The danger posed by Islamists and the “left-wing extremist scene” generally only occurred marginally. BfV President Haldenwang emphasized, however, that neither phenomenon should be underestimated.
Left Party under observation
The head of domestic intelligence said in this regard that with the anti-capitalist left (AKL), the communist platform and the socialist left, there were also movements within the left party that were not only against current economic policy, but also against the Basic Law. Haldenwang described the fact that the left-wing politician Barbara Borchardt, who is a member of the AKL, was called to the state constitutional court in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania as “unbearable”.
From the perspective of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, hotspots of the “extreme left scene” exist in Berlin, Hamburg and increasingly in Leipzig. Clandestine groups are particularly active in the Saxon city. In general, the scene is increasingly saying goodbye to the consensus “no violence” and accepting the “death of people”, Haldenwang said. The BfV chief cited an alleged arson attack on cranes in Leipzig in October as an example.
Haldenwang opposed an “illusory intellectual style of extreme left-wing theorists”. There is no “noble extremism,” he told MPs. According to the BfV, the number of left-wing extremist crimes increased by almost 40 percent in 2019. The scene counts 33,500 people, an increase of 4.7 percent compared to the previous year. Domestic intelligence rated 9,200 of them as “violence-oriented”.
Apart from numerous declarations of intent and promises of transparency, the heads of the intelligence services remained quite nebulous in the three-hour survey. When, for example, left-wing MP André Hahn asked about the “Maximator” secret service program of some EU countries, including Germany, BND President Bruno Kahl did not even want to confirm its existence. The involvement of the secret services in right-wing crimes was not addressed, and sympathy among government officials for ideologies was hardly perceived as a problem.