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Supervision and Control

Under supervision like hardly any other agency

The BfV is supervised by various bodies and on various levels. This oversight includes administrative control as well as parliamentary and judicial control, ranging to public control. The details are as follows:

Administrative Control

Administrative and technical supervision of the BfV is exercised by the Bundesministerium des Innern (BMI - Federal Ministry of the Interior).

The Bundesbeauftragte für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit (BfDI – Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information) ensures the implementation of data protection regulations and compliance with pertinent service regulations; in the exercise of his duties he has the right to inspect records.

The Bundesrechnungshof (BRH – Federal Court of Audit) exerts financial control over the German intelligence services – including the BfV – and informs the Vertrauensgremium (Confidential Committee), the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium (PKGr – Parliamentary Control Panel) as well as the BMI on the results of the reviews.

Parliamentary Control

General parliamentary supervision of the BfV takes place in the form of debates, Aktuelle Stunden (debates on matters of topical interest) and urgent interpellations as well as minor and major interpellations in the German Bundestag. Supervision also takes the form of reporting to the Innenausschuss (Committee on Internal Affairs), the Haushaltsausschuss (Budget Committee) and, if required, to a committee of inquiry.

In addition, citizens are entitled to submit petitions, which are dealt with by the Petitionsausschuss (Petitions Committee) of the Bundestag.

Special parliamentary controls are carried out by the Parliamentary Control Panel (PKGr), the Confidential Committee of the Budget Committee and by the G10 Commission.

  • The Parliamentary Control Panel (PKGr) has been tasked with supervising the Militärischer Abschirmdienst (MAD – Military Counterintelligence Service), the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND – Federal Intelligence Service) and the BfV. The PKGr is vested with extensive supervisory powers, to include the right to inspect records, the right of admission to all official premises of the intelligence services and the right to interview members of the intelligence services. On the other hand, members of the intelligence services are entitled to directly contact the PKGr in connection with official matters without going through the proper channels.

    The PKGr reports to the German Bundestag on its supervisory activities at least halfway through and at the end of a legislative term.

  • The German Bundestag elects members of the Budget Committee to form the Confidential Committee. The Confidential Committee's main task is to decide, in the course of the annual budgetary procedure, on the operating budgets of the three federal intelligence services and to check during the year how the funds granted are being spent. For the purposes of control, the Confidential Committee has the same rights as the PKGr.

    The Confidential Committee reports to the German Bundestag on its preceding supervisory activities at least halfway through and at the end of each legislative term.

    In order to avoid any control gaps which might result from the division of duties between the PKGr and the Confidential Committee, there are rights of mutual consultation or advice. The chairpersons of the committees and their deputies as well as another authorised member of each commission may attend each other's meetings in an advisory capacity.

  • The G10 Commission is appointed by the PKGr for the duration of one legislative term of the German Bundestag after the Federal Government has been heard. It is composed of the chairperson, who must be qualified to hold judicial office, three associate members and four substitute members. They need not necessarily be members of the German Bundestag. They are independent in the performance of their duties and are not bound by directives. The Commission meets at least once a month, with the obligation to maintain secrecy about its discussions.

    The G10 Commission's main task is to decide on the legitimacy and necessity of measures which restrict the privacy of correspondence, posts and telecommunications. Its supervisory powers also extend to the entire collection, processing and use of personal data acquired by those restrictive measures including the decision whether or not to notify the persons concerned. In the exercise of its duties, the Commission has an extensive right to demand information, a right to inspect records and a right of admission to all offices.

    As to the BfV, the Federal Minister of the Interior informs the G10 Commission on a monthly basis on the restrictive measures ordered by him or her prior to their being enforced.

    In addition, the G10 Commission's scrutiny pertains to certain powers granted to the intelligence services according to the Counter-terrorism Act for a limited period of time lasting until the end of 2015, e.g. the power to request telecommunications traffic data from telecommunications companies.

Judicial Control

The pillars of the free democratic basic order include the "lawfulness of the administration" as well as "judicial independence" (cf. Federal Constitutional Court verdict dating back to 1952, banning the SRP (Sozialistische Reichspartei Deutschlands – Socialist Reich Party of Germany), section 92 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) as well as section 4 of the Federal Act on the Protection of the Constitution (BVerfSchG)). This implies that any action taken by the BfV exercising official authority can be reviewed by independent courts.

Public Control

The public exerts a sort of control which must not be underestimated. Citizens may obtain information by direct or indirect petitions and enquiries.

Last but not least, the fourth power within the state must be mentioned: The media have an immense supervisory effect by means of enquiries and investigations as well as the resulting coverage.

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Anti-terrorist Hotline: +49(0)221/ 792-3366

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