Scientology wants access to senate records
Sect commissioner blacking out sensitive texts selections
November 13, 2000
by Gilbert Schomaker
The Scientology organization is trying to get a glimpse into the internal workings of the senate government. Those affected by the request for records access include the Interior Administration, which is responsible for Constitutional Security, the Youth Administration, which is responsible for sects, as well as the Commerce and Justice Administrations. In doing this Scientology is invoking the new freedom of information law which enables citizens access to recorded proceedings by the government.
30 sect commissioner folders
According to information the "Berliner Zeitung" has received, a highly placed member of Scientology from Munich wants to look at over 30 folders in the Youth Administration alone. Much information will have been assembled there by the local sect commissioners of Berlin State. "That is a highly sensitive area," according to the agency. Sect commissioner staff are currently viewing the files in order to black out the sensitive text selections in the copies for Scientology. Opinions from other agencies, political judgments from other German states or security agency strategies are not supposed to be forwarded to third parties. The final agency decision is supposed to be sent to Scientology this week.
One Scientologist has already gotten access to folders in the Interior Administration. "But the material practically contained nothing except press articles which were public anyway," said Andreas Schmid von Puskas of the Interior Administration. The Justice Administration, however, took action against records access, according to "Berliner Zeitung" information. Scientology subsequently sued the agency in administrative court. A decision is still pending. The Senate Commerce Administration has also be presented with a request.
Ingo Lehmann, director of the so-called Human Rights Office of the Scientology Church Germany, justified the requests for files access, "Because we are categorized as dangerous phantoms, we wanted to find out with which documents that was founded."
Constitutional Security views the Scientologists' new proceedings as verification of its report from last year.
It was predicted in the report, "The involvement of the Scientology Organization in ending government surveillance of itself (...) is one of its primary short-term goals. That is because surveillance forms a decisive obstacle in the organization's endeavor for expansion on all sides."
"Scientology's requests are problematic in the highest degree," said Roland Gewalt, the CDU faction's interior political spokesman. He said he promotes tightening up the freedom of information law.
By using the freedom of information law, the Scientology Organization has submitted many applications on diverse themes to public institutions, according to Interior Senator Eckart Werthebach (CDU). He said that had posed the administration with a heavy work load. (dpa)
The Scientology Organization has submitted numerous inquiries to public institutions in Berlin, said Berlin's Interior Senator Eckart Werthebach (CDU) on Thursday. The inquiries were submitted on various themes. A considerable work load was associated with the inquiries. (dpa)
After months of delay, the Scientologists will be able to look into the records concerning them in all the Brandenburg Ministries and their subordinate departments for the first time. The required information will shortly follow. The application for file access had been submitted back in October 1999 by Munich Scientologist and Director of the Human Rights Office of Scientology Germany, Ingo Lehman. State representatives from the SPD and CDU viewed that as a misuse of the Brandenburg freedom of information law of 1998 and intended to prevent access from Parliament. They could not get it through. DPA
State Secrets dying quietly
A new law for agency transparency has gone into effect in three German states - hardly anyone has used it besides Scientology
March 23, 2000
by Nina Klein
Berlin - "Never heard of it," mumbled the Chairman of the association against Misuse of Law. "The Information what?," asked the legal consultant of the Journalists' Association. Confusion reigns even in the political parties when it comes to the new Freedom of Information Law (IFG).
Its arrival has been calm and quiet in the offices of Schleswig-Holstein (since February), Brandenburg (since March 1998) and Berlin (since October 1999). Agencies from the Interior Ministry to Constitutional Protection are now open for inspection down to the last dusty folder - and nobody is looking in.
In this, the new law is revolutionary. For the first time, the authorities in three German states are obligated to let anybody have access to their administrative files. Before then, information, as a rule was refused: all information of the state was dealt with as confidential and reached the hands of normal citizens only as an exception - if they, themselves were affected by the information. Now any uninterested party can gain access to the files, which also include those on organizations. Personal data, operational and business secrets, as well as decisions in process in agencies and courts, however, are protected from public curiosity.
Nevertheless, any German citizen now has a tool available which previously was reserved for journalists - yet very few are taking advantage of it. "The mad rush to the government offices has not occurred," said Thilo Weichert, Vice Data Security Commissioner from Schleswig-Holstein. Even in Brandenburg, where the law has its roots in the Constitution because of the Stasi experiences, and where it went into effect two years ago, there have only been about 100 inquiries, so far.
The government agencies are not complaining, because the new law costs them time and money. Hartmut Borchert, business manager of the Schleswig-Holstein Local Assembly has criticized that higher competency is needed to determine if information is protected. Now the law is there and Borchert lives by the motto, "If you don't talk about it, then there won't be any problems."
Even without Borchert's assistance, Ute Koch, press spokeswoman for the Scientology Church Berlin, has learned about the new law. The Scientologists' "Human Rights Bureau" has been diligently writing to the ministries and government agencies of the three states. "We would like to know what there is about us in their files," said Koch. That alarms critics of the new law. "That goes to show you who is interested: organizations like Scientology, which is under surveillance by Constitutional Security," said Ulrich Spitzer, spokesman of the Flensburg Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Because of Scientology's inquiries, the Brandenburg SPD and CDU coalition parties want to back-paddle now and permit access to folders only by those who could show a "justified interest" - as determined by the government.
That turmoil meets with absence of understanding from Karel Mohn, spokesman of the "Transparency International" organization - after all, the right to hold public demonstrations can also be used by enemies of the state. "Only with transparency in German states can corruption be prevents." In matters of agency transparency, Germany is said to be behind the EU.
What can I look at?
- all construction records of the community administration, from building construction to children's public playgrounds
- real estate "kataster" (list of municipal property) at the Senate offices for municipal development
- administrative files of the state criminal investigative office and Constitutional Security, such as mission plans of past raids (not including current investigations)
- ground plans of residences at the residence review office
- list of apartment building owners at the plans office
- list of positions for teachers at the state school office
Data Security on the internet [in German]
Suggested reading material [in German]:
"Rechtsberatung 1999" von Florian Schmid u. Michael Schumann
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