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Video surveillance in Braunschweig, Germany. Photo credit: Jonathan Kemper.

‘Orwell sends his regards’ – AfD placed under surveillance

On Wednesday March 3, local German media announced that the largest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), with 88 deputies out of 709, has been placed under surveillance by German intelligence.

Published: March 5, 2021, 10:20 am

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    This announcement comes six months before important legislative elections. Even if this decision has not been officially confirmed by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), in charge of domestic intelligence, it has not yet been denied after the revelations in the German media either.

    Local and national AfD officials, the biggest opposition force in the Bundestag, will therefore be treated as enemies of the state.

    This contentious decision will allow German intelligence to wiretap local and national AfD officials, with the exception of parliamentarians and candidates, and to intercept their correspondence. In addition it will be able to resort to paid informants to infiltrate the party.

    Finally, the AfD and its 32 000 members will henceforth be classified as “suspected cases” in the BfV’s annual report, alongside movements considered to be threats to democracy, together with Islamist groups. The youth branch of the party, the Junge Alternative, viewed as its most radical wing, were already under surveillance.

    Not surprisingly, the mainstream parties, the CDU-CSU group and the SPD welcomed this news, while many members of the AfD denounced the scandal, deploring a decision which was “purely political” and “totally unjustified”. Tino Chrupalla and Jörg Meuthen, the two co-chairmen of the party, also accused, in a statement, the BfV of having intentionally leaked the information. But the two leaders said they were not worried about the consequences of this announcement on the elections. “Voters are smart enough not to be swayed,” said Tino Chrupalla.

    It is not surprising how far the political rulers were willing to go to fight the growing opposition forces, AfD Member Nadine Hoffmann noted in an opinion piece. “This allows us to look into the deep abyss of a system that has been revolving around itself for years and whose only goal is to maintain its own power. Everyone knows the image of the war over the feeding trough – there is some truth to it.”

    Hoffmann is the spokesperson for environmental policy and animal welfare for the AfD parliamentary group in Thuringia. She said former spy boss Hans-Georg Maaßen had to go because he did not want to go along with the plan. His successor, Thomas Haldenwang, has been acting as a henchman, she explained.

    According to Hoffmann, the spy services quotes from left-wing extremist sources, while exonerating reports are blacked out.

    “Reality has now overtaken satire, because the news comes one day after the Thuringian constitutional court partially righted the complaint of the AfD parliamentary group that the red-red-green state government had acted unconstitutionally. Anyone who protects the constitution of the country, who takes the Basic Law seriously and bears responsibility, becomes suspicious?! That is the Kafkaesque logic of the power cartel, which in truth acts in a terrifying way in abolishing the constitution. With the help of functionaries, whose intellects do not recognize the anti-democracy of their actions or who simply do not care morally what they do if ordered to do so.”

    Hofmann added dryly: “Orwell sends his regards.”

    The Hessian Administrative Court had ruled in favour of the AfD after their complaint against the Hessian domestic intelligence report of 2019. The judges had forced the state of Hesse by way of an interim order “to refrain from distributing this report in any form.” In addition, the federal state had been obliged to correct unlawful statements by means of a press release. The court’s decision had been final.

    The spy service had issued arbitrary statements when “such evidence was not available”. Their report did not withstand – according to the judges – “a plausibility check”. According to the court, such statements violated the principle of equal treatment and the party’s right to participate in political decision-making.

    AfD spokesman Klaus Herrmann saluted the court’s decision and told Berlin weekly Junge Freiheit: “This authority [domestic spy service] seems to have degenerated into a political henchman for government interests. This must now be countered with all legal means.”

    But on Wednesday, despite the ruling, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified the entire AfD as a suspected right-wing extremist case, a legal avenue for the intelligence services to monitor e-mail traffic and deploy informants.

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