Nfter the release of the President of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), Arne Schönbohm, there were calls for clarification of the allegations against him. The BSI must be and remain capable of acting, Greens boss Omid Nouripour told the Düsseldorf “Rheinische Post” on Wednesday. Two things are now needed: “Firstly, a comprehensive and speedy clarification of the facts in order to regain the trust of the public. And second, quick personnel decisions.”
Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) released Schönbohm on Tuesday. He was criticized for allegedly lacking distance to Russian secret service circles via the controversial association “Cyber Security Council Germany”. According to the Ministry of the Interior, it has not yet been decided who will succeed him. But it should be decided quickly, it said.
“It’s high time that all the facts finally came to the table”
The union objected to the ministry’s actions. “Ms. Faeser’s handling of the BSI as an important security authority in this extremely tense security situation raises numerous questions,” said the vice-chairman of the Union faction in the Bundestag, Andrea Lindholz (CSU), the newspaper. “It’s high time that all the facts were finally on the table. Who knew what by whom when, and who decided and acted how?” On Wednesday, the ministry “finally had to provide answers,” demanded Lindholz.
The post of BSI President is not held by a so-called “political official”. Agency heads in this category can be placed on hiatus at any time because they are expected to remain in compliance with government policy. This was the case, for example, in 2018 when the then Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) sent the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maaßen, into temporary retirement.
While there was talk of a “pawn sacrifice” in Union circles, the ministry said the decision was made “also out of concern for the person who is the focus of the debate himself”. It is also in the interests of the more than 1,500 employees of the BSI, who can now go about their work independently of personal speculation. Irrespective of this, “all known allegations would be thoroughly and vigorously examined and subjected to a thorough evaluation”. Until the conclusion of this examination, the presumption of innocence applies to Schönbohm.
According to information from the German Press Agency, Faeser was annoyed that the BSI boss had continued to maintain contacts with the controversial association “Cyber Security Council Germany”, which he had co-founded and managed ten years ago, but which most recently because of connections to Russian criticized by the secret services.
Schönbohm’s connection to the controversial club had previously been discussed by Jan Böhmermann in the program “ZDF Magazin Royale”. On the one hand, it was about the Russia contacts of the “Cyber-Sicherheitsrat Deutschland eV”. On the other hand, the article targeted the Berlin cybersecurity company Protelion, which until recently was a member of the “Cyber Security Council Germany eV”.