Revealed: German spy agency monitors leftwing politicians

Die Linke's Gregor GysiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Well over a third of leftwing German parliamentarians are currently being monitored by the country’s domestic intelligence agency, according to a government report released on Sunday. Germany’s quality newsmagazine Der Spiegel has cited an internal document from the Ministry of the Interior, which states that 27 of the Left Party’s 76 members of parliament are currently “being observed” by the authorities. The document, which is dated January 4, 2012, also reveals that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV, Germany’s primary domestic spy organization) is keeping tabs on another 11 Left Party elected officials serving in regional parliaments. The document does not name the 27 parliamentarians, but the list is believed to include the Left Party’s leading political figures. The party, known in Germany as Die Linke, is one of the country’s largest, having received nearly 12% of the national vote in the 2009 federal elections. It was established in 2007, after the Electoral Alternative for Labor and Social Justice party merged with the Party of Democratic Socialism —the successor of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, which ruled East Germany until 1989. The party’s electoral stronghold rests in the regions of the former East Germany, while some of the party’s older members held senior government positions under East Germany’s communist system. For this reason, some in Germany view the Left Party as an extremist organization —a characterization that presumably forms the rationale for the BfV’s monitoring operation. On the other hand, some critics raise concerns that, even if some Die Linke members have links with the former East German security establishment, the BfV operation against the party is too intense, and that more attention should instead be given to German neo-Nazi groups, such as the National Democratic Party (NPD). Among these critics is Volker Beck, a leading parliamentarian for Germany’s Greens, who told Der Spiegel that the BfV’s measures against the Left Party “appear disproportionate when compared to the funds spent for measures against the NPD”. According to the newsmagazine, the BfV operation against the NPD costs around €590,000 per year, while the Left Party operation costs approximately €390,000 per year. Responding yesterday to the Spiegel revelation, the BfV said that Left Party parliamentarians are not currently “under surveillance”, but are only “being observed” through intelligence collected from open sources, such as public speeches or press reports. The leader of the Left Party’s parliamentary group, Gregor Gysi, called the BfV operation “disgraceful” and added that it proves that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency “is insane”.

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