The business of the intelligence services is secret.

Only the parliamentary control body receives regular insight into their work.

The members are bound to secrecy, the committee meets in a tap-proof room in the basement of the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus.

On Wednesday, however, it was different: the parliamentary committee met in the Paul-Löbe-Haus to interview the presidents of the three German intelligence services in the presence of journalists.

Helene Bubrowski

Political correspondent in Berlin.

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Since 2016, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and the Military Counter-Intelligence Service (MAD) have been publicly heard by parliamentarians once a year. So the public could get an idea of ​​the work of the services and the parliamentary control, said the CDU member Roderich Kiesewetter, who chairs the nine-member body.

It was the first time that BND President Bruno Kahl spoke publicly about his authority's misjudgment of developments in Afghanistan. The German foreign service did not foresee that the Taliban would take power in the entire country so quickly and that the Afghan soldiers would do so little to oppose the Islamists. The BND had considered such a development to be possible, but in a completely different time horizon.

"We have to admit that we did not expect the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul so quickly," said Kahl on Wednesday.

Here "weak points with regard to the prognosis" have come to light.

From this “we must and want to learn”.

Kahl stated that he had commissioned internal auditing to find the causes and to issue recommendations for action.

350 right-wing extremist suspected cases

In order to better prepare the BND for the current challenges, the BND President announced a “new organizational framework”. "The past few years have shown us how quickly the situation can change and how important it is to be able to react quickly," said Kahl. The acquisition of information and its evaluation should in future be more closely interlinked, and decision-making processes should be accelerated. According to Kahl, this process should not be completed before the middle of next year.

Another central topic of the hearing was right-wing extremism, which the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, once again described as the greatest threat to security in Germany.

"I carry this in front of me like a mantra," he said.

The reference to right-wing extremist activities in the security authorities was also not new.

Last year, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution presented a situation report, according to which around 350 right-wing extremist suspected cases were pending in the German security authorities.

A second situation report is to follow in the coming spring.

More cases are revealed

On Wednesday he said that "it is not uncommon to find members of the security authorities and armed forces" in the relevant networks. They are particularly dangerous because they have sensitive information and are often weapons carriers. Haldenwang described the situation as worrying, but at the same time spoke of an "apparent increase" in the dimension of right-wing extremists in authorities: Above all, more cases would now be uncovered.

The MAD also has to face this problem. President Martina Rosenberg reported on 1,397 suspected extremist cases that are currently being processed. The vast majority of these, around 1200 cases, are assigned to right-wing extremism, including the category of Reich citizens and self-administrators. However, she emphasized that suspicions of extremist attitudes are usually only confirmed in a small number of cases. This year, 23 cases were classified as “red”, which means an extremist classification, and 23 as “orange”, which means lack of constitutionality. "Just as society is changing and radicalizing in parts, this also has an impact on the Bundeswehr personnel," said Rosenberg.

When asked whether there were networks in the Bundeswehr, she evasively replied that there was social networking, but efforts within the meaning of the Constitutional Protection Act had not yet been identified.

"We have the people on the agenda," assured Rosenberg.