The Bundersrepublik of Germany’s counter terror operations against the online far right were partially divulged this week in reportage by the left leaning Süddeutsche Zeitung daily.
Focused upon the exploits of an unnamed female officer for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the federal employee’s tactics included the creation of numerous cross platform accounts, partaking in right wing chat forums/platforms and the sowing of discord and potential for extrajudicial action. ‘Fedposting’ in the common parlance.
Part of a wider campaign waged by the German state, mention is also made of the enhanced use of covert surveillance techniques.
“The Office for the Protection of the Constitution runs a secret workshop here together with the police. Technicians build small spy cameras in bird feeders.They prepare motorcycles or prams with invisible microphones. If an employee rolls a bin in front of him, it is possible that this object also has eyes and ears”
Tasked with executing the antifascist ordinances of the post-war German state, the Office was scandalised in 2012 when it was revealed that the department was de facto orchestrating terror attacks through agent running in the National Socialist Underground terror outfit.
A similarly striking nadir came when the nationalist grouping the NPD couldn’t be successfully proscribed due to the number of federal agents and informants in place within the party, humiliating any serious legal effort.
Given the green light to place the populist AfD under surveillance this year, in recent months the Office has taken a hardline against political factions on both sides of the spectrum seeking peace with Russia.
No doubt playing up to the press gallery in the hopes of demoralising the nationalist right, the officer’s duties included the creation and cultivation of fake personae on various platforms including Instagram, Gettr and Telegram and embedment within rightist communities.
Taking months to build up their online profiles or legends, agents are recommended to develop shared interest with extremists including martial arts and the occult.
Employing ‘dozens of agents in similar pursuit, intelligence chiefs are increasingly preferring these online methodologies due to their relatively low risk, high reward nature.
Allegedly some of the techniques utilised by the Office were used to snuff out a plot against the German Health Minister with a similar plot being foiled to snuff out the Prime Minister of Lower Saxony by the presence of agents in an organising group chat. That is of course if you take the state at face value.
Special description is also made of the habit of egging on right wing extremists in rhetoric in the hopes of fanning the flames of potential violence.
“Of course, I encourage people in their worldview,” the agent admits. Her work is aimed at gaining the interest and sympathy of the right, to be liked by them, that is, to “feed this bubble” in order to be accepted into their inner circles. She is even allowed to commit “scene-typical” propaganda crimes, as they say in legal German. In other words: hate speech.
The 35-year-old history graduate also gloats of the role they played infiltrating the American based white nationalist group Atomwaffen, long the punching bag for journalists helped by the sheer density of federal agents.
Vacillating between a neo-Nazi radical one day and an anti-lockdown activist another, the agent boasts multiple alter egos careful cultivated throughout the years.
An interesting aspect of the process is the prevention of the radicalisation of state agents by the use of psychologists lest operators themselves become consumed by right wing extremism with key boundaries such as posting solely at a work desk rather than a home.
Nothing the world and its mother didn’t already know about the rough and tumble of counter extremism, one can rest assured that the Irish state has only a fraction of a fraction of the resources at the disposal of Berlin.
Of particular Irish interest is the fact these methods were spearheaded and codified by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue and in particular the work done by their operative Julia Ebner. Running human and online intelligence operations into Islamist and far right organisations, one should bear that in mind whenever Aoife Gallagher or Ciaran O’Conor make it onto Irish screens or airwaves.
Ostensibly a London based counter extremism think tank, the ISD doesn’t shy away from its positive relationships with law enforcement agencies, though is far quieter about its founder Lord Baron Weidenfeld and his career spanning 50 years within and without the British and Israeli states.
Another cue if one was needed that the state and assorted security agencies benefit from botched and hairbrained ‘terror plots’ real or imagined. A state and its human functionaries are seldom omnipotent, but you never just know who is watching.