Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is the Federal Republic of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

's domestic intelligence agency
Intelligence agency
An intelligence agency is a governmental agency that is devoted to information gathering for purposes of national security and defence. Means of information gathering may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public...

. Together with the Landesämter für Verfassungsschutz on state-level it is tasked with intelligence-gathering on threats concerning the democratic order, the existence and security of the federation or one of its states, and the peaceful coexistence of peoples; with counter-intelligence
Counterintelligence or counter-intelligence refers to efforts made by intelligence organizations to prevent hostile or enemy intelligence organizations from successfully gathering and collecting intelligence against them. National intelligence programs, and, by extension, the overall defenses of...

; and with protective security and counter-sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

The BfV reports to the Federal Ministry of the Interior
Federal Ministry of the Interior (Germany)
The Federal Ministry of the Interior is a ministry of the German federal government. Its main office is in Berlin, with a secondary seat in Bonn. The current minister of the interior is Dr...

. Since 2000, Heinz Fromm
Heinz Fromm
Heinz Fromm is a German civil servant, and the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution . He is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany....

Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

) has served as President of the BfV.


The BfV is controlled by the Federal Minister of the Interior as well as the Bundestag, the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and other federal institutions. The Federal Minister of the Interior is in administrative and functional control of the BfV. Parliamentary control is exercised by the Bundestag in general debate, question times and urgent inquires, as well as by its committees, most notably the Parliamentary Control Commission and the G10 Commission. The BfV is also under judicial control and all its activities can be legally challenged in court. Based on the right of information, the general public can direct inquires and petitions at the BfV.


The BfV, is based at Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

. It is headed by a President (currently Heinz Fromm) and a Vice-President (currently
Dr. Alexander Eisvogel) and organised in eight departments:
  • Department Z - Administration
  • Department IT - IT
    Information technology
    Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

     and operational intelligence technology
  • Department 1 - Central services and support
  • Department 2 - Extremism (left- and right-wing)
  • Department 4 - Counter-espionage, protective security and counter-sabotage
  • Department 5 - Security threats posed to by foreign extremists or from abroad
  • Department 6 - Islamic extremism and terrorism

In 2008 federal funding for the BfV was € 155,238,306; with a total of 2,529 staff members employed.

Activities and operations

While the BfV uses all kinds of surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

 technology and infiltration
Infiltration tactics
In warfare, infiltration tactics involve small, lightly equipped infantry forces attacking enemy rear areas while bypassing enemy front line strongpoints and isolating them for attack by follow-up troops with heavier weapons.-Development during World War I:...

, they mostly use open source
Open source intelligence
Open-source intelligence is a form of intelligence collection management that involves finding, selecting, and acquiring information from publicly available sources and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence...

s. The BfV publishes a yearly report (Verfassungsschutzbericht
The Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution is published by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior since 1968. In the Annual Report details of the activities of far right, far left, Islamic extremists foreign and domestic, in Germany, as well as espionage, are given...

) which is intended to raise awareness about anti-constitutional activities.

Main concerns of the BfV are:
  • Left-wing political extremists, platforms, movements and parties, notably certain factions within Die Linke
    The Left (Germany)
    The Left , also commonly referred to as the Left Party , is a democratic socialist political party in Germany. The Left is the most left-wing party of the five represented in the Bundestag....

    , as well as other smaller parties and groups preaching communism
    Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

  • Right-wing political extremists (mainly Neo-Nazis, including the NPD, DVU political parties and smaller groups preaching Nazism
    Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

    , fascism
    Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

    , racism
    Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

     and xenophobia
    Xenophobia is defined as "an unreasonable fear of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange". It comes from the Greek words ξένος , meaning "stranger," "foreigner" and φόβος , meaning "fear."...

  • Extremist organisations of foreigners living in Germany (most prominently Islamist
    Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

  • Scientology
    Church of Scientology
    The Church of Scientology is an organization devoted to the practice and the promotion of the Scientology belief system. The Church of Scientology International is the Church of Scientology's parent organization, and is responsible for the overall ecclesiastical management, dissemination and...

     (considered by the German government
    Scientology in Germany
    The Church of Scientology has been present in Germany since 1970. German authorities estimate that there are 5,000–6,000 active Scientologists in Germany today; the Church of Scientology gives a membership figure of around 30,000...

     an authoritarian, anti-democratic commercial organization rather than a religion).
  • Organised crime is also mentioned as a threat to democracy, law and order, and free enterprise
    Free enterprise
    -Transport:* Free Enterprise I, a ferry in service with European Ferries between 1962 and 1980.* Free Enterprise II, a ferry in service with European Ferries between 1965 and 1982....

     in the country's business economic system.

Some of the BfV organisations have been given additional tasks by specific laws, such as the protection of government-related classified information, the monitoring of foreign secret service
Secret service
A secret service describes a government agency, or the activities of a government agency, concerned with the gathering of intelligence data. The tasks and powers of a secret service can vary greatly from one country to another. For instance, a country may establish a secret service which has some...

s, or the monitoring of organised crime.

Coordination between the different services and the parallelism of the state-based services is an ongoing problem. A merger into a single federal
service has been a topic of discussion, but the proposal faces strong political resistance due to the highly regarded principles of federalism.


In the course of drafting the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is the constitution of Germany. It was formally approved on 8 May 1949, and, with the signature of the Allies of World War II on 12 May, came into effect on 23 May, as the constitution of those states of West Germany that were initially included...

 the military governors of the Trizone outlined the competences of federal police and intelligence (Polizeibrief of 14 April 1949). In accordance with this outline the BfV was established on 7 November 1950. At first the BfV was mostly concerned with Neo-Nazism
Neo-Nazism consists of post-World War II social or political movements seeking to revive Nazism or some variant thereof.The term neo-Nazism can also refer to the ideology of these movements....

 and communist revolutionary activities. Soon the BfV also became involved in counter-espionage.

From the beginning, the BfV was troubled by a number of affairs. First, in the Vulkan affair in April 1953, 44 suspects were arrested and charged with spying on behalf of East Germany (GDR), but were later released as the information provided by the BfV was insufficient to obtain court verdicts. Then, in 1954 the first president of the BfV, Otto John, fled to the GDR. Shortly after that it became public that a number of employees of the BfV had been with the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 during the Third Reich. Nevertheless, material on the Communist Party of Germany
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

 (KPD) was essential for banning the party by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
The Federal Constitutional Court is a special court established by the Grundgesetz, the German basic law...

 in August 1956. Over the years, a number of associations and political groups were banned on material provided by the BfV.

Since 1972 the BfV is also concerned with activities of foreign nationals in Germany, especially extremists and so-called terrorists who operate in the country or plan their activities there, such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party
Kurdistan Workers' Party
The Kurdistan Workers' Party , commonly known as PKK, also known as KGK and formerly known as KADEK or KONGRA-GEL , is a Kurdish organization which has since 1984 been fighting an armed struggle against the Turkish state for an autonomous Kurdistan and greater cultural and political rights...

. One of the major intelligence failures in this field were the riots by supporters of the PKK in 1998, which the BfV missed due to the Cologne carnival
Cologne carnival
The Cologne Carnival is a carnival that takes place every year in Cologne, Germany. Traditionally, the "fifth season" is declared open at 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th of November. The Carnival spirit is then temporarily suspended during the Advent and Christmas period, and picks up again in...


The counter-intelligence activities of the BfV were mostly directed against the Ministry for State Security
The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), commonly known as the Stasi (abbreviation , literally State Security), was the official state security service of East Germany. The MfS was headquartered...

 (MfS) of the GDR. The MfS successfully penetrated the BfV and in a number of affairs destroyed its reputation as a counter-intelligence service by the early 1980s. In this, the MfS profited from the West German border regime which allowed any GDR citizen into the Federal Republic without restrictions.


The BfV has been publicly criticised for its clandestine behaviour and its tendency to bend the rules. With the end of the GDR the necessity of a domestic intelligence service had been questioned. The failure to detect the activities of the 9/11 conspirators further questioned the capability of the BfV to protect the constitution and ultimately the population. The rise of right-wing extremism, especially in the former GDR, was also partly blamed on the failure to establish working structures there.


  • 1950 - 1954 Otto John
    Otto John
    Otto John was the first head of the West German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution from 1950 to 1954...

  • 1955 - 1972 Hubert Schrübbers
  • 1972 - 1975 Günther Nollau
  • 1975 - 1982 Richard Meier
  • 1983 - 1985 Heribert Hellenbroich
  • 1985 - 1987 Ludwig-Holger Pfahls
  • 1987 - 1991 Gerhard Boeden
  • 1991 - 1995 Eckart Werthebach
  • 1995 - 1997 Hansjörg Geiger
  • 1997 - 2000 Peter Frisch
  • since 2000 Heinz Fromm
    Heinz Fromm
    Heinz Fromm is a German civil servant, and the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution . He is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany....

External links

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