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Coalition split by anti-terror laws row

The Local · 2 May 2011, 14:56

Published: 02 May 2011 14:56 GMT+02:00

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Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), are at loggerheads over laws allowing the storage of personal phone and internet records, as well as extending the exceptional powers currently given to anti-terror authorities.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of Merkel's Bavarian allies the CSU, called on Sunday for the special powers for security services – which allow for more intrusive investigation methods – to be extended. They are due to run out at the end of this year.

His call came after the arrest of three members of the “Düsseldorf cell” of Islamic extremists and on the day before the world woke to learn the US had killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

However, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP) openly opposed the call.

“The case in North Rhine-Westphalia has shown how operations-ready our state institutions are. It cannot now be deduced from that, that we need tougher laws and ever-greater curbs to basic freedoms,” she told Monday's Financial Times Deutschland.

The conservatives and the FDP have been at odds on security legislation for months. Merkel’s conservatives want to extend anti-terror legislation passed after September 11, 2001 – and renewed in 2007. It grants authorities wider access to various personal data. Much of this legislation is set to expire in January.

They also want to revive data retention laws, knocked down by the Constitutional Court last year, that compel phone and internet companies to keep data on all customers for six months.

The FDP argues that the arrests in Düsseldorf and Bochum, the result of investigations by the Federal Criminal Police, did not result from the special powers given to investigators.

Federal prosecutors have indicted the three alleged members of al-Qaida on charges of planning a bomb attack, though a specific target had not been decided. Their plan to build a shrapnel bomb was still in the “experimental phase,” prosecutors said.

Interior Minister Friedrich said the laws had been independently assessed and were being used responsibly.

“Two external experts have examined the existing anti-terror laws and come to the conclusion that the bulk of the provisions are sensible and are being applied by the authorities in a measured way,” he said. “I am against legislative activism but we don’t need party tactical manoeuvring, rather security and protection for our citizens from attacks,” he said.

Lower Saxony Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann used an even sharper tone.

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“Someone like the federal justice minister who, at a time like this, is categorically ruling out options can only be ideologically motivated,” he told the Financial Times Deutschland. “The justice minister wants to make a name for herself as ‘Madam No’. When it comes to the security of the people, such behaviour is unsupportable.”

The centre-left opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) actually supports an extension of the exceptional powers. The spokesman for their parliamentary wing, Thomas Oppermann, said on Monday: “The battle against terrorism is not yet won. To ask for the vigilance of citizens alone is not sufficient.”

The Local/DAPD/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:30 May 2, 2011 by Katzerina
This is not a left-right issue, as the SPD are also in favor of extending the exceptional powers. I understand the FDP's reaction as they are one of the few parties in Europe with more Libertarian leanings. It's a slippery slope, as freedom is never the battle for safety. With technological advances, the idea that we can be snooped on advances in both the private and public sectors. President Clinton began this in the States, roving wiretape laws, project Echelon....yet political arguments ensue blaming the "other" side for further infringements on liberty. Society has to decide how much freedom is necessary to ensure the safety of the state, just remember it's not about the abuses of the party in charge now... it's how any party in the future could misuse the information.
19:42 May 2, 2011 by raandy
Katzerina excellent points ,but how far can we trust the state?
19:53 May 2, 2011 by taiwanluthiers
So what's next? Will we require Muslims or anyone who looks Islamic to wear ID tags, and then next thing you know they all disappear?

Remember Hitler had granted extra powers to the state due to "national emergencies". Even if the authorities today doesn't abuse their power, what's to stop another Hitler from repeating history?
20:13 May 2, 2011 by whpmgr
taiwanluthiers: Dude, are you sniffing your glues of the luthier? How did you go from freedoms to punching the Hitler button? And then add in your shot about Muslims disappearing?

The point here is does society need to extend the rules, and if so, why? If the answer is right, and there are not current laws on the books to take care of things, then extend them until you get the right laws on the books. Some say, if you have nothing to hide, why worry, I say at some point, the Government needs to pullback some, do their jobs on controlling who can immiagrate and leave the interior to the police and citizens.

I think this religious war has been started to slowly rob us from our freedoms. We will never go back to controlling our lives as we did 10 years ago. THis is just theh beginning, but hell - Hitler and disappearing muslims? Wow, now that is harsh.
20:24 May 2, 2011 by Katzerina
The issue is always that law abiding citizens are the one's hurt my more laws and regulations, because in the end they are the only ones who will follow the law. Gun control doesn't have any effect on criminals, or those with criminal intent for example...

So the rest of us would also be snooped upon, primarily because those in charge have an abiding fear of being labeled "racists." This ideal that racial profiling is racist is absolute nonsense. Police work has always used profiling to solve cases. Could you imagine if for example a Japanese woman was assaulted, and described her attacker as perhaps "Asian" very probably chinese, that the police could not go out and canvass the streets for Asian males who matched that description? Turn the argument around, and a german woman is assaulted by a blonde german male... would the police not put out a bulletin for someone, obviously caucasian to match that description?

This ideal of political correctness, is part of the issue of why politicians are so reticent to allow law enforcement every possible investigative tool. There really is little need for a broad sweep of public monitoring, but that is what we will be left with because of the cowardice of those in charge.
21:29 May 2, 2011 by whpmgr
Katzerina: Interesting, but since this is a german paper, and arming the citizens is not a part of the point in question I ask, why not look at it from teh point of disarmed, sheep that look to government to help and protect them? Profiling works, ask the Israelis.

I did forget to ask, did anyone look at the Polizists and think, wow, these guys look like Americans?
23:49 May 2, 2011 by Katzerina
I always rely on the gun control argument, because of the rights it removes from law abiding citizens....in any country! Really it' s emblematic of any laws which in their veiled attempt at NOT targeting specific criminals, instead curtail the rights of everyone. It's always the same argument, and at some point the average citizen has to begin to question why their rights are continuously being assailed, even if it's as benign as the implementation of blanket eves dropping laws targeting our use of technology.
14:55 May 3, 2011 by tallady
We have all seen our freedoms becoming less and less in the USA

Patriot act .. Department of Justice's inspector general released a report confirming extensive misuse of NSLs in a sample of four FBI field offices. An internal audit by the FBI confirmed that the problem was far more extensive than first thought.

When you give up freedom for security, eventually you will have neither.
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