Minister demands anti-terror powers
Thomas de Maizière. Source: Flickr
After two attacks by militants who appeared loyal to so-called Islamic State and a shooting rampage in Munich, the German home affairs minister has proposed a range of initiatives to tighten security, including closer monitoring of refugees, enhanced internet surveillance, more federal police and criminalising verbal support for terrorism.
Thomas de Maizière called for intelligence sharing across Europe and more scrutiny of the “dark web”, which is invisible to ordinary users and stripping citizenship from dual-nationality Germans who fight for extremists overseas. He also wants to make it easier to deport migrants seen as dangerous.
Intelligence-gathering powers are contentious given Germany’s Nazi and Communist past and the powers of the federal government remain limited because of the history of totalitarian control.
Berlin is reacting to violent incidents in Würzburg, Ansbach and Munich and De Maizière said he wanted to install video equipment in 20 main train stations and to improve the sharing of surveillance footage across law enforcement agencies. “Nobody can guarantee absolute security but we must do everything in our power. One thing is sure, our country will not respond to the violence of the perpetrators with hate and division. We will not allow the terrorists that triumph. We see in recent months that these offices must know exactly who is coming to Europe, and who is leaving it,” he said.
Apart from a €2 billion increase in funding for the federal police, de Maiziere said that “technical capabilities” for “cyber-investigation” would be gathered in a new joint unit, the “Central Office for Information in Security Sphere” (ZITiS).
ZITiS will support the security forces by developing “methods, products and strategies to fight criminality and terrorism on the internet”. The new office will be set up at the beginning of 2017 and will eventually have a staff of 400, including investigators specialising in trawling the “dark net” for illegal weapons trading and militants’ communication.
De Maizière said the government had approved adding 3,250 federal police officers, which has traditionally taken a back seat to constabularies in Germany’s 16 states. Contentiously, De Maizière suggested the relaxation of medical confidentiality, to allow doctors to inform the authorities if they suspected patients could commit violent acts.
The German Medical Association has already warned against any such moves. The minister said he was “aware of the sensitivity” of the issue and had proposed a meeting with the association’s president, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, to disucss “how we can preserve the duty to confidentiality while reducing the risks for citizens as much as possible”.