Among Western nations, Germany has a unique domestic intelligence structure in which numerous independent intelligence agencies reflect the national administrative structure of the 16 national Länder [states].1 While the Bundesamtes für Verfassungsschutz [Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution] (BfV) has an overarching federal role based in both historical legacy and the concept of Trennungsgebot [principle of separation], its primary role is to facilitate cooperation and coordination rather than exercise any direct legal control or powers over the 16 state-based Landesämter für Verfassungsschutz [regional intelligence organizations] (LfVs), which are equal in status to the BfV. Thus, much of what follows in relation to the BfV is equally applicable to the various LfVs.
In 1949, the Allied occupying powers in Germany sent the new West German authorities a “police letter” that gave them the authority to establish an organization to counter subversion. Based on the model of the UK’s MI5, the letter specified that there had to be a clear division between such an intelligence organization and police powers. Consequently, Trennungsgebot developed. This led not only to the separation
1 The sixteen separate Länder are the regional components within the German federal system. Ten Länder were formed from West Germany, five from East Germany. The final Land [state] is Berlin.