Germany Divided Over Security Response | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.07.2005
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Germany Divided Over Security Response

While 51 percent of Germans express concern at the prospect of their country becoming a target for terrorists, politicians are bickering over what action to take to secure the country from attack.


The CDU want the military to assist the police in the fight against terror

Germany's political landscape was again divided on Tuesday as politicians from all sides pitched in to an argument over what was viable in terms of increasing security against possible terror attacks in the wake of the London bombings last week.

A plan put forward by the conservative opposition CDU/CSU parties for the armed forces to be employed in the prevention of terrorism in the country was rejected by Interior Minister Otto Schily, a Social Democrat, who said that such a move would drag Germany into a permanent state of emergency.

The liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the CDU/CSU's possible coalition partner in a new government, and Germany's police union also rejected the conservatives plan, basing their opposition on a constitutional law brought into effect after the horrors of World War II.

After learning the lessons of Nazi rule, the German constitution established in 1949 states that the police and the military must be strictly separated. Adolf Hitler's regime blurred the line between the two, which led to a ruthless militarized police state.

Army deployment "highly dangerous"

Bundesinnenminister Otto Schily

Schily told a news conference that he believed it would be wrong to give the military any new role in preventing terror attacks. "From a psychological point of view it would give the impression that we are in a permanent state of emergency and that is highly dangerous."

"We simply can't allow this. We can't let the terrorists bring us to such a state," he added.

The CDU and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) revealed a hard-line approach to terror in their election platform released on Monday, four days after suspected Islamist militants killed at least 52 people in four explosions on the London transport system.

CDU outlines possible domestic roles for military

Bundeswehr Einfahrt zu einer Kaserne

In a section of the document entitled "A more forceful fight against terror, crime and vandalism," the CDU maps out a plan to give the Bundeswehr, Germany's army, expanded rights to defend the country against terrorist threats. Current legislation stipulates that the armed forces only be used domestically in exceptional circumstances and both houses of parliament have the power to stop their deployment.

"The army can already offer help in special cases," Schily said in reference to a law passed earlier this year that gives the country's defense minister the right to order hijacked aircraft be shot down. "But you can't simply give them brand new tasks. The army has military, not police responsibilities."

German police officials are concerned that a CDU/CSU plan involving the military would undermine the law enforcement agencies currently engaged in the prevention of terrorism. "If the CDU and CSU are already thinking of using the army for security during the World Cup in 2006, then they are harming the entire police profession," Wolfgang Speck, head of the police union, said.

Bosbach advocates Bundeswehr involvement

Wolfgang Bosbach, CDU

However, the CDU's Wolfgang Bosbach fended off the criticism and said his party would push for a change to the constitution. "We want to use the capacities of the Bundeswehr on a domestic basis when we need them to defend against a terrorist threat," said Bosbach, who is seen by some as a potential successor to Schily if the conservatives are victorious in a coming election.

He continued by outlining four specific threat scenarios in which the conservatives would deploy the military domestically: attacks from the air, attacks from the sea, attacks using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and attacks on infrastructure that the police were not able to defend against.

The conservatives have also called for more extensive sharing of information between the secret services and police, a move which Schily said could dissuade foreign countries from passing on intelligence to Germany.

Germany cautioned over state of false security

Terroranschlag in London Galerie

Experts and commentators on terror have warned Germany to be vigilant despite not being mentioned in statements by those claiming responsibility for the London bombings, the so-called Secret Organization of al Qaeda in Europe.

The group, which also claimed responsibility for the last major terror attack in Europe -- a string of bombs that hit commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, in March 2004, killing 191 people -- warned the governments of Italy and Denmark that their countries could be next. Both have troops deployed in Iraq.

While Germany may consider itself to be less of a target due to its non-involvement in Iraq, German troops have been active in Afghanistan and have been involved in operations off the African coast as part of the Operation Enduring Freedom. British operations in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, were used as justification for the bombings by the terror group.

Steps taken in immediate aftermath of blasts

Polizisten am Frankfurter Bahnhof

Germany took steps in the immediate aftermath of the London bombings with the national railway operator bolstering security and Berlin transport officials raising the alert level to "yellow."

"We adapted our security concept in light of the current situation," a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn told Reuters.

The Berlin transport authority reacted by adding more security personnel in the city's underground system and train stations.

Police also boosted security at British and US installations in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, including a number of British military bases.

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