How should the separation between intelligence and police work in practice? What happens to the previous employees? These questions arise with the transformation of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution into the new Directorate for State Security and Intelligence Service (DSN). The Greens and Franz Ruf, Director General for Public Security, gave insights into the reform during background discussions with journalists on Tuesday.
The DSN replaces the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT), which has been battered due to various affairs and is being avoided by foreign partner services. A realignment, including a clear separation between intelligence and police tasks, should change that.
Most of the jobs will be advertised again
The separation is a signal to the foreign partners to trust Austria again, said Green security spokesman Georg Bürstmayr. Because so far there has been massive international criticism that BVT officials “put on a different hat” depending on the case and appear both as intelligence agents and as police officers.
The DSN will be built on two pillars, police security and analytical risk research. “The separation will not only exist on paper, but can also be seen in the work,” said Agnes Sirkka Prammer, the justice and constitution spokeswoman for the Greens. “Every BVT employee now has to decide whether he wants to work in the police or in the intelligence service and apply for this position.”
Ruf stated that the majority of the BVT jobs will be re-advertised and that there will be an additional 300 new posts. The establishment of the DSN and the recruitment of the staff will take up to four years, according to Ruf. The officers are trained in their own 19-week basic training course at the Security Academy. There should also be financial allowances for intelligence workers. In this way, the Ministry of the Interior wants to attract the best minds to the authority.
Anyone who opts for the intelligence sector will no longer have executive powers, said Prammer. In return, only “people who work in the intelligence service have access to information from foreign services”. If there are indications that the state police need to intervene, the police only receive the information they need: “They no longer find out which service the information came from. There is an internal firewall when information is exchanged,” said Prammer.
However, it is controversial whether this division is as clear as indicated by turquoise-green. “The separation is implausible and inconsistent,” says SPÖ security spokesman Reinhold Einwallner. There is indeed a deputy director for the intelligence and police pillars. Ultimately, however, the head of the DSN is the “super director” above both areas: “And in my opinion that is the main mistake that is made.”
Because this means that the separation will only be considered a “half-hearted” reform internationally. The better solution would have been to put the intelligence service in an independent authority, said Einwallner.
“It was clear from the start that the new intelligence service is part of the state security police,” says Bürstmayr. The creation of an independent authority only for the intelligence service was rejected on the basis of international experience. This showed that the “complete separation of the authorities leads to information getting stuck” because the individual authorities do not want to share it. If everything happens “under one roof”, the exchange of information is guaranteed.
Ambiguity about the situation center
According to Einwallner, such an exchange could very well be secured with several independent authorities – namely by a state situation center and a coordinator for the intelligence services in the Federal Chancellery. It is still unclear whether this center and a coordinator will exist: “That was not part of this reform,” says Bürstmayr. In any case, the idea of a coordinator would make sense: “We’ll look at it.”