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Germany

Controlling The Secret Service

A second member of the far-right NPD party has surfaced as an informant for Germany's domestic intelligence agency. A debate on the workings of the secret service has now arisen.

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Is German Interior Minister Otto Schily responsible for the blunders?

Just how far does an informant's power go? This is a hot topic of debate in Germany after it became known that another member of the National Democratic Party (NPD) served as an informant in efforts to ban the far-right group.

Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy parliamentary leader of the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU), said informants cannot become part of a problem which needs to be fought by the state. The former president of the Federal Internal Security Agency, Heribert Hellenbroich, warned of allowing cooperation with informants to go too far.

The government's junior coalition partner, the Greens, accused the intelligence agency of inadequately passing on information. Volker Beck, the Greens' legal affairs spokesman, said his party demanded stronger parliamentary control of the secret service.

Beck said a general debate was necessary on whether informants can be recruited who are themselves steering organizations. Beck said cooperation should concentrate on persons who have access to the central committees, but who have no significant influence.

The events of the past days had shown that the views of federal and state intelligence units do not always coincide with those of national policies, he added.

Schily denies resignation reports

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry denied a report in the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper that claimed Schily had offered Chancellor Gerhard Schröder his resignation.

The move to ban the NDP had cross-party support in both houses of parliament. But Interior Ministry errors have opened up inter-party rivalries. Wolfgang Gerhardt, parliamentary leader of the opposition Free Democrats, said the case against the far-right NPD had effectively collapsed. "And the responsible party is Interior Minister Otto Schily," he said.

Opposition Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel said the case showed Schily was not in control of his department.

Schröder's center-left government can ill afford to offer opposition parties further ammunition for the upcoming general elections. It is already lagging in opinion polls as unemployment heads towards four million.

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