Rolf Gossner on the Reformability of Interception Protection
What are the consequences of the NPD prohibition proceedings?? 15 percent of the NPD’s executive board members worked for years as undercover agents for the Verfangsschutzbehorden. Their cover was only blown during the ban proceedings, and the trial collapsed. Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti spoke with intelligence expert and author Rolf Gossner about the consequences of the so far largest V-man affair in the Federal Republic of Germany.
How influential was and is the Verfangsschutz (VS) in the NPD?? Rolf Gossner: Hard to say. About 30 of the 200 NPD executive board members had been in the pay of the secret service as undercover agents for years – that is, almost one in seven, and there may have been over a hundred at all party levels. The large number of state-paid enemies of interception alone may have had a considerable influence on the extreme right-wing NPD. For example, the undercover agents Wolfgang Frenz and Udo Holtmann helped to build up the NPD for decades, directed it in leading positions and gave it a racist imprint. As informers, they themselves helped to shape the field of observation that they were supposed to observe from the inside for the VS; they strengthened the NPD instead of weakening it. A number of other undercover agents have also risen to leading party positions, in which they have inevitably had a decisive influence on the party’s goals and activities. These include Carsten Szczepanski, Michael Grube, Mathias Meyer and Tino Brandt. At the same time, the VS has not prevented them from continuing to spy for it – even though undercover agents do not make any decisions or "Object of observation" nor were they allowed to influence their objectives or activities "determine decisively", "have a controlling influence" or "demand in the long term". This is similar to what is stated in most of the VS service regulations. In a landmark decision, the Federal Administrative Court ruled on the observation of the "Republicans" require that when using undercover agents in a party, special consideration must be given to the party’s right to self-determination, so that the exchange of opinions within the party is not unsettled and the formation of opinion is not adversely affected.
The state bears a share of responsibility
Can one really conclude from the high function, which a V-man of the VS takes in an observation object, to special influence of the VS? Rolf Gossner: Leading party function and controlling influence are naturally very close to each other, may even be congruent as a rule. After all, leadership means influence on the fate of the party, on its concrete policies and actions. When the leading person is also state-financed "Source" If the V-man is a person who has to fulfill a certain mission, he or she behaves differently than if he or she did not fulfill this V-man function. The influence is exerted irrespective of whether the interception service or the V-man leader are aware of the influence, approve of it or even demand it in a premeditated and targeted manner. Many of the V-Leute used in the NPD were, moreover, dominant characters who had an unfortunate influence on younger, politically still less developed NPD supporters, which also led some of them to a criminal career. This fatal influence of paid undercover agents in the NPD was allowed to continue far beyond the active undercover times of such agents "Role models" beyond and was allowed to have damaged many a personality. The VS and the supporters of such operations must also deal with this. Can the NPD therefore be regarded as "Product" of the VS? Rolf Gossner: No, not at all. The NPD has not become an artificial product of the VS, despite the forced, supportive influence of the informers. Their racist, inhumane policies are "homemade" – The party and its functionaries are responsible for them. The behavior of the right-wing extremist V-people as tight-knit NPD members and leadership cadres has also fit into the overall picture of the NPD. In this respect, we cannot follow the arguments of the NPD, which – completely innocent of any wrongdoing – brazenly claims that the changes and behavior incriminated in the ban proceedings were solely the work of those who were active in the party on behalf of the secret service. Declaring the NPD to be a phantom party controlled by the VS and made ready for banning by undercover agents was probably less the result of paranoid conspiratorial thinking than of a rational defense strategy. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the borderline between the Verfangsschutz and the Verfangsschutz -infiltrated NPD was difficult to distinguish as a result of the infiltration. V-men in the service of the Verfangsschutz have played a partly unlawful, partly criminal, partly provocative, partly prominent role in the NPD, from which the Verfangsschutz and thus the state cannot be exempt. Also and just not, if this happens in the name of the democracy, the Verfang and the liberty. At least in the case of Frenz and Holtmann, but not only here, the limits for the use of V-men have been clearly exceeded. Their activities are not solely attributable to the NPD, but also to the state. This means: the state bears a share of responsibility for this.
Reform of the interception system is being considered more in terms of expanding its authority
Is there any political will to really reform the work of the Verfangsschutzamter after the bursting of the proceedings to ban the NPD?? Rolf Gossner: Unfortunately no. Apart from a few lip service from interior and security politicians of all parties immediately after the case was closed, nothing has been done so far. Only the coalition government has made internal efforts to push through a reform of the intelligence service structure in the face of much resistance. Most proposals at the political level, however, fall far short of the mark because they do not venture into the secret structures, i.e., the substance of interception protection. As a rule, these are proposals aimed at reducing its scandalousness and increasing its efficiency – although this will hardly be measurable in the future, if only for reasons of secrecy. It was by no means enough to merely reduce the number of the total of 17 intelligence agencies and to merge individual offices or to better coordinate the use of undercover agents. Even the establishment of a nationwide register of informers will hardly be able to alleviate the misery and effectively curtail the proliferation of informers. In the slipstream of the reform discussion, which is perceived as urgent, there are also "Reform forces", who want to seize the opportunity to extend the scope for the use of undercover agents by law, for example by giving them more leeway "milieu-related" Admitting crimes. In addition, some also want to get rid of old habits, i.e., the principles of the rule of law, such as the mandatory separation of intelligence services and the police – a consequence of the bitter experience with the Gestapo, which was active in both intelligence and executive functions. Although this separation has already been severely perforated and will be further "Antiterror"-Laws leveraged even further. Now, however, increasingly loud voices are being heard suggesting – for the sake of greater clout – that the VS should be merged with the state protection departments of the police. This led to an enormous, ultimately undemocratic, because uncontrollable concentration of power, which the separation requirement was originally intended to avoid. How then should a Verfangsschutz reform look like? Rolf Gossner: We must recognize that the numerous informers in the right-wing scene have not significantly increased the intelligence value for the Verfangsschutz: For a long time, the VS dismissed right-wing violence as spontaneous and unorganized, downplayed membership and activist numbers, and denied networking and organization. What the Verfangsschutz has sometimes brought to light, at a cost of millions, has always been quite disappointing for those familiar with the brown scene. This speaks for little efficiency. However, anyone who wants to reform the Verfangsschutz must not only aim at increasing efficiency and improving control without taking into account the fundamental problems of secret services as well as their history, practices and scandals. Such an abbreviated approach would be devoid of history and richly opportunistic. Anyone who wants to reform the interception system must first try to take stock of the situation and carry out a quantitative and qualitative evaluation. So far, there has been no such unbiased and critical stocktaking. Only on such a basis a general revision can be accomplished. In the end, the V-man system and the associated system of secrecy can only be broken up if the systematic use of these intelligence means is stopped and the symbiosis of enemies of interception and interceptors that has become apparent is brought to an end. The International League for Human Rights, of which you are president, recently used your book as an opportunity to formulate demands to politicians. What is at the heart of the matter?? Rolf Gossner: Since its foundation, the International League for Human Rights has critically examined state authorities and their activities. With regard to the Verfangsschutz, it demanded: – a complete clarification of the V-man affair in connection with the NPD prohibition proceedings and its failure, as well as a reappraisal of the scandalous history of the Verfangsschutz; – an immediate halt to the V-man nonsense and the scandalous involvement of the Verfangsschutz in neo-Nazi scenes and right-wing extremist parties; – the establishment of an independent intelligence commission to review the tasks and powers, working methods and structures of the Verfangsschutz authorities, as well as their efficiency, which has never been examined; appropriate consequences must be drawn from these findings and implemented – in this respect, the red-green coalition agreement of fall 2002 is recalled, in which such an evaluation was agreed upon; – the appointment of an independent intelligence commissioner, who similar to the data protection commissioner – must be equipped with far-reaching examination powers such as the right to inspect and interrogate files, as well as with a team capable of work, in order to at least professionalize and intensify the notoriously deficient control of the secret services – knowing full democratic control of secret services that contradict the principle of democratic transparency will not be achievable; – the reduction of the total of 19 German secret services at the federal level and in the federal states. I share these demands. But regardless of the filigree work involved in the attempt to tame the Verfangsschutz in accordance with the rule of law, this gross V-man affair in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany could possibly give impetus to the idea of dissolving this domestic intelligence service altogether, because its work is incompatible with democratic principles and constitutional procedures. This would also be a really serious blow against the neo-Nazi scene – as the neo-Nazi dropout and journalist Jorg Fischer already suspected years ago – because then their "The party’s main employer and financial backer was suddenly gone".
Instead of secret services, it would have made much more sense to set up an open, scientific documentation center for the observation, research and analysis of right-wing extremism
What changed in the NPD during and after the failure of the ban proceedings?? Rolf Gossner: It is not yet clear whether the NPD has emerged strengthened or rather weakened from this affair. Originally, the applications for a ban had put the party, its functionaries, members and supporters under a certain prere to accept the ban and had forced them to exercise tactical restraint. However, there was also an opposite trend: The NPD was virtually infiltrated by young, violent neo-Nazis and skinheads after the initiation of the ban proceedings, according to Lower Saxony’s Verfangsschutz – in other words, the threat of a ban made the party really attractive to some. The petitioners in the ban proceedings, especially the federal and state governments, helped the NPD to a certain triumph with their tactics before the Federal Constitutional Court. Their functionaries were able to celebrate the Karlsruhe decision like an acquittal, like a victory they themselves had earned, which they brazenly celebrated with "1 : 0 for Germany, Mr. Schily" although the court had not made any decision on the merits of the case. The NPD was able to give up its tactical restraint after the end of the trial, can continue its racist policy, can continue to organize demonstrations, as it has done increasingly in northern Germany since then, can continue to carry out right-wing extremist propaganda, can bind the violent spectrum to itself and possibly also collect state election campaign funds – while at the same time it is being reported in VS reports "similarity in essence to National Socialism" and a "openly expressed hostility to the free democratic basic order" is attested. The chapter is therefore far from closed – which it would not have been even after a successful ban. What has the clarifying work on interception achieved so far?? According to the "Celler Loch" there were no real changes either. Rolf Gossner: On the whole, one has to come to this conclusion. But at least there were – especially after the announcement of the "Celler Lochs" At the beginning of the 1990s, the then red-green state government in Lower Saxony made a difficult attempt to reduce the number of personnel and financial resources of the scandal-ridden interception service there and to establish it in accordance with the rule of law "tame". Ich selbst war als damaliger rechtspolitischer Berater des grunen Koalitionspartners mabgeblich daran beteiligt. The result is the most liberal intelligence law in the Federal Republic of Germany – and probably in the world as well: among other things, the threshold at which the Verfangsschutz is allowed to intervene has been raised from the purely ideological level to the level of violence-oriented behavior with the help of the so-called aggression clause. The "intelligence means" have been conclusively paid up in the law in order to limit their use; this was necessary, after all, the blasting of the "Celler hole" into the prison wall of the Celle correctional facility as an admissible "intelligence tool" legitimized. In addition, Lower Saxony’s interception service was ordered to be more transparent and parliamentary control was intensified. This reform, which led to a clear limitation of the activities of the Verfangsschutz, went far too far for many people, so that the SPD, as soon as it was alone in power, rescinded essential parts of it. How capable and willing to reform are the Verfangsschutz and the Bundesnachrichtendienst?? Rolf Gossner: The function of the services is to secure the status quo and to hold on to traditional power structures – not only in society, but also in themselves, this insistent system logic is evident. In any case, the persistence behavior is rough, even if not equally pronounced in all VS offices. The "will to reform" This often takes the form of more offensive public relations work, although it is difficult to tell whether this is a policy of information or disinformation. What would be the solution in your opinion?? Rolf Gossner: Instead of secret services to fight extremist efforts, it would make much more sense to establish an open, scientific documentation center for observation, research and analysis of right-wing extremism. Finally, the VS also obtains about 80 percent of its knowledge from open sources, i.e. mainly from the media and science. Only about 20 percent come from intelligence sources, mainly from undercover agents. The value of this information is quite doubtful for the reasons already described. Moreover, these "Insights" The information from secret sources is often not even made available to the responsible ministries or parliaments, among other reasons in order not to have to disclose the sources; in any case, such findings do not appear in the public interception reports. An openly operating institution had the enormous advantage over the VS that it was less interest-driven than a government intelligence service, that it was controllable, and that its scientific diagnostic and analytical capabilities were clearly superior to those of the Verfangsschutz. This office was supposed to serve as a source of information and political advice; it had to inform governments and the public at an early stage about right-wing extremist tendencies and develop counter-strategies. These counter-strategies had to include a consistent anti-discrimination policy, the strengthening of the position of minorities and better support for victims of right-wing violence. The populist handling of the topics of flight, asylum and immigration, with which party politics and governments have often enough pandered to the extreme right-wing spectrum, was particularly problematic. It concerns thus social and verfangsvertraglichen solution beginnings – beyond V-Mann-Seligkeit and secret service entanglements, beyond the Verfangsschutz gesponsorten racists and hitters in the service of the state.
Dr. Rolf Gossner is a lawyer and publicist. The author of numerous books to the topic spectrum "Internal Security", Burgerrechte und Demokratie has been working for years as a parliamentary advisor and expert at the federal and state levels. In March 2003, he was elected President of the "International League for Human Rights" (Berlin). He is co-publisher of the bi-weekly "Ossietzky" as well as member of the jury for the annual award of the negative price "BigBrotherAward" to authorities, politicians and companies that have violated data protection in a particular way (the next award will be presented on 24 September).10.2003 in Bielefeld). His latest book has just been published by Knaur-Taschenbuchverlag, Munich "Secret informants: V-Leute des Verfangsschutzes – Criminals in the Service of the State", 320 pages. Knaur paperback, , € 12,90.