Internal Security: Political Opposition - New Enemy of the State
"The virus of freedom. How the failure of the zero Covid ideology is shaking China" was the title of the cover story of the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel at the beginning of December 2022. The German media landscape was - once again - unanimous: the rigorous Covid 19 policy of the Chinese regime would have failed completely, the strategy of "testing and imprisonment" would have failed miserably, the will for freedom would have driven the Chinese into the streets by the tens of thousands.
The pro-government Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik commented in early December:
"Germany and Europe have little direct influence on the CCP's (Chinese Communist Party, note) covid policies, but can offer two ways out: First, German and European politicians can make offers for vaccines, as Chancellor Scholz tried to do during his visit to China on 4 November 2022. In doing so, they can highlight how effective European vaccines are. This was emphasised by EU Council President Charles Michel during his visit to Beijing on 1 December 2022. Secondly, European decision-makers can signal that the protests in China are being heard." 
If one does not want to attest partial amnesia to politicians, media and think tanks in Germany, one must accuse them of applying double standards. For anyone who looks at the current reports of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in detail knows that since the Covid 19 pandemic, the state and its constitutional organs have been threatened by opposition forces. As the pandemic situation continued, "increasingly worrying tendencies in the protest scene became apparent. Conspiracy myths, often with elements of anti-Semitic resentment, are now spread as a matter of course in large parts of the protest scene." 
In the crosshairs: political opposition
Who or what endangers the state in its basic democratic and constitutional order can regularly be read in the reports of the domestic intelligence services. This applies equally to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. If one delves into the most recent reports, one finds that in all three countries the "opponents of the measures against Covid-19" are being observed by the State Security Service and classified as potential "endangerers".
This parallelism is interesting, because even though we are talking about a common linguistic and cultural area, we are talking about three different states, with different constitutions and differently shaped (though all federal) democratic systems.
Due to the different histories and traditions in the three states mentioned above, the domestic intelligence services' thematic approach to "violent extremism" in the context of Covid-19 comes from different directions.
For example, in its latest report, the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service states that the threat of violent "monothematic extremism" had increased in the country, especially in the wake of the authorities' measures to combat Covid-19:
"The violent Corona extremists consider all the measures taken by the authorities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic to be unlawful and continue to fight them, even though they have now been repealed in Switzerland and the exceptional situation provided for in the Epidemic Law no longer exists. The reasons for rejection are manifold in this milieu: while some people completely question the existence of the virus, others believe that the pandemic was planned. Still others are simply of the opinion that the measures are causing more damage than the pandemic and must therefore be stopped. A variety of conspiracy theories circulate within these circles, which feed into their rhetoric in different ways. These circles agree that the Federal Council has too much power and that Switzerland has turned into a dictatorship that must be destroyed."
What we look for in vain in the report of the Swiss intelligence service are serious attacks on democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law by state organs during the pandemic - although there are already initial court rulings on this in Switzerland.
The Directorate of State Protection and Intelligence of the Republic of Austria , on the other hand, sees the supreme organs of the state and its constitutional institutions threatened in the current security report :
"The threat events of 2021 were largely determined by the issues of the COVID 19 measures legislation. For example, in the health sector, there was a strong increase in verbal hostility against medical staff in hospitals, vaccination streets or even in the field of private practice. With regard to the media, there was also a strong rejection of information distribution by the press through agitations by opponents of the Covid 19 measures, especially on social networks. Hostilities ranged from physical and verbal acts of aggression against journalists during coverage at demonstrations and rallies to calls for violence against editors as well as editorial premises of media organisations."
What we look for in vain in the report of the Directorate of State Protection and Intelligence are serious attacks on democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law by state organs during the pandemic - although there are already initial court rulings on this in Austria.
In the Federal Republic of Germany, the current report on the protection of the constitution even has a separate chapter on "Delegitimisation of the state relevant to the protection of the constitution". This form of delegitimisation does not usually take the form of a direct questioning of democracy as such, but rather of constant agitation against and disparagement of democratically legitimised representatives and institutions of the state and their decisions. This could shake confidence in the state system as a whole and impair its ability to function. Such agitation contradicts elementary constitutional principles such as the principle of democracy or the rule of law.  Specifically, it states in this context:
"The protest scene against the state measures to combat the pandemic is ideologically and organisationally heterogeneous. The unifying element of the different groups and individuals is the categorical rejection of the measures taken by the federal and state governments to combat the pandemic. From this, a part of the protest scene developed a fundamental rejection of the existing state order and its institutions. The legitimacy of the state and its institutions is fundamentally questioned. Measures to combat the corona pandemic are described as dictatorial."
What we look for in vain in the report of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution are serious attacks on democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law by state organs during the pandemic - although there are already initial court rulings on this in the Federal Republic.
The measures imposed by the states and violations of fundamental rights have not only caused serious economic collateral damage in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They have also led to social, health and psychological damage in society. Trust in democracy and the rule of law has been permanently shaken. If the domestic intelligence services now try to present these consequences as a dangerous, anti-constitutional tendency, a reversal of the perpetrator-victim relationship is taking place.
It must be clearly remembered at this point that domestic intelligence services are functionally and politically part of the executive branch of the states. Usually, they are not authorities themselves but auxiliary organs of state executive authorities.
Protest is under general suspicion
It is remarkable that the respective ministers of the interior and of justice politically instrumentalise the domestic intelligence services in order to criminalise legitimate and permitted political criticism by civil society. At their core, the reports have in common that they are directed against central fundamental rights and freedoms. It is another direct attack by the executive on the libertarian democratic rule of law - as was the case with the general suspicion against civil society in connection with money laundering, counter-terrorism, fake news and hatred on the internet.
Dietrich Murswiek, professor emeritus of public law at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, does not hold back with criticism in a recent analysis. In his view, the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution confuses criticism of the government with criticism of the principle of democracy and the rule of law. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution considers "a constant agitation against and contempt of democratically legitimised representatives" already as delegitimisation of the state and therefore as anti-constitutional. With this vocabulary, according to Murswiek, it softens the boundaries of legally comprehensible efforts against the free democratic basic order and authorises itself to evaluate oppositional efforts as extremist efforts. Murswiek's conclusion is:
"In practice, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution does not limit itself to denouncing as 'delegitimising' statements that implicitly attack democracy. Instead, it considers even strong criticism of government policy - at least in the case of "constant agitation" - as delegitimising and therefore extremist. If the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution are of the opinion that the legitimacy of the state and its institutions is already questioned when someone speaks of "failure" or "total failure" of those politically responsible in relation to a concrete situation, then they have not understood what the principle of democracy is all about."
The silence of the other state authorities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland is alarming. The silence of the so-called fifth estate, namely the state-subsidised media, is a scandal. In a functioning constitutional state, it would have been expected that a new attack by the executive on central pillars of democracy would have been sharply rejected. The real threat to the libertarian democratic constitutional states lies in the failure of the separation of powers. And in the failure of critical media control.
This analysis was first published in: Le Courrier des Stratèges
on January 20th, 2023