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Germany

Second Anti-Terror Package Presented to German Parliament

The German parliament debates the passage of a new anti-terror package today. A broad majority is behind the proposals, but criticism is still expected.

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New anti-terror measures will increase police presence in Germany

The new anti-terror proposals put forth by Interior Minister Otto Schily are the second such measures to go before parliament. But what passed through smoothly the first time around is generating criticism today.

Interior Minister Otto Schily’s first anti-terror package was introduced within weeks of the September 11 attacks. It won broad support and passed through the German parliament without difficulty in the beginning of November. Both opposition parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Liberals (FDP), endorsed the tightened security measures. The Bundesrat, the upper house of German parliament, followed up quickly, giving its solid approval.

But that was then, and this is now.

The second package is expected to pass through parliament with a significant majority, but the debate will be considerably harder and the criticism louder.

Based on statements issued earlier in the week, the discussion will focus on fundamental rights and the protection of privacy, issues that were only marginally addressed back in October.

First package

The first package was widely accepted by nearly all parties. The anti-terror measures proposed reflected what most Germans regarded as long-overdue security improvements.

More money was appropriated for the police, military and security agencies. A loop whole in the religious protection law was closed, making it more difficult for extremist groups to pose as religious organizations while enjoying government protection. And the government was allowed more freedom to persecute money laundering crimes.

There were no unusually restrictive elements in the first anti-terror package, nothing that would infringe on the normal citizen’s rights.

Second package

The second package, however, goes a few steps further – too far, some members of parliament are saying. The FDP and the former communist party, PDS, have both vowed to vote against the new proposals which include changes to 17 laws and five new regulations. Civil rights’ activists and proponents of privacy protection have also come out strongly against the package’s restrictive measures.

Earlier in the week, the Social Democrats (SPD) had been forced to loosen up their original proposals to reflect the interests of the Greens. One of the most controversial points, a measure allowing for the detainment and extradition of foreigners on the basis of suspicion alone, has been removed from the package. Other critical points still remain, however.

Security

The second anti-terror package expands the areas of responsibility covered by the police, security forces and intelligence agencies. It calls for better protection of high-risk institutions and the employment of so-called sky marshals on airplanes.

Under the new law, the Federal Crime Investigation Agency (BKA) will be responsible for tracking members or supporters of foreign terrorist groups. The BKA will also be responsible for investigating internet crime.

The Federal Agency for Internal Security will be permitted to gather information from credit institutions, aviation authorities, the post office and telecommunications providers. This information, previously protected under stringent privacy laws, will only be made available when there is concrete proof of criminal involvement.

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