Skip to main content

The Stasi, East Germany’s state security service, may have been one of the most pervasive secret police agencies that ever existed. It was infamous for its capacity to monitor individuals and control information flows. By 1989, it had almost 100,000 regular employees and, according to some accounts, between 500,000 and two million informants in a country with a population of about 16 million. Its sheer manpower and resources allowed it to permeate society and keep tabs on virtually every aspect of the lives of East German citizens. Thousands of agents worked to tap telephones, infiltrate underground political movements, and report on personal and familial relationships. Officers were even positioned at post offices to open letters and packages entering from or heading to noncommunist countries. For decades, the Stasi was a model for how a highly capable authoritarian regime could use repression to maintain control.

In the wake of the apparent triumph of liberal

To read the full article

Most Read Articles

The Transformation of Diplomacy

How to Save the State Department

William J. Burns and Linda Thomas-Greenfield

The Endless Fantasy of American Power

Neither Trump Nor Biden Aims to Demilitarize Foreign Policy

Andrew Bacevich

Dire Straits

Should American Support for Taiwan Be Ambiguous?

Bonnie S. Glaser; Michael J. Mazarr; Michael J. Glennon; Richard Haass and David Sacks

The Pandemic Depression

The Global Economy Will Never Be the Same

Carmen Reinhart and Vincent Reinhart