Germany's Intelligence Reform in 2024

Discussion Prompt: Which of the many deficits should German legislators tackle in the pending reform to ensure the effective implementation of human rights as well as the principles of the rule of law and democracy?

The current German legal framework for intelligence collection and its democratic governance is beset by a wide range of shortcomings. In partial recognition of its unfinished business, the German government is currently planning a major reform of the country’s legal framework for intelligence. Possible amendments include plans laid down in the coalition agreement such as a comprehensive surveillance impact and effectiveness assessment, the independent revision and evaluation of security laws, and the strengthening of parliamentary control over all federal intelligence activities. The government also needs to address and overcome grave deficits in current intelligence legislation, notably the lack of adequate safeguards and prior authorisation for several intelligence collection methods. This urgent task results from a recent judgment of the Constitutional Court on Bavarian intelligence legislation with nationwide significance.

The ministries contributing to the departmental coordination of the pending reform have agreed on a rough roadmap. However, important steps have not yet been taken, and diverging interests and objectives are influencing the negotiation process. Key reform plans of the coalition government could be toned down or even abandoned as a result. Legislators will soon bear the responsibility for critically examining and, where necessary, altering the draft legislation. They will have the opportunity to substantially improve the protection of fundamental and human rights. To this end, central standards of German constitutional and European law must now be cemented in the national legal framework governing the use and control of intelligence. Furthermore, it ought to be ensured that such fundamental principles of the rule of law and democracy are adhered to in actual practice.

This discussion panel highlights pressing issues that lawmakers should address when debating the next iteration of German intelligence reform.

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