The Stasi was the secret police and intelligence service, all rolled into one, of the East German Communist regime. Many officers and agents of its Nazi predecessors, the Abwehr, Sicherheitsdienst and the Gestapo, joined, and the secret police methodology was a refinement of inherited Gestapo techniques, with a few learned from the Russian NKVD and later, KGB, thrown in for good measure.
It is highly relevant to the story of the Stasi, that the Gestapo was originally created to reassure the German people that the various political armed militias, and every political party had its own during the twenties, would all be curbed. It only became an explicitly Nazi tool when it was infiltrated by the Sicherhetisdienst (SA), effectively the intelligence arm of a party-political militia. But there was a reason why German people at one stage would have regarded the Gestapo as a source of protection: they did get the militias off the streets in the early days of Nazi rule. Again, when the Stasi first started, there were many gangsters and black marketeers in both East and West Germany and many Germans desperately wanted something to exist that would make the criminals as frightened as they were. Since the Stasi would come to have half a million full and part time agents on its strength, or getting on for one in thirty of the East German population, a measure of public acceptance was needed and indeed existed, throughout what the outside world saw only as the vilest oppression.
To this day, therefore, there are hundreds of thousands who see the Stasi as a good thing, protecting society from deviants -and potential deviants. Those hundreds of thousands were heavily outnumbered by those who hated the political regime the Stasi supported, and in the aftermath of the Berlin Wall falling, they largely kept a low profile or emigrated from Germany altogether. Leading to a diaspora of the Stasi, throughout the world, but mainly in communities formed by earlier waves of German emigration, in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Namibia, South Africa and even Australia. There were even a handful, including the Stasi-sponsored and trained Baader-Meinhoff terrorist, Astrid Proll, who settled in London. Her brother, Thorwald, having been trained by the Stasi in financial crime, lives in Switzerland.
In recent years, there has been a steady return of the Stasi diaspora to Germany, with many of them using skills gained in other countries to gain influential posts in vital industries, particularly German railways, manufacturers of railway equipment (in Austria as well as Germany) and in German telecoms companies as well as Deutsche Post. This powerful community has been christened the Deutschland Clan by the journalist Jurgen Roth. One of its functions, seems to be to continue the persecution of those who were dissidents before the wall fell, and who had hoped that a united and democratic Germany would be a place of freedom and opportunity for them. It is a bitter thing indeed that it has not.
This link is to a blog with ample material on the continuity of Stasi activity from the communist regime to the criminal enterprise of the Deutschland Clan.
Alongside its secret police functions, though, the Stasi gathered foreign intelligence, and ran agents of influence in Western countries (and quite possibly other communist countries, too.) Again, the established ethnic German communities in the United States, Argentina and Brazil would have been natural starting points for Stasi agents infiltrating Western society, as they had been for agents of Nazi Germany, and Imperial Germany before that. The most open attempt to employ the German-American community against their American fellow citizens was in the first world war rather than the second, this largely stopped when President Wilson pointed out that there were enough lampposts in the United States to hang them all, if they insisted on making it necessary.
During the Second World War, the Abwehr's attempt to land sabotage agents, with the help of German-American gangsters on Long Island and in Florida, came pretty swiftly to naught. But there was a very successful spy ring at the start of the war (when America was still neutral) reporting shipping movements to German Naval Intelligence (separate from the Abwehr and somewhat better led.) This cost many lives, American as well as Canadian and British.
Most important of all, were the more political agents of influence (possibly run by the political SA rather than the military Abwehr or Naval Intelligence) , for whom Henry Ford and Joseph Kennedy were witting or unwitting mouthpieces, who kept America out of the war for as along as possible, and threw every possible obstacle in the path of American companies seeking to supply the British war effort in the meantime. The agents of influence were able to manipulate Congress to place various bizarre restrictions on exports to Britain, which led, for example, to aircraft being hauled from an American airfield near the Canadian border, to one on the Canadian side, by two cart horses, so they could be exported as "aircraft parts" rather than airworthy machines. All of the obstacles could be got around by this kind of dodge, but it all took time and effort, and every one of them was ultimately inimical to America's vital interests, not withstanding the fact that Congress willingly passed them all.
Even in the nineteen thirties, German manipulation of American politics was often being worked through organized crime, notably the very powerful German-American gangs on Long Island.
Between 1945 and 1947, American intelligence services ran something called Operation Paperclip, which sought to apprehend as many recently ex-Nazi scientists, economic and intelligence experts as possible and get them to work in the United States. The Russian NKVD had an identical programme, while Sweden and Switzerland managed to snaffle most of the Nazi's nuclear weapon designers between them. British Intelligence has been criticized for not really competing for Nazi experts, however, they had a different perception of the usefulness of these men, and particularly the risks of employing them in what would, inevitably, be key strategic areas. Perhaps we have Peter Wright and Airey Neave to thank for the UK's fortuitous indifference to this particular gift-horse!
The net effect of Operation Paperclip was to insert potential German agents into key jobs throughout American government and big business -and then endow many of them with bounteous and often secret budgets as a result of the cold war. A golden hello to the Stasi, which had a head start over other Communist intelligence services as far as America was concerned almost from the day it was founded. There were inherent opportunities here for German-American mafia groups as well, who suddenly discovered lost and lonely Germans in important jobs all over the country. They needed only to help them feel at home...
As well as using German-American criminals as ready-made agents in place to assist incoming penetration agents, the Stasi, like its predecessors, also cultivated criminals and terrorists in the West for their own sake. The purpose of this was destabilization, and it is a tactic which intelligence services only use in a country where they want the whole political system to change. Anytime that it appears that America's intelligence or law enforcement agencies are supporting a destabilization campaign on their own soil, it must be presumed that someone in a controlling position wants the system, and not just the party, of government to change.
As well as obvious points of interest for the Stasi, such as Los Alamos and NASA, Operation Paperclip's experts were in the universities and banks, formulating economic policies and, in time political ideologies. Nearly all of the thinkers behind the Neo-Conservative movement have ethnic German roots, although there are some Anglo-Saxon and Irish-American figureheads, some of whom are not noted for thinking particular deeply at all.
The twin trends, of the Deutschland Clan running Germany and the Neo Cons gaining control of American economic and especially foreign and defence policy, caused some French Intelligence officers and high ranking civil servants to coin the phrase "The Holy German-American Empire." However, President Francois Mitterand, who as a junior minister of the Vichy Government had obliged Reinhard Heydrich by signing an order to the French police to deport French Jews to the death camps, appears to have seen The Holy German-American Empire as something that it was his duty to appease and collaborate with, and French Intelligence wasn't allowed to interfere or even continue to monitor, what appeared to be en-train. As in 1942, Mitterand's order seems to have been obeyed, with heavy hearts, no doubt.
Despite the popular impression, that the Nazis were a complete aberration in the peace-loving history of Germany, there's more than just the continuity between the Nazi intelligence services and the Stasi to consider. When the Nazis came to power, many of the policies for which Hitler is credited/blamed, such as covert re-armament, war-planning, and "Lebensraum" had already been put in place by previous governments. "Lebensraum" having been in place since the foundation of "The North German Federation" as a Union of 25 previous independent states and principalities in 1871.
Two important asides:
1/ that foundation was an act of pure subterfuge: the Prussian leader, Bismark, had planted misleading intelligence material on the French, who undertook a pre-emptive war in 1870, which led both to the destruction of French military and economic power in what amounted to a huge ambush, and to all the smaller German states feeling very threatened by the modern world, and suddenly willing to shelter under Prussia's mighty wings.
2/ the very name heavily suggests that the whole of Modern Germany was just the Northern part of something bigger and mightier, which is supposed to include Switzerland and Slovenia, as well as Austria and large parts of the Czech Republic. Hitler and Albert Speer may have worked on this concept, but they didn't actually conceive it.
Lebensraum as a policy was inherent to the hasty formation of a German Empire in Africa from 1870 onwards: earlier ethnic German colonizations in the Americas had no such backing from then-independent German states, and many of them were effectively expulsions by governments, especially Bavaria, which feared the social engineering ideology of certain secret societies and political movements. Bismark's North German Federation was an expression of many of those, and the outcasts were outcasts no longer. However, they were not a party to the sort of thing that happened in the new German colonies, and many of their founders would have been appalled by the way in which their social engineering idealism had evolved in the space of just two generations. What happened, in Namibia, was Genocide. In camps, and by death march and expulsion into uninhabitable areas.
There is continuity, both between successive German intelligence services, as the political system has gone through several huge upheavals, and in the long-term strategic policy which has been followed.
Although German Intelligence, and German-American organized crime, have been present in America since the late 19th century, it has only been since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the resulting Stasi Diaspora, that stalking as flourished as a tool of organized crime and political change-seekers in the United States. Because not even the Gestapo or the SA had evolved and perfected the techniques, not deployed them on such a scale, using such a high proportion of the nation's resources, as the Stasi did. One in the thirty of the population was a full or part time Stasi agent.
This meant that anyone even suspected of being a dissident could be watched, pretty well round the clock, and systematically bullied and harassed, without the need for incarceration, or, indeed, the slightest evidence of any wrong-doing or evil intent. This represented a level of social control beyond anything which the Gestapo and NKVD had ever attempted, or ever thought necessary merely to keep the population as a whole obedient. It served a whole new level of social engineering, another evolution in the theory, which would take East Germany, and via the Deutschland Clan, the new re-Unified Germany, to a point where the mass reactions of the population at large were no longer an issue, and the behaviour of individuals could be effectively controlled.
Although many tyrannies and totalitarian regimes might appreciate and seek this level of control, others would see it as a waste of time and resort to cruder methods. (Ie: China in June 1989.) But the type of regime that needs this level of individual control, is not so much a tyranny, as a kleptocracy.
In a "government of thieves" nothing is so strictly prohibited as stealing, except by those at the top, who see themselves as owning everything and everyone, already anyway. A kleptocracy sees every last thing, and every last person, even officers of the regime itself, as property. It can be tremendously cruel and kill at will, and yet will attempt to control those an ordinary tyrant would be tempted to kill, simply because it sees them as property of the state rather than as enemies of the state. The ultimate despot is not a Communist, nor is he a Nazi. He is a gangster before whom all the judges and all the policemen have bowed. Only a Kleptocrat needs to make one in thirty of the population into secret agents.
In East Germany, every citizen was watched, and any who even appeared to diverge from the accepted norm (and accepting everything was the norm that was accepted!) was followed everywhere. He would be jostled in every queue in every shop, he would rarely be able to buy what he wanted, or earn his living doing his normal trade. People whom Lenin would have shot and buried in a night, would effectively be subjected to living torture for years on end, to make them conform. Some victims of the Stasi might have thought Lenin merciful.
In East Germany, this took enormous manpower, and it didn't happen from the beginning of the communist regime, both for this reason and because the techniques had not been developed. But the system did evolve, and with it great manpower and great expertise. Then the wall fell, and both manpower and expertise were exported, the world over, but especially to America and Canada. Where the temporarily exiled Stasi agents soon discovered that a combination of the drugs trade, some of it already in the hands of ethnic Germans, vigilantism and other forms of meddling do-goodism, could all be harnessed to make the services of the requisite one in thirty of the population available to their cause. Many of whom don't know that they are working with people on the "opposite" side of whatever the relevant social divide happens to be. And America has a lot of social divides. Tying all these threads together to make an unwitting Stasi machine in America and Canada would have taken tens of thousands of expert agents, but they had tens of thousands of expert agents who'd better stay out of Germany for a few years, so it simply wasn't a problem.
The Holy German-American Empire has America all but completely in its clutches and is looking for other victims. The Stasi, having outlived the political system it once served, is now above and beyond the control of any state. It has become the gangster to which all American and German Judges and Policemen will bow. And whilst it might spray the rhetoric of freedom around like machine-gun fire as it consolidates its hold on power, it is a kleptocracy and these cannot co-exist with any measure of personal freedom at all.
Unless America wakes up very smartly indeed, it will find that the Gestapo and the NKVD would have been easy-going compared to their new masters in the rest of the 21st century.