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Former German Spy Chief Under Surveillance for Extremist Ties

Many of his statements deal with his criticism of illegal immigrant policies in Germany.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has been surveilling its former chief, who is now an opposition politician, in an echo that reminds some of former communist East Germany.

Hans-Georg Maassen says that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV)—Germany’s equivalent of the FBI—has compiled extensive records on him going back several years.

On Jan. 31, he published on social media a letter from the BfV to his lawyer, who had previously submitted a Freedom of Information request. The BfV statement reveals that the agency has designated him an “observation case” and has compiled an extensive dossier of at least 1,000 documents.

Those include the words spoken by Mr. Maassen himself, as well as supporters or opponents he spoke to, either on social networks, in lectures, interviews, or any discussion forums.

The collection includes a quote from Mr. Maassen from an interview with a Swiss newspaper, in which he claimed that the German chancellor and interior minister want “the collapse of German society in order to build a neo-socialist social system on its ruins.” He’s also quoted as saying that the “fanaticism” of the ruling Green Party reminds him of the “fanaticism of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Khmer Rouge.”

Many of his statements deal with his criticism of illegal immigrant policies in Germany. The dossier also includes quotes from right-wing figures mentioning Mr. Maassen’s name. Only unclassified material features in freedom of information releases.

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According to German media reports, information on Mr. Maassen was “stored in the intelligence information system of the Protection of the Constitution in the area of right-wing extremism.” Asked about the surveillance of Mr. Maassen, the BfV said privacy law meant it couldn’t comment on individual cases.

According to Focus magazine, being “processed as an extremist” could have serious consequences for Mr. Maassen. Only recently, the requirements for retired public officials to comply with the constitution were tightened, meaning disciplinary consequences, including possible “revocation of the pension.” The corresponding law takes effect on April 1.

Historian Hubertus Knabe compares the dossier in the Maassen case with the strategy of intimidation used in former East Germany by the infamous Stasi security service.

“I am very worried. … I have never seen such a complete overview of political activities and statements in the Stasi files of prominent dissidents,” he told the media startup Nius.

Mr. Maassen commented on X, “The federal government is obviously afraid of me” and accused the interior minister of abuse of power to “combat political opponents.”

In January, the trained lawyer set up a new right-wing party and cut up his membership card in the Christian Democrats (CDU)—after having been a member for more than 45 years.

The move followed after many months of attempting to persuade the CDU to correct course, away from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “ecosocialist” policies and back toward its traditional values as a centrist party. CDU leader Friedrich Merz had unsuccessfully initiated party expulsion proceedings over Mr. Maassen’s political stance.

As the founder of the WerteUnion party, he now aims to contribute to a change of government, as he has repeatedly stated. He also said the new party is also open to an alliance with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is being shunned by all other parties.

On the eve of the party founding on Jan. 20, Mr. Maassen spoke with The Epoch Times about the chances and expectations associated with his new political home. He confirmed that the new party could expect “headwinds.”

Mr. Maassen was dismissed as head of BfV in 2018, after his different assessment of the protests in the east German city of Chemnitz in the summer of 2018 following the murder of a young man by a Syrian cost him the support of Ms. Merkel. In line with the local police and Saxony’s premier, Mr. Maassen argued that there were no hunts on foreigners in Chemnitz following the murder.

The BfV has identified right-wing extremism as the single greatest domestic threat to Germany. Over recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of people in Germany turned out to protest the popularity and policies of the AfD. The protests, which are often called simply “anti-right,” are encouraged by the government and all opposition parties other than the AfD.

Recent polling put the party in second place nationally with support of around 23 percent, far above the 10 percent of the vote it won during the last federal election in 2021. Meanwhile, the AfD is the top party in three states in eastern Germany, which are slated to hold elections this fall, polls show.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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