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Germany

Government Under Fire for Neo-Nazi Informants

In the latest scandal involving the domestic intelligence agency's use of informants, reports allege the government looked the other way as two extremist spooks produced a CD inciting the murder of prominent German Jews.

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Explosive combination: Neo-nazi informants and hate music

On Thursday, the Domestic Affairs Committee of the German parliament, the Bundestag, will convene to debate the use of informants from right-wing extremist and neo-Nazi groups by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic intelligence agency.

For years, the agency has put members of extremist organizations, often leaders, on its payroll in an effort to get a better grasp of the activities of these groups. In recent years, it has used information culled from informants to build its Federal Constitutional Court case to ban the National Democratic Party (NPD). However, subsequent revelations about the relationship between the agency and its informants have jeopardized the NPD ban petition and led critics to ask whether it has gone over the line in nurturing such relationships.

"This Bullet is for You"

The latest twist involves Mirko H., a neo-Nazi from the state of Saxony who has been working as an informant for the Office of the Protection of the Constitution since the mid-1990s. It has been alleged that during his time on the agency's payroll, he also produced thousands of copies of a CD by the band White Aryan Rebels called "Notes of Hate," containing Nazi lyrics that are banned in Germany.

The song "This Bullet is for You" includes a death threat against the vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Michel Friedman, and other German politicians. The album, chilling in its unabashed xenophobia, also includes calls for the killing of Mo Asumang, a popular German erotic television star of Ghanian ancestry.

The second informant implicated in the scandal is Toni S., a neo-Nazi from the eastern German city of Cottbus who worked for the Office of the Protection of the Constitution in the state of Brandenburg. Toni S. is currently in investigative police custody as his relationship with the White Aryan Rebels is probed. The Dresden Public Prosecutors' Office, meanwhile, has filed a criminal case against Mirko H. for his role in the production and distribution of the CD.

What did the government know, and when?

A report in the current issue of "Focus," a national newsweekly, alleged that the Office of the Protection of the Constitution was aware of Mirko H.'s involvement in the creation of the CD and still continued to work with him without stopping its production. The newsweekly reported he earned more than 105,000 euro from the hate-filled LP. The article also accused the Federal Interior Ministry of withhold from the Secret Service Committee of parliament the information that Mirko H. had been convicted of illegal weapons possession and incitement in 2001. The Interior Ministry has denied the charge. Still, that doesn't make it easier for the celebrities threatened in "Notes of Hate," to sleep at night.

"I'm shaken and feel less secure by the idea that security authorities have become a part of the threat," Michel Friedman told the Berlin newspaper "Tagesspiegel," in its Wednesday edition. "This can't be accepted by the government."

The opposition Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union are calling for immediate answers from the Interior Ministry and the government.

"In the face of the dramatic events in this informant scandal, we expect that the interior minister will provide answers," the deputy head of the Union bloc's parliamentary group, Wolfgang Bosbach, told the "Berliner Zeitung" newspaper. "He has to tell us what he knew about the informant, what the interior ministry knew, who carries the political responsibility and what conclusions should be drawn."

Criticism from within

Concern is also growing inside the government. Christian Ströbele, a Green member of parliament, told the same paper he believed the situation must be clarified before the Sept. 22 federal elections. Ströbele said he believed the latest incident was just "one more example of the questionable methods of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution." Where do you draw the line, he asked, between activities right-wing extremists have developed themselves and those that have been inspired and financed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution? "You have to ask yourself whether some (authorities from the office) are doing more to endanger our constitution than to protect it," Ströbele said.

A growing informant scandal

The neo-Nazi CD scandal is only the latest gaffe for the Office of the Protection of the Constitution in its use of extremist informants who are still active.

The Constitutional Court temporarily suspended the government's case to ban the NPD in January after it learned a key member of the right-wing extremist party's leadership had at one point served as an informant for the domestic intelligence agency's investigation, which laid the foundations for the ban petition.

The court learned that part of the government's case had been gleaned from Wolfgang Frenz, an NPD official and witness for the defense who had worked as an informant for the North Rhine-Westphalia state Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Days later, it learned that Udo Holtmann, head of the NPD's state chapter in North Rhine-Westphalia, had also aided in the government's case.

The government has said it must rely on unidentified informants in such cases because it is their best hope to gain intelligence on the groups.

On Thursday, the practice will be put under the microscope of the Bundestag, where more than a handful of politicians have already said they will question the government practice.

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