Pioneer Briefing US Edition

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution Interferes in Politics


Good Morning,

Earlier this month, a trial was held in Münster, Germany, to determine whether the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (VS) should be allowed to monitor the Alternative for Germany (AfD) using intelligence resources. After repeated deliberations, the court was unable to complete the hearing. The trial has been postponed without further scheduled court dates.

But lurking in the background is a broader political question: Should the government have the power to spy on the opposition with the help of the VS?

Here are seven key points to keep in mind:

1. This case is unique to Germany. No other modern liberal democracy has a comparable institution to the VS. Legal scholar Volker Boehme-Neßler told our colleague Jan Schroeder:

In the US, UK, France or Switzerland, it would be unthinkable for a domestic intelligence agency to spy on its own citizens and the opposition officially.

2. VS officials are also party members: Depending on the person’s political affiliations and the region’s political climate, VS officials have differing experiences in different German states. For example, the Left Party (Die Linke) faces scrutiny in Christian Social Union (CSU)-led Bavaria; however, the party is greeted warmly in left-wing-governed Thuringia. Additionally, these senior VS officials are under the jurisdiction of both federal and state interior ministries, meaning they can be transferred or retired at any moment.

Horst Seehofer © imago

3. The VS is influenced by the Ministry of the Interior. In his highly regarded work "Protecting the Constitution - How the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Influences Politics," the lawyer Ronen Steinke comes to a logical conclusion: the interior ministers of the federal states are interfering.

When the AfD was classified as a "suspected case of right-wing extremism" in 2021, former CSU Interior Minister Horst Seehofer tampered with the report, as Steinke describes in his book. A statement claimed to be made by AfD politicians, which the VS classified as "anti-constitutional," had actually been made by Seehofer himself.

4. The VS is only outwardly neutral: If the "guardians of democracy" conclude that the AfD is a firmly established right-wing extremist party, this is perceived by the public as an official seal. As firmly established as a court ruling. In this way, the VS influences democratic competition.

5. The VS can be turned into an anti-democratic tool: The danger of the influence of the AfD was raised by the AfD lawyer Christian Conrad in Münster himself. "Imagine," he said, "that the AfD or the Left Party (Die Linke) were in government and had control over the appointment of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution." In power, the AfD wouldn't need to change laws but could use the tools of "resilient democracy" to dismantle them. It would be less risky if the constitution did not give any government the power to use an intelligence service against the opposition.

6. The VS oversteps boundaries. Since 2021, the constitution's protection has been extended to include what's called "delegitimization of the state," as noted by legal scholar Boehme-Neßler. This classification deems legitimate government criticism as extremist. Boehme-Neßler views this move by the state as unconstitutional:

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and VS President Thomas Haldenwang have crossed the line into authoritarianism.

Nancy Faeser at the Islam Conference in Berlin © dpa

7. The VS spreads distrust: Only through criticism does a government regularly rethink its policies. The harsher the VS's approach, the more it creates the impression that fundamental rights and democracy only apply as long as those in power see fit.

In essence, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, to some degree, contributes to the very skepticism towards democracy and the constitution that it claims to combat.

Conclusion: Better policies are the only effective way to counter the AfD.

  • Wirecard's former chief accountant, Stephan von Erffa, is apparently considering spilling the beans in court.

  • Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun is leaving the troubled aircraft manufacturer.

  • Patrick Süskind ("Perfume: The Story of a Murderer") turns 75 today.

Terrorism expert Peter Neumann © imago

After one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Russian history, Russia declared a national day of mourning. However, fear is not only spreading in Russia. In France, President Macron declared the highest level of terror alert yesterday.

For the Pioneer Podcast, my colleague Stefan Lischka spoke with terrorism expert Peter Neumann. The expert from King's College London (who was to be national security advisor in Armin Laschet's cabinet) explained this morning who the Islamic State Province Khorasan (ISPK) is.

The ISPK is one of many affiliates of ISIS. In 2018/19, the Islamic State was defeated in its caliphate in Syria and Iraq. However, one offshoot, namely the one in Afghanistan, has survived and even expanded.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser © imago

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the threat in Germany is "acute" - especially from the ISPK. Neumann shares this assessment:

The situation is very precarious, and I am usually very cautious. Two developments are really worrying. One being the ISPK, which is increasingly trying to carry out more aggressive and ambitious operations abroad.

The second worry stems from the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, specifically between Israel and Hamas:

We are witnessing a massive mobilization in the Islamist spectrum since the Hamas terror offensive on October 7. Many jihadists we haven't heard from for a long time are active again. I would, therefore, say that the Islamist threat is once again the most significant terrorist threat in Germany.

Listen to today's Pioneer Podcast in German to hear where the Islamic State's Khorasan Province terrorist group is recruiting and how Neumann assesses Germany's preparedness for the looming threat.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Mahmud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority © dpa

Baerbock on the road: The Foreign Minister has been in the Middle East for the seventh time since October. First, she visited Egypt, and yesterday, she traveled to Israel and then to the Palestinian territories.

Her demands: Even before the start of her trip, Baerbock pushed for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. Yesterday, for the first time since October 7th, the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire until the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Her criticism: The Foreign Minister warned the Israeli government, again, against a ground offensive in Rafah and criticized the treatment of Palestinian civilians:

People cannot disappear into thin air.

In her eyes, the Israeli government is responsible for providing shelter, food and water to the Palestinians. She demands that:

The Israeli government must finally open the border crossings for more aid.

The reaction: Although Israeli President Netanyahu did not respond directly to Baerbock's remarks, he did respond to the UN Security Council's demand by immediately canceling his trip to the US.

Former Wirecard CEO Markus Braun  © imago

According to Handelsblatt, former chief accountant Stephan von Erffa is apparently considering spilling the beans in court.

The accusations: Stephan von Erffa, former CEO Markus Braun and former Wirecard manager Oliver Bellenhaus, who worked in Dubai, are jointly accused of embezzlement, balance sheet manipulation, market manipulation and racketeering.

The question here is: Who's lying? While Oliver Bellenhaus essentially admitted to the charges and strongly incriminated his former colleagues Markus Braun and Stephan von Erffa, Braun accused his ex-colleague Bellenhaus of lying in court.

And von Erffa? He wavers in his statements. First, he denied any involvement in the balance sheet manipulation. Later, he admitted that he had falsified the approval of a cash flow of 50 million, although he claimed that it was "an isolated case."

Von Erffa's defense lawyers later questioned their client's guilt, citing an alleged mental illness. However, a court-ordered evaluation contradicted this assessment. Can we expect a confession to follow?

Conclusion: This four-part series of The Pioneer Briefing reviews the rise and fall of Wirecard and Markus Braun in German. It may help Stephan von Erffa refresh his memory.

Die Akte Markus Braun. Folge 1

Wie Markus Braun als Unternehmensberater in das Start-up einsteigt und dort den Programmierer Jan Marsalek kennenlernt.

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Published in The Pioneer Briefing Business Class Edition by Gabor SteingartJosy Müller.

Podcast mit der Laufzeit von

Die Akte Markus Braun. Folge 2

Wie Wirecard über eine Hintertür aufs deutsche Börsenparkett gelangt ist.

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Published in The Pioneer Briefing Business Class Edition by Gabor SteingartJosy Müller.

Podcast mit der Laufzeit von

Die Akte Markus Braun. Folge 3

Wie die Financial Times auf Angriff geht und wie aktivistische Investoren die Wirecard-Aktie immer zu Boden reißen.

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Published in The Pioneer Briefing Business Class Edition by Gabor SteingartJosy Müller.

Podcast mit der Laufzeit von

Die Akte Markus Braun. Folge 4

Wie Wirecard zum Kartenhaus wird und der Konzern zusammenbricht.

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Published in The Pioneer Briefing Business Class Edition by Gabor SteingartJosy Müller.

Podcast mit der Laufzeit von

A Lufthansa Boeing 787-9  © dpa

Enough is enough: The mishaps of recent weeks at US aircraft manufacturer Boeing are forcing the company to make personnel changes.

The captain is leaving the ship: Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun will leave the company by the end of the year.

But that's not all: Stan Deal, head of Boeing's commercial airplanes division, is also retiring with immediate effect. The company's chairman, Larry Kellner, will also step down and not seek re-election.

Dave Calhoun © imago

In a letter sent to employees yesterday, Calhoun announced his decision:

I wanted to let you know that I have decided that this will be my last year as CEO of this great company.

And further:

I will feel like the journey is truly over once we have completed the work we need to do. We will fix what doesn't work.

What wasn't working? Read our in-depth analysis in German to find out.

The desire for children & technology: Social Freezing is the proactive freezing of unfertilized eggs for later pregnancy.

Why "social"? Because women choose this treatment, not for medical reasons, but for social reasons related to their life circumstances.

Julia Bösch, CEO and co-founder of Outfittery chose to social freeze and shares her personal experience in a conversation with my colleague Alev Doğan, highlighting how fertility remains a taboo subject in society:

I was in my early thirties. I didn't have a partner. I knew I wanted to have children one day, but it was a vague wish. I was also an entrepreneur at the time. My life was hectic. Then, my best friend read in the newspaper that there was now a way to freeze your eggs with social freezing and improve your chances of getting pregnant later by using younger eggs.

Click here to listen to today‘s episode of the Pioneer Podcast in German.

She did it: Her daughter is eleven months old. You can hear the entire conversation in German on The Pioneer’s Culture Podcast The 8th Day (Der 8. Tag) - or a snippet in this morning's Pioneer Podcast.

Patrick Süskind, 1986 © X/felix_bohr

"Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" by Patrick Süskind is one of the most critical novels in German literature. More than 20 million copies have been sold. It remained on the Spiegel bestseller list for nine years after its publication and has been translated into 48 languages.

Süskind, said to have declared as a teenager that he would write a novel that would make him prosperous, scored a jackpot with "Perfume" in 1985 and has since lived far from the public eye; the reclusive author turns 75 today.

In 1981, Süskind made a rare television appearance. Besides that, he declined all book prizes and has given only four interviews to date, including one for a student newspaper. His retreat is not only strategic; it's poetic. Like a mythical creature, Süskind lives out of the limelight in Bavaria.

Tanja Graf © X/Buchpreis

His wife, Tanja Graf, has been the director of the Literaturhaus (Literature House) in Munich since 2016, where she is responsible for programming. However, bizarrely enough, the author and his wife have yet to make an appearance at the Literaturhaus.

"Perfume" tells the story of Grenouille, whose mother is executed and whose father is absent. He possesses nothing but an animal-like sense of smell. The orphan learns the trade of a perfumer and is driven by the idea of creating the "perfume of an angel.” To make the perfume, Grenouille becomes a murderer of virgins. The captivating scent saves him from execution; he seduces the executioners and the people. Eventually, the people's greed for the perfume becomes so overwhelming that they tear Grenouille apart and eat him alive.

"Perfume" tells of the abyss that follows ecstasy. It tells of the fall after the ascent, the nightmare after the dream. Süskind's novel portrays terror with such exquisite language that even the most discerning reader is captivated by Grenouille. In this story, the hero is a murderer.

Excerpt from "Perfume":

When she was dead, he laid her on the ground among the plum pits, tore open her dress and the stream of perfume became a flood that engulfed him in her scent.

“The Perfume" by Patrick Süskind © Instagram/diogenesverlag

While this painful duality unfolds for the reader in wonderfully simple language, Süskind is said to have described the writing process as "terrible.”

I don't think I'll ever do it again.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your day. Stay informed. Stay with me.

Best wishes,

Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer
  1. , Pioneer Editor, Editor in Chief, The Pioneer

Editorial Team

Eleanor Cwik, Alexia Ramos, Luisa Nuhr, Karina Mößbauer, Nico Giese, Alexander Wiedmann & Julia Rottmann

With contributions from: Pia von Wersebe & Daniel Bayer

Translation Team

Eleanor Cwik & Alexia Ramos


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