Political boom in the fight against right-wing extremism in the troops: Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) fired the president of the Military Counterintelligence (MAD), Christof Gramm, from his duties in October. Gramm is retiring temporarily, the Ministry of Defense announced in Berlin on Thursday.
The minister praised the reforms Gramm has implemented to deal with right-wing extremists in the Bundeswehr. However, both agree that the forthcoming implementation marks a new section, “requiring additional effort and dynamism.” “This new element must also be made visible in terms of personnel,” said the ministry.
The Ministry of Defense unexpectedly informed representatives in the Bundestag on Thursday about the move. Gramm has been the chairman of the MAD since 2015. After right-wing extremist incidents, he initiated some reforms, including the ‘color theory’ – a traffic light that aids in classification. Basic problem: The MAD must be able to pass assessments of extremism cases in case of dismissal by the court. There was criticism because too little had been done about the problem for a long time.
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The MAD has a prominent role in the fight against right-wing extremism in the Bundeswehr, the Ministry of Defense explained. Extremist tendencies had to be identified at an early stage, and the people involved and possible network structures had to be “fully identified and discovered”. To this end, the MAD is consistently modernized and further developed. Cooperation with other authorities is also being expanded.
According to the Ministry of Defense, the reforms of the MAD, which started in October 2019, have delivered results. For example, after MAD investigation activities, a weapon depot was found in the garden of a commando soldier. The case marked another high point of incidents among the elite commando special forces, which are now under scrutiny.
Is Gramm just “a pawn”?
The first reaction to the replacement of Gramms from the left came from the parliamentary room. “It remains to be clarified whether the president of the MAD was more of a hindrance than an aid to MAD reform, or whether he is a sacrifice for false reform efforts on the part of the minister,” said defense politician Alexander Neu.
Green parliamentary representative Konstantin von Notz said, “According to the findings of recent months, this is an inevitable consequence.” But that doesn’t change Christof Gramm’s personal integrity, he added. Recently improvements have been made to the MAD, “which he also brought”. Nonetheless, the government’s problems are so serious “that a fresh start could also be an opportunity.” Now it is time to quickly find a new member of staff – “There should be no hanging party here.”
It is not yet known who could become Gramm’s successor. The pressure to reform the government had increased sharply in recent years. The MAD leadership was accused, among other things, of not using the intelligence services available to it, such as observation or gathering information about so-called informers, to expose right-wing extremists in the troops. An unpublished report by the parliamentary supervisory body responsible for the secret services has reportedly revealed further structural flaws.
As a citizen who needed a fresh look at the Bundeswehr from the outside, the former head of counterintelligence at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Burkhard Even, was sent to the MAD as civilian vice president. The pressure to reform ended up being a burden not only on grams, but also on the employees of the agency as a whole, it is said.
That some SPD politicians ultimately do not trust the MAD one hundred percent became clear, according to domestic politicians, when there had been arguments in recent weeks about whether the Cologne authority should be given full access to the constitutional protection information system in the future. (dpa)