Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism
Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung
Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed2002; 20 years ago (2002)
Dissolved2021; 1 year ago (2021)
Superseding agency
JurisdictionAustrian Federal Government
HeadquartersRennweg 89-93, Landstraße, Vienna
Agency executive
  • Erich Zwettler [de], Director
Parent agencyDirectorate General for Public Security (GDföS)
Websitehttp://www.bvt.gv.at

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung, "BVT") was an Austrian police organization that acts as a domestic intelligence agency. It is tasked with the protection of the constitutional organs of the Republic of Austria and their ability to function. The agency was created from the Austrian State police, as well as various special task forces targeting organized crime and terrorism that were under the direction of the Directorate General for Public Security (Generaldirektion für die öffentliche Sicherheit, "GDföS"), which itself is a department of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The BVT publishes the Verfassungsschutzbericht, an annual report on the status of the protection of the constitution.[1]

In late 2021, following criticism for perceived failures in preventing the 2020 Vienna attack, the BVT was dissolved and replaced with the new State Security and Intelligence Directorate (DSN).[2]

History

The BVT was created in 2002 through the reorganization of various special task forces of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the former state police. This was undertaken as a reaction to a perceived danger to public security caused by an increase in international terrorism. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Federal Minister of the Interior Ernst Strasser ordered the restructuring of Austrian counterterrorism efforts.

Gert-René Polli, an officer of the Heeresnachrichtenamt, was named director. After Polli's resignation in October 2007, Peter Gridling, a former director of an Austrian counterterrorism task force, was named his successor.[3]

On February 28, 2018, the BVT was raided by Austrian Federal Police under orders of prosecutors acting on an anti-corruption investigation, taking sensitive info on far-right groups known to be close to the FPÖ.[4] Peter Gridling was suspended from duty when the raids occurred.[4]

In the aftermath of the 2020 Vienna attack, Erich Zwettler was suspended from his work with the BVT[5][6] and the organization was replaced by the new DSN.[2] According to a Vienna-based European diplomat, the BVT was "so compromised that for a time it was cut out of much European intelligence sharing activity".[7]

According to the Financial Times, BVT has been alleged to be compromised by Russian intelligence activity, to the extent that it has at one point been suspended from European intelligence sharing. An Austrian official, while not commenting on the claims made by the anonymous official cited by the Financial Times, stated that they were implementing wide reform of its security agencies.[8]

Organization

The legal basis for the BVT is the Sicherheitspolizeigesetz ("Federal Security Police Act"). The BVT exists as a federal office with nine bureaus, one in each of the nine states of Austria, generally located alongside the state police in the capital of each respective state.[citation needed]

For oversight of the BVT, the Austrian National Council created a standing subcommittee for internal affairs.[9]

References

  1. ^ Verfassungsschutzbericht bmi.gv.at (in German)
  2. ^ a b Sneineh, Mustafa Abu (17 December 2021). "Austria appoints Jordanian as security chief". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  3. ^ Wetz, Andreas (27 November 2010). "Spurensuche beim Verfassungsschutz". Die Presse (in German). Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Austrian police raid on agency prompts outrage". Deutsche Welle. 13 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Vienna anti-terror chief Erich Zwettler suspended over security lapses after jihadist attack". Agence France-Presse. 7 November 2020.
  6. ^ Kocina, Erich; Thalhammer, Anna (6 November 2020). "Moscheen geschlossen, LVT-Leiter abberufen" [Mosques closed, LVT leader dismissed]. Die Presse (in German).
  7. ^ Jones, Sam; Rathbone, John Paul (27 March 2022). "'Tip of the iceberg': rise in Russian spying activity alarms European capitals". Financial Times. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  8. ^ Jones, Sam; Rathbone, John Paul (27 March 2022). "'Tip of the iceberg': rise in Russian spying activity alarms European capitals". Financial Times. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  9. ^ Ständige Unterausschüsse zur Kontrolle der Nachrichtendienste parlament.gv.at, last visited on 19 July 2013