Vienna Terror Attack: Commission Report Shows Intelligence Agency Mishaps

More+More+ ♦ Published: February 11, 2021; 12:18 ♦ (Vindobona)

On the evening of November 2, 2020, an Islamist terrorist stormed through Vienna's city center and killed four people. Despite rapid police intervention, massive criticism of the security authorities was voiced after the attack because outrageous investigative errors had occurred in the run-up to the event. Now the final report of the investigation commission has been completed, and it is sharply critical and identifies considerable shortcomings.

Seal of Austria's Secret Service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT). / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Austrian Government, Public Domain

The investigation of the terrorist attack in Vienna's city center has now been completed with the final report of the Investigation Commission headed by criminal lawyer Ingeborg Zerbes.

Specifically, the final report records the failures prior to the attack.

Among other things, it points out that after the release from prison of the man convicted under the terrorist paragraph, the Secret Service waited ten months before carrying out an initial risk assessment of the later assassin.

In the meantime, he had taken actions that clearly indicated that he was dangerous, such as trying to buy ammunition and attending an Islamist meeting.

However, all of this was known in detail only to certain employees. The problem had been that the information was often not or could not be used further.

What is particularly criticized is that none of these facts got through to the public prosecutor's office.

The commission further criticizes the fact that in some cases there is enormous mistrust between departments.

In addition, the necessary funding is lacking, and the secret service also suffers from a shortage of personnel.

Police authority, on the other hand, is sufficient. The deficiencies are not in police or judicial powers, but in the inadequate exchange of information.

What is needed now are measures such as confidence-building and the swift completion of the intelligence service reform that has been in the balance for two years.

Meanwhile, the opposition NEOS party demands that the secret service be reorganized and professionalized, and that a new, independent interior minister must rebuild trust in the Office for the Protection of the Constitution through parliamentary control and objective recruitment. "The interior ninsters of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) and also the Freedom Party (FPÖ) have systematically run down the Secret Service, abused it for party political reasons and gambled away the trust of international partners."

"The secret service must be put on new legs, this has once again become clear after the commission report on the terrorist attack," the NEOS further emphasize.

"Karl Nehammer has gambled away our trust in his will and his ability to provide for a professional, independent Secret Service."