The most recent BND spy scandal is symptomatic of the disrespectful way the government deals with Parliament. It's time to revamp the way the intelligence services are monitored, writes DW's Marcel Fürstenau.
The German Chancellor's Office appears to have no qualms at all where the touchy issue of the intelligence services is concerned: There's been deception, maneuvering and most probably lies.
The accusations are neither made up out of thin air, nor have they been made thoughtlessly or with an eye to scandal. The opposite is true: Once again, sheepishly, the government had to basically confirm the gist of media reports.
This time it's about alleged spying on European businesses by the US National Security Agency (NSA) - in cahoots with the BND, Germany's foreign intelligence service. The Chancellor's Office was advised about the questionable, possibly even illegal scheme.
Here, a German intelligence service dutifully passed on what it knew to the political powers that be - at least the executive. But the government kept the explosive information to itself.
As has so often been the case, the German Parliament was not informed, even though the government is bound by law to inform the parliamentary control board (PKGr), which includes lawmakers from all parties with seats in Parliament, about the work of the intelligence services.
Article 4 actually leaves very little wiggle room for withholding relevant information. The federal government must give the PKGr comprehensive information concerning the agencies' "work in general" as well as "incidents of special importance."
Not a single member of the government has so far claimed that NSA spying on European armaments firms with the help of the BND lacks significance.
Legal cooperation, please
To rule out any misunderstandings: In times of international terrorism, all German intelligence agencies' activities are important, including activities by the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
The 9/11 attacks in 2001 gave the NSA's collaboration with the BND in particular a new dimension. To a certain degree, the hunger for data and information is understandable, in particular because the number of terrorist attacks has increased since then, as have people's fears of being caught in the sights of religious fanatics.
In a democracy, however, the fight against terrorism should not lead to the establishment of a state within a state. That danger increases to the extent that the intelligence services elude control by the government, which in turn eludes control by Parliament.
This criticism may not be new, but it needs to be voiced from time to time. The intelligence agencies must urgently be reformed, and political monitoring needs some serious improvements. No one can close their eyes to these necessities any longer, certainly not since the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Numerous proposals from politicians, but also from within society, are on the table. If they continue to be ignored even after this most recent NSA/BND scandal, the German government will expose itself more than ever to allegations of deliberate inactivity.