A German Antiterror Cop’s Lament

Posted by John Rosenthal

“But all the investigations, dragnets and other measures that were now gearing up were accompanied by a certain shame and collective bad conscience concerning the fact that the biggest terrorist attack in modern history had been planned by Mohammad Atta and his Hamburg Cell precisely on German soil.” This is how Michael von Wedel, a former chief inspector in Germany’s Federal Office of Criminal Investigations or Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), describes the mood at the “German FBI” in early fall 2001 in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Von Wedel would soon find himself handling what was arguably the most important of the anti-terror investigations undertaken by German authorities to show the country’s commitment to cracking down on local terror networks: Until, that is, some two years later — and, by his own account, on the verge of a major breakthrough — he was abruptly taken off the case and suspended. In a new book sensationally titled Settling Accounts: a Former BKA Inspector Tells All, von Wedel looks back on his bka career and the bizarre circumstances surrounding its conclusion. The book has received terse and dismissive reviews in both of Germany’s leading papers Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Süddeutsche Zeitung — and has otherwise largely been greeted with silence. “Shame and a collective bad conscience,” as von Wedel puts it, can be presumed to have something to do with that as well.

To continue reading, go to  my review of Michael von Wedel’s Die Abrechnung in Policy Review magazine here.

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