Germany’s domestic spy agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), has been exposed for spying on left-wing MPs.
German magazine Der Spiegel said on January 23 that the BfV spied on MPs from Germany's biggest left-wing party, the socialist Die Linke ("The Left").
Der Spiegel said the intelligence agency had 27 of Die Linke's members in the Bundestag ― more than one third of its federal MPs ― and a further 11 members of state parliaments, under surveillance, costing 390,000 euros a year.
The BfV spends about 590,000 euros a year on surveillance of the neo-Nazi German National Party (NPD), linked to violent racist terror groups.
Unlike the marginal NPD, Die Linke is Germany's fifth largest party, with representation in almost every state parliament and in the national Bundestag.
The individuals being spied on weren't "fringe" members either, but leading party members and MPs ― many are in the party’s “moderate” wing.
The biggest surprise, however, was that Steffan Bockhahn was also being spied on. The Die Linke MP sits on the parliamentary committee that oversees the BfV's funding,
Die Linke has responded to revelations by calling for the BfV to be disbanded, describing it as a threat to German democracy.
Die Linke spokesperson Gregor Gysi also disputed BfV claims to have used only media coverage, saying secret informants were employed to spy on MPs.
"They lie,” Gysi said.
Recent events have revived accusations that German security agencies are turning a blind eye to right-wing violence to spy on peaceful left-wing organisations and activists.
The so-called Zwickau terror cell of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (which has close links to the NPD) committed a series of terror attacks between 2000 and 2004 and murdered at least 10 people ― nine Turkish migrants and a police officer ― between 2000 and 2006.
It was revealed in November last year that BfV informants and agents had been in close contact with the cell, yet failed to prevent the murders or capture the perpetrators.
A BfV agent was even present during one of the murders, yet the official line was that the murders were carried out by Turkish gangs.
Police turn out in force at neo-Nazi marches each February in Dresden and other cities in eastern Germany to “protect” the Nazis from the overwhelmingly peaceful public opposition that outnumbers their marches.
In January 2010, police and security agencies raided Die Linke’s Dresden offices, confiscating computers and material related to upcoming anti-Nazi marches.
In Bavaria, controlled by the arch-conservative Christian Social Union, calls have also been made to "ban" Die Linke on grounds it was “unconstitutional”. The Mitteldeutscher Zeitung revealed that a “connection” with Die Linke is grounds to bar entry to the Bavarian public service.
Die Linke’s co-leader and Bavarian unionist Klaus Ernst said the rule should be overturned. He said the CSU was in breach of the constitution.