The president of the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Thomas Haldenwang, has warned against underestimating the threat posed by Deash* after its military defeat, noting that the danger has “by now means” passed.
"I cannot give the all-clear with Daesh. We must further take into account that Daesh could launch an attack in Germany at any time”, he told the German outlet Die Welt am Sonntag, adding that the Daesh still exists, while Europe has become the scene of a “virtual cyber caliphate, which incites attacks and can still drive its supporters to strike".
He also warned that there are still underground Daesh groups in Syria and Iraq, and that the security service keeps getting information about people planning attacks.
According to the security official, the number of people that his agency has red flagged as possibly dangerous radical Islamists grew by 300 people last year. 2,240 people are classified as potential terrorists who could carry out or support an attack at any time. Haldenwang noted that the authorities cannot constantly keep an eye on them.
"Keeping track of all these people around the clock is not possible. You would need up to 40 officers per person, so we could focus on those we consider particularly dangerous”, he told the outlet.
According to him, the agency is also paying special attention to the children of German Daesh* returnees coming back from the Middle East.
"We ask ourselves: is this a new generation of terrorists?" the top security official revealed, noting that jihadists’ children might return to Germany one day after witnessing the violence of Daesh, and could worship their dead fathers as heroes. Some of these children are already in the country.
According to him, attempted attacks in previous years have shown that adolescents can become attackers. Thus, Haldenwang pleaded for legal changes to allow monitoring children in individual cases.
"If we are allowed to record their data, then we can, for example, forward the information to the youth welfare office", said Haldenwang, adding that the minors are victims themselves.
He also defended the plan to grant access to messenger services, saying that security services are able to monitor trivial banter for now, but chats are often hidden from them. Meanwhile, terrorists are said to be well aware of this loophole. He urged for the adaption of legislation that already allows monitoring telephone conversations under strict conditions to the modern world of communications.
“Extremists and terrorists know exactly how they can interact unnoticed. Their communication options have increased enormously through the Internet. Today, they communicate via messenger services such as WhatsApp, Facebook, or even chats of online video games”, he argued.
At the same time, the official spoke about right-wing conspirators as being isolated cases.
"I do not yet see a great threat or a large scale. It seems to me to be isolated cases that need to be investigated — but they are not beginning to gain the mass of a ‘shadow army’”, he said.
* Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia