Interior minister wants more video surveillance | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 24.04.2013
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Interior minister wants more video surveillance

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich is calling for more surveillance cameras in public areas after the Boston Marathon bombing attacks.

In unusually strong language, Interior Minister Friedrich has criticized opponents of increased video surveillance. He made his comments at a symposium of Germany's internal security agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), as the agency is officially called in English.

One of the alleged critics he was aiming at was apparently Andreas Vosskuhle, president of the Federal Constitutional Court, who warned of exaggerated reactions in Germany in an interview with the German newspaper "Welt am Sonntag" following the Boston Marathon bombing attacks.

'Inappropriate' statements

"If constitutional judges want to make policy, then they should run as a candidate for parliament," said an annoyed Friedrich at the symposium, without naming Vosskuhle directly. In the newspaper interview, Vosskuhle said it was a part of political life for "demands to be formulated immediately after an event like the Boston bombing," but that "prudence should return" when it came to actually taking action. Friedrich called the statements of Germany's highest judge "inappropriate."

Michael Hartman, internal affairs spokesman for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) parliamentary group, told DW he is not opposed in principle to video surveillance. But there must be enough police behind the cameras to evaluate the recorded material, he added. Otherwise, the cameras would deliver only "junk data."

Security officials in Boston were able to track down the alleged marathon assassins with the help of video footage and prevent "further attacks from being planned or executed," Friedrich said. Three people died in the attacks on April 14 and more than 100 were injured, many of them seriously.

The entire Western world is in danger, according to Friedrich. Germany also faces what he called an "abstract threat" from extremist groups. There is no reason to play down this situation, he warned.

Sowing discord

Hans-Peter Friedrich Foto: Maurizio Gambarini/dpa

Hans-Peter Friedrich warns of threats to Western nations

Friedrich said he has been observing the radical Salafist scene with concern. The interior ministry, he added, is currently studying measures to identify so-called hate preachers more easily. Friedrich plans to present his recommendation at a conference of German state interior ministers in May. He believes society should not have to put up with radical Islamists sowing discord and calling for violence and crime.

Another topic discussed at the symposium was the neo-Nazi terror group, the National Socialist Underground (NSU). Referring to the series of NSU murders and the apparent failure of security services, BfV president Hans-Georg Massen said it is necessary "for the agency not only to think in familiar patterns." With that remark, Massen alluded to the numerous mistakes related to the NSU that occurred under the agency's former head Heinz Fromm, who retired last year.

Massen is now trying to regain lost trust: "We are the service provider for a democracy which is able to defend itself," he said. But his agency has fallen far short of that claim in its handling of the NSU. The cooperation between the various authorities at the federal and state level, including the police, seldom functioned. That impression has only been confirmed by media coverage and the work of parliamentary committees investigating the NSU.

The NSU, which is believed to have killed eight migrants of Turkish origin, one of Greek origin and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007, managed to avoid detection as a result of failures in the intelligence and police services. Their killing spree only came to light when two of them committed suicide as they were being chased by police following a bank robbery in November 2011.

Legal proceedings against the alleged third member of the group, Beate Zschäpe, will begin on May 6 in Munich.

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