German security seeks to track far-right funds

German security seeks to track far-right funds

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s security chief said Tuesday she will make it easier to trace the funds of right-wing extremists and create an “early reconnaissance unit” to detect foreign far-right and disinformation campaigns as early as possible.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser’s proposals come on the heels of large protests against the far right in recent weeks. They reflect concern sparked by reports of a meeting of extremists to discuss the deportation of millions of immigrants, including those with German citizenship, attended by members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Support for this party has doubled since 2021.

The domestic intelligence agency says the number of right-wing extremists is increasing. In 2022, it reached 38,000, of which 14,000 are considered potentially violent. The head of the agency, Thomas Haldenwang, said the numbers appeared to have increased since last year.

Faeser said attempts to defund extremists are hampered because financial investigations are limited to movements that “incite and are oriented toward violence.” He suggested that the law be modified so that the “potential threat” of the groups can be investigated and that the processes be faster and less bureaucratic.

“No one who gives donations to a right-wing extremist organization should be able to trust that they will not be caught,” he said.

He added that he is working with regional authorities to prevent right-wing extremists from entering or leaving the country.

“German right-wing extremists and autocrats have something in common: they want to fuel anger and division, especially through discrimination,” Faeser said.

He argued that fake accounts and, increasingly, photos and videos generated by artificial intelligence, are a problem.

He hopes that the Interior Ministry’s “early recognition unit” will begin operating “within a few months,” given the importance of detecting manipulation and influence campaigns at an early date.

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