Opinion: ′The minister could not have left people in the dark′ | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.11.2010
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Opinion: 'The minister could not have left people in the dark'

The grave warning by the German government that a terrorist attack might be imminent has unsettled many people. But Deutsche Welle's Peter Stuetzle is convinced it was the right decision to make the announcement.


How will people react to the news? Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere isn't usually one to propagate fear in order to prepare the ground for tougher security laws, which is why Germans find his terror warning particularly disturbing. Will Germans avoid soccer stadiums at the weekend? Will they cancel planned trips or take the car instead of the plane or train in order to evade danger?

In theory, everyone knows that the risk of dying in a car crash is bigger than falling victim to a terrorist attack. But driving a car, people still have the feeling that they can control their fate to a certain degree. At the airport, the train station or in a soccer stadium, however, people feel they are vulnerable, at the mercy of the evil intentions of lurking religious fanatics.

Fernschreiber Autorenfoto, Peter Stützle

Should the interior minister not have warned the public? Or should he have left it at his much less concrete appeal two weeks ago, when he said citizens should keep their eyes peeled and inform the police of suspicious goings-on? Without knowing what de Maiziere knows, we can presume that he would have done just that if it had been justifiable. The indications must be so concrete that he could not leave people in the dark about the dangers. Of course, people noticed the increased police presence at vulnerable sites on Wednesday – it was up to the minister to give an explanation. Otherwise, the population might have felt even more intimidated.

Criticism voiced by the leader of the opposition Greens, Juergen Trittin, that the interior minister should be more specific, is narrow-minded. He probably can't be more specific without endangering the sources for his information. The public’s safety relies on these sources. After all, it is thanks to their information channels that intelligence services repeatedly managed to avert planned terrorist attacks over the past few years. There is reason for optimism that they will succeed again.

Peter Stuetzle is the head of DW's Berlin studio (db)
Editor: Rob Turner

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