Mini-Drone Incident Shows Security Failings

Von Friederike Heine
Germany's federal police failed to take action when a miniature drone threatened the safety of Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.

Germany's federal police failed to take action when a miniature drone threatened the safety of Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.

Foto: Jan Woitas/ dpa

Last week, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), which is responsible for Chancellor Angela Merkel's security during the run-up to the election on Sept. 22, cemented its already muddied reputation by failing to take action at a campaign event in Dresden when a miniature drone circled above the audience.

Merkel , who had been about to give a speech alongside Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière , was left unattended for several minutes before the 40-centimeter (16-inch) aircraft finally came crashing down at her feet. The BKA defended its failure to take action in an internal report seen by SPIEGEL. Though the officers on the ground had considered shutting down the event and evacuating the chancellor, a "tactical evaluation" had prompted them to remain inactive.

Officers had seen fit to let the events unfold, after concluding that the "threat of panic and the possible damage to the reputation of the protected person" meant that an intervention would not have been beneficial. The size of the miniature drone allowed them to deduce that it did not contain explosives.

The report indicates that the officers present had considered umbrellas -- brought to the event due to the rainy weather -- and a plastic sign held at the ready on the stage as adequate protection for the chancellor.

It wasn't the first time German security forces embarrassed themselves of late when it comes to ensuring the safety of the chancellor. Less than eight weeks ago, a drugged-up man in underpants was able to board the Christian Democrat's military jet  and stage a one-man rave lasting for hours. Criticism of the federal police and air force intensified when it emerged that the intruder had even managed to cuddle up in the chancellor's bed to sleep off his marijuana and ecstasy-induced high before officers caught on to the security breach.

Pirates Responsible

Soon after the drone incident in Dresden, the Pirate Party  released a statement confirming it was responsible for the stunt. "The intention was two-fold: firstly, to draw attention to the government surveillance scandal, and secondly to put de Maizière's Euro Hawk failings  back on the agenda," Markus Barenhoff, deputy head of the party, told SPIEGEL ONLINE at the time.

The Pirate Party member responsible for operating the miniature drone, a 33-year-old computer scientist named Kay Ködel, told SPIEGEL his actions were a political protest intended to draw attention to the fact that since reunification, Germany has slowly been returning to its former status as a surveillance state. "The goal of the effort was to make Chancellor Merkel realize what it's like to be subjected to drone observation," he said.

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