Fighting international terrorism
Islamist terrorism continues to represent a global threat to domestic security. Thanks to their professionalism, cooperation with foreign partner agencies and a little bit of luck, our security authorities have been able to prevent a number of attempted attacks since September 11, 2001, including those planned by the so-called Sauerland Group in September 2007, by the so-called Düsseldorf Cell in April 2011 and by the Islamist extremist Halil S., who was arrested in December 2011. These examples are evidence that Islamists have not stopped planning or attempting attacks. On the contrary, while Germany used to be a transit country, since 2001 it has become a target of international terrorists. This brutal truth was brought home on 2 March 2011, when an Islamist attacker shot and killed two U.S. troops and seriously wounded two others at Frankfurt Airport in the first such attack on German soil.
Nor does the death of Osama bin Laden mean that Germany is no longer a target of Islamist terrorist organizations; instead, we can assume that Al Qaeda will try to launch further attacks in the West to demonstrate that it is still a threat despite the death of its leader.
Thus fighting Islamist terrorism continues to be a key task for the security authorities. To this end, the Federal Government is pursuing a comprehensive security strategy based on five strategic objectives:
1. Breaking up terrorist networks and intensifying investigations to detect and prevent terrorist attacks
The top priority for the security authorities is detecting terrorist activity as early as possible in order to prevent attack. To do so, it is necessary to recognize and break up terrorist networks. Information is the key: To protect the public, the security authorities must be able to acquire and analyse information well in advance of possible attacks. This requires the security authorities to work closely together and with their international partners. An efficient division of labour at both national and international level helps us make optimal use of our potential. In this way, the security authorities have been able to prevent a number of attacks, and terrorists have been convicted in court and given severe sentences.
The security authorities now face new challenges: individuals who have become radicalized unnoticed by the authorities and who carry out their brutal acts alone. For our security authorities to be able to respond to such challenges with the necessary flexibility, they must have the appropriate tools and powers.
The Internet plays a key role in radicalization, so our security authorities must be able to monitor and analyse relevant Internet content. The Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre in Berlin performs this task in the area of Islamist terrorism.
2. Combating the causes of terrorism: Prevention as a task of the entire society
Prevention which starts at the roots of radicalization is a key component of the fight against terrorism. Firstly, it is necessary to combat risk factors, for example by addressing Islamist ideology at the intellectual level and dismantling hostile stereotypes. Secondly, we must reinforce protective factors, in particular the basic values of our liberal democracy, integration and social cohesion. This is a task for society as a whole, and those closest to groups at risk of radicalization bear special responsibility. An early-warning system is needed to recognize radicalization and intervene at an early stage. In 2011, Federal Minister of the Interior Friedrich held a prevention summit to strengthen existing security partnerships between Muslims and the security authorities and to initiate new local partnerships. The Federal Ministry of the Interior supports the security partnership initiative between the security authorities and Muslim organizations and mosque associations. The dialogue in the German Islam Conference also helps make sure that this responsibility is fulfilled.
3. Protecting the public, taking preventive measures and reducing our country’s overall vulnerability
We must make it more difficult for terrorists to identify targets and carry out their attack plans. Our task therefore includes removing opportunities for attack and reducing vulnerability. Measures to increase aviation security, for example, are an effective way to help prevent attacks. Additional efforts focus on protecting critical infrastructure whose disruption would have a dramatic impact on the general public. These efforts include the National Plan to Protect Critical Infrastructures and a baseline security strategy for private businesses.
4. Responding to attacks
Obviously, there is no such thing as absolute security, so we must be prepared should an attack take place. This is why response is also an important part of Germany's counter-terrorism policy: In addition to containing and managing the effects of attack, it includes crisis management, civil protection and care for victims. We have therefore reorganized civil protection to make it more effective, to contain the impact of attack as far as possible and to be able to help victims rapidly.
5. Taking advantage of European and international cooperation
European and international cooperation is a key component of fighting international terrorism. The United Nations, the G8, the European Union and NATO have adopted numerous joint measures and projects to fight cross-border terrorist networks effectively.
In addition, after 11 September 2001 Germany strengthened its bilateral cooperation with other countries in the field of counter-terrorism, focusing in particular on cooperation with individual European countries and the United States.