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    German State Moves to Quash Role of Paid Political Informants

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    The central German state of Thuringia has made the first move to outlaw the use of a long-established practice of using 'quietly-protected' ordinary people as political undercover agents on behalf of the intelligence services.

    The practice of paying people as informants on behalf of the intelligence services in Germany has become a political issue in the central German state, since the elections in September 2014 led to an uneasy coalition.

    The informants — known as "V-Leute" (or "V-People" in English) — have long been used to infiltrate extremist groups, or drug rackets, to inform the secret service, in return for payment — on the basis that they were protected from identification and the process of law.

    However, one of the more contentious issues about their use was the fact that their operations went totally unregulated and fell outside of the remit of watchdogs. Rumours have been rife for years that they have been used by political parties to besmirch opposition parties, undercover.

    According to the Thüringer Allgemeine, the decision to abolish informants working for the intelligence service in Thuringia came about as a result of an agreement made between the three coalition partners in the state government, following a hung election in September 2014.

    Although the Christian Democratic Union won most seats, as well as the largest share of the popular vote, a coalition was formed between the Left, the Social Democrats and the Greens, under the leadership of Bodo Ramelow of the Left party. The agreement meant that the Left control one of Germany's federal states for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

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    The paper said the Thuringian Interior Ministry had announced that, as a result of that agreement, the "system of informants would not be continued."

    It said Thuringia is the first German state to move toward abolishing the use of informants by the intelligence service.

    The practice of using — and, in many cases,  paying — informants on the far-right by German police and intelligence services has come in for severe criticism for attempting to infiltrate and undermine left-wing opposition parties.    

    The leader of the Christian Democrats, Mike Mohring, said the decision to outlaw "V-Leute" was "dangerous and out of touch with reality" and would deprive the intelligence service of its most important information sources. 

    The Left party's Steffen Dittes told the paper that experience had shown the informants system was a danger to democracy.


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