Buback murder - Terrorism, Secrets, Legitimacy

posted by Jonathan Logan on 2009.31.08, under Probable Fiction, The Intel State

Germany currently sees a micro-scandal surrounding a murder that lies 32 years in the past. What happened? Some RAF (Red Army Fraction) terrorists killed Mr. Buback (chief federal prosecutor of Germany) and two of his companions by firing an automatic weapon at his car. To this date it is unclear who exactly played which role in the murder, and specifically who fired the deadly shots. The son of Mr. Buback has now spent the better part of his life to press the investigators to finally come up with an answer, to no avail – until now. And the answer seems to include some political explosive information. Which is where the scandal begins:

Currently a suspect is in state custody whose name has often appeared in the investigations: Mrs. Verena Becker. The former member of the terrorist organization RAF has so far not shared her knowledge about the details of the attacks with investigators – or should we say: We don’t know, because it is all secret! Verena Becker is the subject of a big file recorded by a German domestic intelligence agency. The file is said to include vast amounts of surveillance data and transcripts of several interrogations led by said Intel Agency. But what exactly is in there has remained a state secret for decades. Only a few years ago the Interior Minister has resealed the file claiming that “public knowledge of the files content would harm the well-being of the country or its states”.

So far, no one is asking how the contents could harm the well-being of the State. Which is ample reason for me to ask that question.

There are several options how the well-being could be harmed:

  1. The files include references to sources that are still worthy to protect. This is a bad reason, because sources could easily be blacked-out, and have little relevance when it comes to interrogation protocols.
  2. The files include references to methods that should not become publicly known. This again is no good reason, where things cannot be blacked-out it still remains questionable if those methods are not widely known by now, given that there have been decades of leaks and reports from former intel officers. One method might however be an exception to that rule: Torture. We shall come back to that later.
  3. The file includes some dirty little secret of the political class. Like Mrs. Becker being the lover of some political big-nose. I think that this is very unlikely, and no good reason to keep the file secret. Simply because it does not pose a threat to the well-being of the state (or does it?).
  4. The State itself was involved in the murder. Many people today claim that the RAF was state sponsored. Maybe it was. But I highly doubt it to be the case, esp. in the killing of Mr. Buback. I don’t put this past the State however, just because there is “The State” does not mean that no evil or crazy people are part of it. If it were the case, we would probably never find out anyways, and if we would, nobody would care. This is 30 years ago, for sure by now the State would never ever dirty itself with such things. A revelation of that sort would not undermine the well-being of the State anymore then the revelation that the Third Reich killed people it didn’t like.
  5. The file includes data about blatant failures of the intelligence agencies, or information that should have prevented the attack altogether. This is a very likely reason. Because STASI files (STASI was the east German Intel Agency of the date) revealed that Mrs. Becker had been either under tight and constant surveillance since 1972 (5 years before the murder) or that she was actually an active or passive asset of western secret services (the file says: that she was “kept under control”).
  6. Maybe the file even shows that Mrs. Becker was tightly involved, and protected from prosecution in return for her openness in the interrogations. This is not very likely because she spent years in prison for her involvement with another attempted murder committed by the RAF.

So, which of these explanations fit best the threat to the “well-being of the State”? I think that the answer to give is “Legitimacy”. For centuries we are told that the State is trustworthy and the best source of protection we can get. And that it is therefor necessary, even wished for. Without the State, so we are told, we would be alone and without protection and bar any defense against lunatics, criminals and terrorists. And because the State is so trustworthy and effective, and the world is so bad and overpowering, we should accept and even praise the actions of Intelligence Agencies that work in secrecy and without any oversight to speak of. They will – of course! – act only in the best interest of the people.

But what if the file points to facts that could have prevented the murder? What if it pointed to facts that the State did let it happen (due to error or even consciously)? What if one of the methods revealed would be torture? Or the State protected a major criminal out of self-interest in the effectiveness of intelligence work?

All of that would strongly question the Legitimacy of the State and it’s secret organs. It would put doubt into the rational that citizens are taught in government schools on why the State is necessary and why we should not put to many chains around the neck of Leviathan.

So, my personal guess is not that sources or methods are put into danger by revealing the files. My guess is that the State is just afraid of what we might think about it after we read the whole collection dirty secrets.

But, that is just probable fiction.