Arrest on November 16
A 51-year-old man working at the German domestic intelligence agency – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) – has been exposed as an alleged sympathiser of the jihadist cause.
He was arrested on November 16, after he had been placed under surveillance by his own employer for the preceding weeks.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html )) The 51-year-old had been part of the agency’s office tasked with monitoring the country’s Islamist scene.
His employer appears to have been alerted to the man’s questionable role when he offered advice to a fellow jihadist during an online chat session. The agent noted that he could supply access to the Verfassungsschutz buildings in Cologne in order to facilitate an attack on “unbelievers”. He asserted that he was “ready to do anything to help the brothers”. What he did not know was that his counterpart during the chat was himself working for the Verfassungsschutz.((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html ))
Actions “in the name of Allah”
No clear picture of the man and his potential motivations has emerged so far. Following his arrest, he claimed that he had sought to use his position at the agency to warn his brothers in faith of any potential investigations against them. His actions were, according to him, in accordance with Allah’s will.
Yet while he had mentioned internal matters from the Verfassungsschutz during the abovementioned online conversation, he does not appear to have leaked further information on the agency’s ongoing investigations.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html )) The man nevertheless presented himself as part of a large-scale plan to “infiltrate” the intelligence office.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html ))
Mental health questions
More than two weeks after the arrest, however, there are ongoing questions as to whether the man is a ‘Salafist’ or ‘jihadist’ or in fact an unstable individual. While in custody, the man has made a range of “mystical allusions” that appear to raise questions about his mental health.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/kampf-gegen-den-terror/verfassungsschutz-islamist-suchte-verbuendete-fuer-gewalttat-gegen-unglaeubige-14552367.html ))
He claims to have converted to Islam following a “spontaneous inspiration” in 2014 while on the phone with an unidentifiable “Mohamed” from Austria. Neither his wife nor his four children were aware of his alleged conversion.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html )) The man’s work as an actor in homosexual pornographic movies also at least casts doubt on his hard-line Islamist credentials.((http://www.dw.com/de/islamisten-pornos-und-der-verfassungsschutz-das-r%C3%A4tsel-um-maulwurf-m/a-36596498 ))
Keeping apart investigators and investigated
This cases comes as a renewed blow to Germany’s much-criticised domestic intelligence agency. In recent years, the Verfassungsschutz has been rocked by successive revelations about its role in the series of murders and attacks by the National Socialist Underground (NSU), a far-right terrorist cell.
There have been worrisome questions about the agency’s knowledge and thus de facto complicity in the NSU’s activities: the German neo-Nazi scene is densely populated by the agency’s informants – so densely, in fact, that the Constitutional Court rejected a motion to ban the far-right NPD party in 2005 because it noted that it could not distinguish between party leadership and Verfassungsschutz personnel.
In the present case, the Verfassungsschutz once again appears to be rather too close to the people it seeks to monitor. Indeed, on facebook the suspect not only expressed regret about the recent arrest of Abu Walaa – reported by Euro-Islam – but was also friends not just with a number of Islamists but also with several functionaries from a far-right political party.((https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-109.html ))
Renewed criticism of the Verfassungsschutz
The agency’s president, Hans-Georg Maaßen, stressed that all necessary security preconditions had been taken when the man was hired. Nevertheless, the fact that an individual who joined the Verfassungsschutz as a lateral entrant in April 2016 – after he had lost his previous job as a bank clerk((https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html )) – could gain access to sensitive information so quickly raises considerable questions about the agency’s professionalism.
German parliamentarians also criticised Maassen and his office for failing to notify them immediately: news of the case broke only nearly two weeks after the arrest through revelations by Der Spiegel magazine.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/geheimdienst-islamist-schleicht-sich-bei-verfassungsschutz-ein-a-1123676.html ))
The threat of “infiltration”
The call for consequences has been swift: parliamentarians demanded, among other things, that the security checks of all Verfassungsschutz employees be conducted more often. Others called for a more dramatic restructuring of the agency itself.
Beyond these immediate reactions, however, what is likely to stick in the public’s perception is the threat of “infiltration”. As Euro-Islam reported, a recent survey found that 40 per cent of Germans believe that the country and its institutions are already “infiltrated” by Islam.
The media reaction to the suspected mole, at the Verfassungsschutz has most likely not dampened this anxiety. It was noteworthy, for instance, how many news outlets quickly focused on the man’s “conversion”—an act that, after all, seems to have occurred on the phone to an obscure contact in Austria if it occurred at all. ((See e.g. https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/islamist-verfassungsschutz-107.html, https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article159849913/Islamist-beim-Verfassungsschutz-enttarnt.html )) Conversion, as the ultimate act of infiltration, thus serves as the measuring stick for dangerousness.