When allegations came to light in 2011 that a right-wing terrorist group had committed murders unchecked in Germany for years, domestic intelligence was under the gun. Now there are more questions being asked.
Over five years before the NSU members were caught, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution - German domestic intelligence - was in possession of a CD labeled "NSU/NSDAP" [National Socialist Underground/National Socialist German Workers' Party, the latter of which was the party co-founded by Adolf Hitler, eds. note].
The CD had been in the intelligence archive since 2005, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday, adding, however: "It was only found last Monday during an archive search for another investigation in process."
"This is yet another setback in a long line of mishaps on the part of our intelligence when it comes to rightwing terrorism," said Irene Mihalic, Green party politician and member of a parliamentary committee on internal affairs, in response to the finding.
Other members of the committee asked Wednesday whether this simply represented incompetence, or whether there were motives behind the CD not being "found" all this time. "Now it's clear that we have to turn over every single stone in the intelligence archive," said Burkhard Lischka, Bundestag internal affairs spokeswoman.
Officials at the intelligence office said the CD contained "rightwing extremist" material and the NSU tag, but that it offered no conclusive evidence suggesting the existence of a terrorist group.
Unchecked for a decade
The NSU trial, which is in its 144th day, concerns the murders of nine Germans of foreign descent (eight Turkish, one Greek) and a police officer, as well as bank robberies and bombings, all of which are believed to have taken place between 2001 and 2007.
German intelligence was aware of the NSU while the murders were taking place. Officials say they withheld their knowledge under the assumption that the murders were reactions to disputes with other groups.
Only when Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt committed suicide in November 2011 did the existence of the rightwing terror trio come to light. Soon after, the third member, Beate Zschäpe, set fire to the group's hideout, an apartment in Zwickau. Authorities found weapons, rightwing paraphernalia and a CD with pictures linking the trio to the murders (see picture).
The trial against Zschäpe began at a Munich court in 2013.
glb/es (Reuters, AP, dpa)