17 Years "War on Terror"

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (own report) Seventeen years after the September 11 terror attacks, German government advisors are calling for a re-evaluation of the ongoing "War on Terror." As the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) writes in its recent analysis, in the aftermath of the attacks, western governments introduced numerous measures - in the name of the "War on Terror" - such as "detention without trial" or mass "surveillance without probable cause," which had been heavily criticized at the time. Many of these measures remain in force today. Although they are "systematically undermining human and civil rights," their criticism has largely fallen mute. This observation applies to Germany as well. In the name of the "War on Terror," Germany has intensified domestic repression - and the US is waging its drone war of extra-judicial assassinations of suspects from German territory. Politicians, who, since 2001, have been involved in abducting suspects to CIA torture chambers, remain in top government positions.

From a State of Emergency to Normalcy

Seventeen years after the September 11 terror attacks,German government advisors are calling for a re-evaluation of the ongoing "War on Terror," initiated in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Numerous measures, introduced and criticized at the time - "detention without trial, targeted assassinations, surveillance without probable cause" - still remain in force today and also in Europe, are generally "tolerated," as the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) observes in its recent analysis.[1] "Systematic undermining of human and civil rights," an increasing "concentration of decision-making power in the hands of the executive," as well as the "enhancement of the national security state," can be observed particularly in the USA. European governments are taking similar steps and "in many ways" are emulating the United States. The "policy introduced in a state of emergency" has become "normalcy" and is hardly put into question, writes the author of the SWP analysis. It should, however, be challenged - all the more, since an "early end to the war with a victory is unlikely."

State Murder

SWP's analysis details the development of key "anti-terror" measures in the United States under Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The "use of torture," for example, has been officially terminated, according to the analysis. However, those "responsible for using torture" enjoy "total impunity" and have "continued to pursue their careers." For example, former director of a CIA black site in Thailand, Gina Haspel, has been appointed CIA director by President Trump. The option of indefinite detention without trial has been maintained. The Guantanamo Detention Camp remains in use. Targeted drone killings of suspects in numerous countries of Africa, the Middle East as well as in countries in southern Asia have been systematically enhanced. The United States usurps the right to arbitrarily kill suspects in foreign countries, not only without a trial, but also without any public justification. It also carries out so-called signature strikes, i.e. assassinations of persons, whose names are not even known, but whose behavior appears suspicious in the eyes of US specialists. According to the SWP analysis, drone attacks had been first enhanced under President Barack Obama and then by his successor Donald Trump.

Civil Liberties Abolished

The SWP's analysis only marginally mentions the development of "anti-terror" measures in the EU. The author notes that, following the 2015 terror attacks in France, that country has been under the reign of a "constitutional state of emergency for almost two years." Subsequently, "many of the powers accorded to the police and military have now been permanently anchored in anti-terror laws." Great Britain had ordered "the drone assassination of one of its citizens in Iraq, without even attempting to offer a legal justification." Police forces and intelligence services "in nearly all European countries" - including Germany - are demanding "still wider powers to monitor communications."[2] New laws governing the police are currently in preparation or being adopted in several federal states, reducing "civil rights and liberties beyond recognition (...) under the guise of fighting international terrorism," as the Commissioner for Data Protection in Lower Saxony Barbara Thiel complained.[3] German authorities have also abetted the US drone assassination of German citizens - for example by passing on mobile communications data to the US authorities. This is only in accordance with the law as long as the person in question is a member of an "organized armed group," the Federal Public Prosecutor declared several years ago. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[4]) The US drone war is also being waged with the help of military installations in Germany, particularly the US military airbase Ramstein. The base supports "the planning, surveillance and evaluation" of "aerial operations," the German government noted in January 2017.[5]

Detained in Guantanamo

In addition, the German authorities' involvement in the CIA's abduction of suspects and their detention in torture chambers has never been fully brought to light and, even less, sanctioned - to the benefit of politicians, who, today, are in top government positions. One example is the case of Murat Kurnaz from Bremen. Kurnaz had been arrested in November 2001 in Pakistan, based on groundless suspicions and subsequently abducted by US authorities to a torture camp in Afghanistan, before being transferred to the US camp Guantanamo. He could have returned to Germany already in 2002, but the German government rejected the US offer, officially, because Kurnaz, who is not a German citizen, had not extended his residence permit as required, within the 6-month deadline - something Kurnaz could not have done, while being illegally detained in Guantanamo. It was none other than Hans-George Maaßen, Head of the Department Aliens Law in the Ministry of the Interior, at the time, who had formulated these infamous grounds for preventing Kurnaz from returning to Germany. Thanks to Maaßen - today the President of the Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution - Kurnaz spent another four years in Guantanamo, until he was freed in August 2006. Maaßen has consistently justified his reasons for barring Kurnaz from re-entering the country ever since.[6]

"Security Rounds" in the Chancellery

The decision to leave Kurnaz to suffer in Guantanamo because, under no fault of his own, his German residence permit had expired, had been officially taken on October 29, 2002, during a meeting in the Chancellery with the participation of Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD), then Head of the Federal Chancellery. Germany's current President Steinmeier had been involved as a participant in the "Security Rounds" in the Chancellery since 2001. He helped make various decisions, including those pertaining to dispatching officials of Germany's intelligence services - Federal Intelligence Service (BND), the Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) - to torture camps in Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan and Guantanámo,[7] where they either personally participated in the interrogations or at least indirectly formulated the questions the prisoners were to answer.[8] In the course of his work as the Council of Europe's special investigator for transatlantic criminal activities, the liberal Swiss politician, Dick Marty, later exposed German collaboration in the CIA's abduction and torture of terrorist suspects. In 2007, he also accused the German government of "obstruction" of "the search for the truth" in the "War on Terror."[9] At the time Steinmeier officiated as Foreign Minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet.

A Defeat

The SWP's appeal to finally re-evaluate the "War on Terror," comes at a time when the lack of success of the measures applied, is more obvious than ever. If in the fall of 2001, the objective had been to annihilate Al Qaeda, today, global jihadism has spread. Today, the "War on Terror" is targeting the IS, which had been able to maintain its own state for a period of time. Al Qaeda has also grown stronger. The Al Qaeda offshoot in Syria, alone, is estimated - by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - to have up to 30,000 armed fighters. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[10]) They are benefiting from the appeals made by western powers - including Germany - for Syria and Russia to immediately halt their war. However, the West's "War on Terror" will not be halted.


[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden aus: Johannes Thimm: Vom Ausnahmezustand zum Normalzustand. Die USA im Kampf gegen den Terrorismus. SWP-Studie 16. August 2018.

[2] See also Vorbild NSA, Vorbild NSA (II) and Vorbild CIA.

[3] Stefan Krempl: Polizeigesetz Niedersachsen: "Freiheitsrechte bis zur Unkenntlichkeit beschnitten". heise.de 09.08.2018.

[4] See also Enemy Combatants.

[5] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Andrej Hunko, Niema Movassat, Dr. Alexander S. Neu, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion Die Linke. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 18/11023, 25.01.2017.

[6] Lisa Caspari: Kurnaz-Affäre begleitet neuen Geheimdienstchef ins Amt. zeit.de 17.07.2012.

[7] See also A President's Policy.

[8] See also Die Folterer and Deutsch-syrischer Herbst.

[9] See also Sinking into Barbarism (II).

[10] See also "Rebels".