Et is a remarkable event that recently took place in the Federal Ministry of Justice – and which is causing unrest there. The matter is not only about the controversial reform of data retention, but also about the accusations of politicization of professional work that are circulating again and again.
At the beginning of the month, the Ministry’s staff council addressed the employees in a newsletter. The subject was: “Involuntary implementation”. In the letter, which is available to the FAZ, the rules of a “proper and fair” procedure are recalled. There is talk of a “climate of insecurity”. Finally, it says openly: “The staff council very much regrets that it is necessary in our house, which stands for the protection of fundamental rights – in particular through procedural regulations – to refer to such regulations.”
The reason for the letter was the departure of the previous head of the criminal procedure department. Apparently there had been tensions between her and the house management over the reform of data retention, a core concern of Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP). In the meantime, the doctor of law is co-head of another department.
Dissent with Federal Interior Minister Faeser
The political and legal debate about data retention has been going on for more than ten years. In autumn 2021, the traffic light agreed in its coalition agreement to design the regulations in future in such a way that data can be stored in a legally secure, event-related manner and by judicial decision. Barely a year later, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), as expected, rejected the German rules as contrary to European law.
Buschmann considers the wording of the coalition agreement to be a commitment to the so-called quick freeze solution. Data should not be stored without cause, but should be frozen in the event of a concrete suspicion so that it is available for later investigations. The SPD-led Federal Ministry of the Interior under Nancy Faeser, on the other hand, wants to stick to the storage of IP addresses without cause in order to combat serious crime.
Tensions are not only between the ministries. During the work on the draft law, there were apparently also conflicts within the Ministry of Justice between the head of the department and the long-standing head of department, who is widely regarded as a top official. Two stories are circulating in the corridors of the Ministry about the origin of the dispute.
Two versions with different interpretations
One version is that the department did not work as well and as quickly as Buschmann would have liked. One of his priorities is to finally prevent data retention. The house management had already commissioned the work on a reform before the ECJ judgment; Buschmann wanted to present a draft law immediately after the Luxembourg judgment. Apparently there were pretty specific guidelines about what should and shouldn’t be in it. The department did not comply, it is now said. The notes for the minister were partially incorrect. In the end, the house management decided that things couldn’t go on like this. At least in-house, the project should run smoothly.