German dilemma: how to spot spies among draftees

The security vetting of teen-aged draftees is the latest issue between civil rights watchdogs and law-and-order enthusiasts in West Germany. The watchdogs suspect the Bundeswehr (Army) of planning to police the thinking of all its 17-year-old conscripts in "1984" fashion.

The law-and-order men suspect West German Interior Minister Gerhart Baum of undermining the Army's attempts to guard itself against infiltration by terrorists and East German spies.

The feud was touched off by a recent article in Stern magazine indicating that the Bundeswehr plans to run Verfassungsschutz checks on all of the 200,000 youths reaching draft age. The Verfassungsschutz (office for protection of the Constitution) is the police branch that investigates terrorism and espionage.

Under repeated challenges at the April 9 government press conference, spokesmen for the Defense and Interior ministries categorically denied that any blanket investigation of all draftees is planned.

They insist that no "fishing expedition" is intended but that they must prevent entry into "security-sensitive units and positions" by any soldier with a pre-induction record of "security-endangering efforts and acts."

If the Verfassungsschutz does have such information about draftees, then the Army would decide in individual cases whether to limit a person's assignments in the Army.

And even in those individual cases of checking with the Verfassungsschutz, there would be no general sweep of information about a particular recruit; only specific, limited questions would be asked of the Verfassungsschutz computer.

The spokesman declined to go into any detail about how such security checks could work without blanket inquiries at the Verfassungsschutz. They said specifics will have to be worked out between the two ministries.

Mr. Baum and Defense Minister Hans Apel are to have their first meeting this week to work out the new system.

The Bundeswehr did, in fact, make a comprehensive check on all incoming draftees in 1977 (of those who would reach induction age in 1978).

In that year, the Verassungsschutz had only 200 of the more than 200,000 inductees even listed. The results were considered too meager for the exercise to be repeated.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to German dilemma: how to spot spies among draftees
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today