The Berlin Christmas Market attack should never have happened. How could the German police get it so wrong? German voters will decide in September who can best protect them and the freedom they love.
Stuttgart, January 15, 2016: Germany is already in full campaign mode with nine months to go until the elections and the public want to know who will keep them safe? After a year of terror attacks and terror threats and other forms of migrant violence, politicians are falling over themselves to reassure the public. But all agree, the Berlin Christmas Market attack could have been prevented; that “mistakes were made,” and “we must learn from our errors.”
So, why was Amri Anis, the 24-year-old Tunisian Islamist who drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market on December 19, killing 12 people and injuring 49, out free on the street? Anis had long been a person of interest:
- Anis spent four years in an Italian prison for assault and arson after he burned down a Sicilian refugee center. He was ordered deported but Tunisia refused to take him back for lack of documentation which Tunis itself had refused to provide. He was then ordered to leave the country which he did and turned up in Germany in mid-2015.
- He declared himself under 14 different aliases in the state of Nord Rhein Westphalia (NRW), some of which he used to illegally obtain welfare benefits.
- He sold drugs.
- He was arrested in August 2016 for trying to get back to Italy with forged papers.
- He visited radical Salafist mosques and hung out with “Gefährder” or “security threatening people” such as Abu Waala who was arrested in November for recruiting for IS.
- Informants told the police in NRW that he spoke of carrying out a terror attack.
- He had visited bomb making and Islamist web sites.
- NRW police had him under surveillance from February to September 2016 but he was deemed “not a security risk.” The NRW police failed to alert other German State police when he was allowed to travel to Berlin and fell off the radar.
- He was ordered deported to Tunisia in July 2016 after his asylum request was denied but Tunis refused to accept him because he did not have the proper documentation which Tunis refused to provide, once again.
German police say they had no legal cause to detain Anis under present legislation. After the Berlin attack, NRW Interior Minister, Ralf Jaeger, told the State parliament in Düsseldorf that officials had “exhausted all legal powers to the limit to prevent potential dangers.” They apparently failed to notify their colleagues in the 15 other states and the Federal government of their concern.
This is a pure German screw up. No more blaming the Greeks as they did in November when they arrested an Afghan asylum seeker for the rape and murder in Freiburg of a 19-year-old medical student only to discover the “refugee” had been jailed in Greece in May 2013 for a similar crime in Corfu. The Greeks released Hussein K. two-and-a-half years into a ten year sentence but Athens failed to notify Interpol when he failed to turn up for his probation appointment. When the Afghan registered for Asylum in Freiburg on November 12, 2015, Baden Württemberg police had no way of knowing he was jailed for trying to kill a woman in Greece. They only knew that he had registered for asylum in Greece in January 2013.
Tough New Laws Needed?
To increase police capacity to track and control refugees and potential terrorists, German Conservative CDU party member and Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maiziere, is pushing for major changes which would include modifying the Constitution. Among the changes de Maiziere and others want are:
- Greater Federal responsibility in ending illegal residency in Germany; Transfer deportation authority from the state level to the Federal government and set up “Exit Centers” near air ports where those ordered deported can be detained. Today, the 16 states handle deportation of rejected asylum seekers and illegal migrants.
- Place domestic criminal investigating entirely under the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), a German FBI. At present each of the 16 states maintains its own criminal and police services independently of Federal and other state agencies.
- The same for the BfV, the Federal Bureau for the Defense of the Constitution which is in charge of domestic intelligence. Such a move would require the dissolution of the agency’s 16 state offices.
- Greater responsibility for the Federal Police who are today limited to security of train stations, air ports and national borders.
- Be able to detain those considered dangerous Gefährder security risks up to 18 months while awaiting deportation. Today, they may be detained up to three months before being released.
- Make those considered Gefärhder who are not deportable wear electronic ankle bracelets. The 2016 BfV report, released on January 6, says there are nearly 44,000 Muslims in Germany considered to be Islamic extremist sympathizers. Of those, 9,700 are listed as “Salafists,” up from 3,800 in 2011. The report also says that 11,000 have terrorist leanings while 548 are capable of carrying out a terrorist attack; 62 of whom are free while awaiting deportation.
- Cut development aid to countries who refuse to take back their nationals once they have had their asylum requests rejected. Many countries refuse to take back, or even recognize, their nationals once a judge orders their deportation.
- Impose tougher residency rules for asylum-seekers caught using false identity and ban them from travelling in Germany.
A Divided Country
Many of these measures have been on the table for a while but are unable to obtain the majority needed to modify the Constitution or enact new legislation. Even members of the Conservative alliance reject transferring state security policing to the Federal level. The head of the Bavarian CSU party, Horst Seehofer, said “I can only tell you there will be no dissolution of the Bavarian Agency for the Protection of the Constitution.” The CSU have been very critical of Chancellor Merkel’s decision to allow so many refugees into the country and are calling for a cap of 200 thousand a year.
Thomas de Mazaire accused the junior coalition partners of the center left SPD of “not being ready to take the tough measures needed.” This began ten days of finger-pointing and a race to who could propose tough measures in this key election year when immigration and terrorism are already the dominant themes.
SPD Chairman and Vice-Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, responded on January 7 in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine that “all Salafist mosques should be banned, communities dissolved and preachers expelled as soon as possible.” Fellow SPD member and Federal Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, met with de Maiziere on January 11 and in a joint press conference showed his support for tougher legislation, including extended pre-deportation detention. Gabriel called for “zero-tolerance” in fighting Islamic extremism.
There are so many potential threats, experts say, it is impossible to watch all of them as it takes at least 20 agents to cover one person 24/7. “There are so many people who dominate the Salafist scene,” said Hans-Georg Maussen, the Domestic Security Chief at the BfV, “and all of these people have to be watched…you have to deal with many hot-spots.”
In an interview with the German DPA press agency, Maureen said: “That makes it more difficult for us, because we can no longer just watch a few people. We have to monitor many groups.”
Those who are most vocally breaking ranks are the Greens, although they spend much time disagreeing publicly amongst themselves. Green Party co-Chairman, Cem Özdemir says “anyone who proposes new laws must first prove there are gaps in the law as it stands. We don’t want mass surveillance of the population.”
There are historical reasons why German states reject a Federal take over of their police and intelligence responsibilities. Germany has a long history of fervent regional identity and the centralized Gestapo left a bad taste in their mouths. It is not uncommon to hear guests speak of the “Gestapo” when discussing de Maiziere wish-list on TV talk shows.
Green Party leader and member of the Nord Rhein Westphalia coalition government, Simone Peter, says what is needed is more and better equipped police to enforce the law, not new laws. Peter says her state has been hiring 2,000 more police every year. But she received a harsh rebuke from her party when she criticized police in Cologne for profiling North Africans for identity checks on New Year’s eve.
The Green Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschman, is in favor of listing the Maghreb countries of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as “safe third countries” for deportation; something Cem Özdemir is dead against. The Bundestag has already approved the measure but the Bundesrat is still debating it.
The Green Mayor of the southern university city of Tübigen, Boris Palmer, warned the Greens will lose votes if they are “seen as part of the security problem.” The Greens in Stuttgart say they are not opposed to video surveillance for certain events or in certain areas but oppose general arial surveillance.
Immigrant radicals are not de Maiziere’s only concern. More than 800 domestic Muslims have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight Jihad. The BfV says 20% of them have returned and there are at least 70 in the country with combat experience.
One last area de Maiziere would like to see reform is on the European level with a cross reference of the Europol criminal lists and the Schengen zone Eurodac refugee data base which only stores finger prints, gender, place and date of asylum request but not name, nor criminal record. Such an enlarged data base may have prevented the Afghan sentenced in Greece from raping and killing the young student in Freiburg.