German gov’t employs covert agents to spy on ‘anti-vaxxers’ and ‘right-wingers’
The agents seek to win the sympathy of conservatives and gain acceptance into their inner circles, one undercover agent told a German newspaper.
The German federal domestic intelligence agency (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz or BfV) reportedly employs dozens of digital undercover agents that infiltrate, among others, online groups critical of COVID restrictions and vaccines, according to an anonymous online agent.
The anonymous female agent was interviewed by one of Germany’s largest mainstream newspapers, Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The agents make up a character that they play online to gain the trust of people in groups that the German intelligence agency deems as dangerous, according to the agent. While they use fake names, they do post real pictures of themselves to appear real to the people that they monitor. The agents not only like and share content but also post offending content themselves.
The female agent interviewed said that she started the job because she is an idealist and wanted to “do something against right-wing extremists.”
The most difficult thing is to be in “the bubble of recent conspiracy theories” and among people who see a “diabolical plot in the government’s [COVID-19] measures” the agent reported.
“Of course, I encourage people in their worldview,” the agent admits. Her work is geared toward gaining the interest and sympathy of right-wingers, to be liked by them, that is, “to feed this bubble” in order to be accepted into their inner circles. Even calls for sedition and insurrection are allowed by the German intelligence agency, according to the female agent.
The agencye “has dozens of virtual agents” for different categories, including right-wing, left-wing, Islamist, and “conspiracy ideology scene,” according to Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Ronen Steinke, the author of the article about the digital undercover agents in Süddeutsche Zeitung speaks of “hundreds” of “right-wing extremist fake accounts” in a related Tweet thread.
“More and more colleagues” from this intelligence agency are now working online as undercover agents, according to the female agent interviewed. There are so many fake accounts now that they must coordinate their actions nationwide to prevent them from targeting each other.
“This is the future of intelligence acquisition,” said the head of one of the BfV’s state offices.
In 2019, this practice was increased on a grand scale, triggered by the murder of German politician Walter Lübcke, against whom right-wingers had “agitated a lot on the net”, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Süddeutsche Zeitung claims that a high-ranking secret service agent told them that their agents had infiltrated a group of “radical anti-vaccination activists” who reportedly planned to murder German politician Michael Kretschmer.
In April 2021, the BfV introduced activities they are surveilling called “delegitimization of the state relevant to constitutional protection,” which especially target the activities of opponents of COVID measures, because some of them would want “to fight the democratic and constitutional order,” according to the BfV.
A German legal scholar criticized the practice, as the state “may only take an interest in the political opinions of citizens to the extent that it respects the fundamental right of freedom of opinion,” Swiss newspaper NZZ quotes Hamburg constitutional law professor Hans Peter Bull.
The intelligence agencies engage in surveillance of people’s convictions “by observing fellow citizens because of their radically critical opinions and creating dossiers on them,” Bull said. This infringes on the freedom of opinion of citizens, according to the law professor. Bull also added that the “constitutional protection authorities are supposed to collect and evaluate intelligence, but not participate in the creation of intelligence themselves.”