German Interior Minister Otto Schily has given the first review of the country’s anti-terror laws. He said they were successful and should be expanded, but politicians say they infringe on personal freedom.
Otto Schily: Anti-terror laws should be extended
Put in place in response to September 11, the laws allow police and secret services to collect more information on individuals, but the interior minister stressed there is no reason to fear a “Big Brother” type state, in which people are under constant surveillance.
Otto Schily praised the security services for not abusing their powers since the introduction of the anti-terror laws.
“They were able to uncover Hamas' European finance network and the links between those in it. The donation collection organization, Al Aksa, was part of this network. Because of the new powers given to the security services, I was able to ban this organization in 2002,” the interior minister said.
Call for extended powers
Telecommunications companies, airlines, and credit institutes have provided the security services with information on 99 different cases since the laws took effect three years ago. Based on that information, Schily now hopes to see these powers extended.
“That doesn’t mean looking at account information for everybody in the country, as that would be complete nonsense. It would only apply to terror suspects. Anybody who claims otherwise is misleading the public.”
All of Germany's political parties except the conservatives have responded with skepticism to Social Democrat Schily’s proposal to extend the law. Green party chairman Reinhard Bütikofer is firmly opposed to any extension of the regulation.
"We have talked about it with our coalition partners, the Social Democrats and they agree with us. Otto Schily has to fall into step with the parties, not the other way around.”
The opposition liberal FDP has also rejected Schily’s proposal, with parliamentary group leader Wolfgang Gerhardt expressing his concern that extending the law could amount to a restriction of civil liberties.
But Schily said he wouldn’t consider repealing the law and that anyone who wanted him to do so would be compromising Germany's domestic security.
The conservatives agreed. But their representative for interior affairs, Hartmut Koschyk, says Schily handled the review poorly and was wrong to let the press know about it, but then refuse to discuss it further in a parliamentary committee.