Domestic surveillance is a double-edged sword in democratic societies like Germany. Citizens want their government to take action against opponents at home to protect the liberal way of life, but intelligence service operate in legal gray zones that oftentimes betray the very foundations of liberal society.
In spite of the impossibility of squaring this circle with democratic freedoms and security, Germans still wants to have their cake and eat it too.
Not everything the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) does is legal. Their opponents often define the laws, and it is not always possible to examine the German constitution before taking necessary action to avert potential threats. It’s a near-impossible act to balance, but while intelligence services must be subject to parliamentary control, a line must be drawn where the effectiveness of our intelligence services is jeopardized.
It is not always possible to examine the German constitution before taking necessary action to avert potential threats
It is precisely in these emotional days and weeks of terrorist threats to our liberal order that it is so important to understand how important the work of our intelligence services at home and abroad is.
In no other country in the world have these services come under so much fire as in Germany, primarily because of our history. The trauma inflicted by the Gestapo in the Third Reich and the State Security Service in East Germany remains deeply embedded in the German consciousness today.
But modern Germany must not abandon itself as a result. Every government is tasked with defending itself against threats, and this often involves taking preventative measures and even spying on friends.
It is important that intelligence services do not take on a life of their own and become states within the state. There are risks involved when special rights are conferred, combined with secrecy and the lack of public access.
Nevertheless, intelligence services are indispensible in ensuring the wellbeing of our society. Most employees were born after World War II and have nothing to do with the nefarious traditions of the Gestapo or SS.
All of these employees are responsible for our security. It’s time that the intelligence services in our country are finally given the recognition and appreciation they deserve.
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