Intel chief resignation not enough, says German opposition

July 04, 2012, Wednesday/ 14:17:00

The head of Germany's national domestic intelligence agency has stepped down in relation to an alleged cover-up attempt regarding a neo-Nazi group believed to have killed at least 10 people, mostly ethnic Turks, over the past seven years, but this has not been enough to ease the concerns of the opposition.

Heinz Fromm, the head of Germany's national domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, stepped down earlier this week amid criticism of how his agency has investigated the far-right group. On Tuesday, the regional government in Thuringia -- the home state of the alleged group members -- announced the removal of the head of its own intelligence agency. Thomas Sippel "no longer has the confidence" of the state legislature, regional Interior Minister Jörg Geibert said.

The resignations came shortly after revelations that an official destroyed files relating to the neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Underground (NSU). However, anger remains in Germany. The Deutsche Welle broadcaster reports that opposition politicians believe the resignations are only the price to be paid so that those higher up in German intelligence can hold on to their seats.

Hans-Christian Störbele from the Greens was quoted as saying: “It is hard to assess the depth of the crisis. This is a very serious crisis because it is an obvious fact that the intelligence agency has failed at one of its most important duties. Mr. Fromm, by resigning, assumed the guilt by himself. But I only see this resignation -- or rather, his request to retire before his time is due -- as a first step in paying for the mistakes.”

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Greens and the Left Party have also voiced demands to reform Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The agency has been at the heart of debate since it became evident last year that the far-right NSU went on a slow killing spree over the course of seven years and managed to stay undetected by the intelligence agency. The newly resigned intelligence head is expected to testify as a witness at a parliamentary commission on Thursday, established to investigate the neo-Nazi murders.

In related developments, Germany's Berliner Zeitung daily on Tuesday claimed that the German intelligence agency had ignored an intelligence note from Italian intelligence agency AISI in 2003, warning the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution against the growing far-right threat.

Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of the Greens, noted: “This is not over yet. On the contrary, it is only beginning. As one engages in this, one gets this impression: What we see is only the tip of the iceberg. This is not something that can be shut down with the resignation of Fromm. On behalf of my party, I promise that we will not give up on following the investigation until every aspect is illuminated and everyone responsible has answered to the law.”

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