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Article Fed­er­al Of­fice for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion

Its main tasks are to monitor and analyse anti-constitutional activities by right- and left-wing extremists and extremist foreigners in Germany and to prevent espionage activities by other countries.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) works closely with its counterparts at state level and with the other German intelligence services (the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD)) as necessary.

The BfV is an executive agency of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. It has about 3,000 staff.
To carry out its tasks, the BfV collects by far the most of its information from overt and generally accessible sources, that is, printed material such as newspapers, flyers, programmes and appeals. In addition to this the BfV may use clandestine methods as allowed by law, including covert surveillance, false documents and vehicle number plates, front companies, etc. It may also gather information from financial institutions, airlines and Internet service providers in accordance with the relevant law. Under certain conditions and with the approval of a special Bundestag body known as the G-10 Commission, the BfV may conduct telecommunications surveillance.

But the federal and state offices to protect the Constitution may not generally spy on individuals or collect personal information. The authorities are allowed to go into action only when the conditions of Section 3 of the Act Regulating the Cooperation between the Federation and the Federal States in Matters Relating to the Protection of the Constitution and on the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesverfassungsschutzgesetz, BVerfSchG) are met, for example activities directed against the free democratic basic order of the state or the idea of international understanding (Article 9 (2) of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz, GG)), especially against the peaceful co-existence of people.

The BfV does not have any police powers, so it is not authorized to arrest anyone or search anyone’s home, nor may it order the police to do so.

Other tasks of the BfV:

Participating in security vetting procedures: These are intended to make sure that persons working in sensitive areas do not disclose confidential information entrusted to them or perform acts of sabotage for terrorist purposes, for example.

Informing the public: The BfV is required by law to keep the German public informed and aware of possible threats to our democratic system, in order to protect it.

The Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) has similar tasks to the BfV but its jurisdiction is limited to the executive agencies of the Federal Ministry of Defence.

The Federal Intelligence Service (BND) is Germany’s foreign intelligence agency. It gathers and analyses information about significant developments abroad, especially those relevant to Germany’s security, including terrorist threats.

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