Interior Minister Faeser wants to make a federal office the central office in the fight against cyber attacks. In the meantime, Faeser’s ambitious plans for a digital FBI are threatened with failure due to massive resistance from her counterparts in the federal states.

In July, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser presented her new cyber security agenda. In particular, the SPD politician wanted to turn the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) in Bonn into the central office in the fight against cyber attacks. The turning point after the Russian attack on Ukraine in particular required “a strategic realignment and significant investments in our cyber security,” it said.

In the meantime, Faeser’s ambitious plans for a digital FBI are threatened with failure due to massive resistance from her counterparts in the federal states. The fight against online gangsters is still primarily the responsibility of the local security authorities. In order to set up the central office, according to the opinion of the federal states, an amendment to the Basic Law would be necessary. Furthermore, the Bundesrat would have to agree with a two-thirds majority.

At the moment it doesn’t look like the project will come to fruition. There is resistance from Union ministers. For example, from NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU), who rejects Faeser’s plans. “Far-reaching transfers of competence to the federal government would certainly not contribute to improving the security situation,” said the NRW Ministry of the Interior in response to a FOCUS online request. “Rather, the security authorities of the countries must be able to take immediate action when cyber security incidents occur that may also affect critical infrastructures,” the statement continues.

Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) sees it the same way. At the conference of interior ministers from November 30th to December 2nd, Faeser’s BSI project will be discussed. “However, I do not consider a fundamental reorganization of the cyber security architecture by amending the Basic Law to be appropriate, neither for legal nor for factual reasons,” says Bavaria. With the Bavarian State Office for Information Security and the existing federal and state committees in the field of IT and cyber security, the company is already well positioned.

For the interior minister’s plans, this no means a major setback. According to an internal concept paper, the BSI should be set up as a “central reporting point for IT security incidents in Germany”. Accordingly, the Bonn authority would collect nationwide warnings of cyber attacks and forward them to the appropriate security bodies in the federal and state governments. The BSI would also be authorized to coordinate countermeasures nationwide.

The prosecutors in North Rhine-Westphalia are reporting their doubts. So far, according to an insider, the BSI has attracted more attention because it has tried to deal with digital attacks on companies on its own without involving the responsible investigators from the police and public prosecutor’s office.

If things go according to Faeser’s plans, the BSI will also create a constantly ongoing picture of the situation. In addition to setting up a joint database, cyber defense should conduct IT emergency and crisis exercises with the responsible state bodies.

The Düsseldorf Ministry of the Interior is skeptical about this project. However, those responsible in public are trying to play down the difference of opinion with the federal government a little and are willing to compromise. A spokesman concedes that NRW has a great interest in good cooperation between the federal and state governments. “The BSI could, for example, act as an information hub in an equal alliance with the federal states.” In plain language, this means: Faeser’s grandiose project from the Cyber-FBI would be history.

The SPD politician seems to have solved at least one problem. Faeser recently relieved the BSI boss Arne Schönbohm of his post. The ministry had justified the resignation of the head of the authority with a damaged relationship of trust. The expulsion took place after the moderator Jan Böhmermann in the ZDF “Magazine Royale” about Schönbohm’s proximity to the Cybersecurity Council Germany e. V. reported. The president of the association is said to maintain contacts with Russian security organs. It was particularly difficult that Schönbohm gave a speech on the club’s tenth anniversary this year.

In the meantime, however, it has become obvious that there is nothing to the allegations. Böhmermann apparently overlooked the fact that numerous other representatives from German security authorities and ministries in the Cybersecurity Council e. V. appeared as speakers. In addition, Schönbohm’s speech was approved by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

Nevertheless, Mistress Faeser did not hesitate to dismiss the unwelcome paladin. Schönbohm complained to the Cologne administrative court against his expulsion. The justification from the BMI for his disempowerment was apparently very thin. There was no longer any talk of the alleged proximity to Russia.

And so Berlin tried to calm the recalcitrant civil servant with a replacement post. From January 1, 2023, Schönbohm will head the Federal Academy for Public Administration in Brühl. And for the same salary (11,200 euros per month) as when I was head of the BSI. However, the head of the authority, who has fallen out of favor, will then only be in charge of an apparatus with 100 instead of 1,700 employees at the BSI. As FOCUS learned online from well-informed circles, Schönbohm will still accept the offer.

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