German spies call for right to keep eye on minors ‘probably linked to terrorists’

© Fabrizio Bensch
For security reasons, teenagers under 16 years old that are likely to be or get radicalized should be under surveillance of Germany’s domestic intelligence service, a high-ranking official has said. Spying on minors is currently forbidden in Germany.

In an interview with the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, head of the Thuringian branch of the Verfassungsschutz (VS) Stephan Kramer has called for lifting the ban, which prevents Germany’s security services from keeping tabs on teenagers that might be connected to jihadists, saying it significantly hinders national security.

“We have a huge problem,” Kramer said, citing as an example the case of 15-year-old girl Safia S., that stabbed a police officer at the main train station in Hannover in February.

“Minors are not only radicalized, they are also used as weapons,” Kramer added, giving the example of two boys, 16 and 17, that were detained over a bomb attack on a Sikh temple in the city of Essen.

“Right now I see no other option than to erase those age boundaries,” Kramer said, noting that the radicalization of a person must be detected and suppressed before it’s too late to do something.

Speaking at an internal meeting of the Verfassunggeschutz, service chief Hans-Georg Maaßen has touched upon the issue, saying that the intelligence service “essentially can't keep data on people under 16 unless there are concrete indications of a terrorist threat”.

Stephan Mayer, home policy spokeman for the Christian Democrats faction in the Bundestag, has supported Maaßen’s stance on the matter, saying that it is “completely understandable and justified”. The same response has come from his Social Democrat counterpart, Burkhard Lischk, who also said that if an amendment to the law should be passed, it must be carried out “only under very strict conditions.”

Several cases of teenagers or children leaving Germany for Syria – with their parents or alone – have been reportedly detected by the VS. However, there was nothing they could do, since the existing legislation doesn’t allow the service to take any action, including even writing down the suspects’ names.