Who drives EU counter-terrorism? On the legislation of the European Union

Heiner Busch and Matthias Monroy. Translation by Viktoria Langer

The formal process of developing and implementing EU counter-terrorism law and policy begins with the heads of government, in the European Council, setting out strategic guidelines. Thereafter, the Commission produces proposals for laws and policies that are discussed by the Council of the EU (made up of government officials) and the Parliament. However, this formal task-sharing between the institutions of the EU does not say much about the power relations and impulses surrounding counter-terrorism policy. „Who drives EU counter-terrorism? On the legislation of the European Union“ weiterlesen

Migration monitoring in the Mediterranean region – Libyan military to be linked up to European surveillance systems

The Mediterranean countries of the EU are establishing a network to facilitate communication between armed forces and the border police. Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia are also set to take part. This would make them, through the back door, part of the surveillance system EUROSUR. Refugees could then be seized on the open seas before being returned to Libya.

The satellite-based Seahorse Mediterranean Network is to commence operations in the course of this year. This information was disclosed by the European Commission in response to a parliamentary interpellation. The Libyan coastguard, which falls within the remit of the navy, would thus be party to information from European surveillance systems. The objective is for Libya to take part in rescue missions outside the country’s territorial waters.  „Migration monitoring in the Mediterranean region – Libyan military to be linked up to European surveillance systems“ weiterlesen

Biometric data exchange with the US military: Europol seconds liaison officer for Operation Gallant Phoenix

Police forces in the EU member states could be able to use fingerprints and DNA traces collected by the US military in Syria and Iraq in the near future. Intelligence services would also be granted access.

According to an EU Council document, the EU police agency Europol intends to process fingerprints and DNA traces in The Hague that are processed by the US military in war zones. This data is being exchanged in the context of Operation Gallant Phoenix, which is an intelligence project spearheaded by the US military that according to media reports, is based in Jordan. US intelligence services are also involved in this undertaking. Operation Gallant Phoenix is being coordinated by the United States Joint Special Operations Command, which commands the special units of all branches of the US military. „Biometric data exchange with the US military: Europol seconds liaison officer for Operation Gallant Phoenix“ weiterlesen

Project SMILE: Interface for European telecommunications interception

The European Investigation Order in criminal matters allows judicial authorities in all EU Member States to instruct each other to collect evidence. It also sets forth provisions for cross-border telecommunications surveillance. The European standardisation institute ETSI is consequently working on interfaces for the hand-over of intercepted phone calls.

By May 22nd, the Member States of the European Union have to transpose the European Investigation Order in criminal matters (EIO) into national law. The Directive defines cross-border cooperation between judicial authorities including courts, investigating judges and public prosecutor’s offices. In the future, an “issuing State” can oblige an “executing State” to gather evidence in criminal proceedings. This entails inter alia conducting investigations.

It also sets forth provisions for the “temporary transfer of persons held in custody”, hearings by video or telephone conference or the use of the European arrest warrant to transfer people (including temporarily) to courts of another state. There is a dedicated chapter on telecommunications surveillance and the transfer of the “electronic evidence” gathered during such. „Project SMILE: Interface for European telecommunications interception“ weiterlesen

Social media companies launch upload filter to combat “terrorism and extremism”

A database set up jointly by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube has become operational. The prototype aims to identify “terrorist and radicalising” content automatically and to remove it from these platforms.

The prototype of a mechanism to prevent the publication of violent terrorist content on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter commenced operations last week. This was announced by European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, who met representatives from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on Friday last week in order to discuss the progress made so far with regard to the “removal of terrorist content online”.
„Social media companies launch upload filter to combat “terrorism and extremism”“ weiterlesen

Pretty complicated: The European data landscape

The Council of the European Union has published a diagram of all of information systems in the realm of justice and home affairs. This overview includes databases operated by the police, customs and agencies, as well as by Interpol. It also features the agreement between the EU and the USA on exchanging data regarding financial transactions.

A new diagram is intended to make it easier for delegations from European Union member states to get to grips with the data landscape in the area of justice and home affairs. This was against the backdrop of the High Level Expert Group on Information Systems and Interoperability launched in the summer of last year, which is tasked with the development of proposals to improve file-sharing. The group is made up of members of the Commission and the member states, as well as external “experts”.

All existing information systems are to be assessed and tested for their usefulness. Uniform formats that are developed by the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) and the police agency Europol are envisaged. A further aim is to improve the quality of the data supplied. A problem that the authorities run up against when dealing with decentralised systems is the fact that the member states often use different software programmes. The Expert Group is working to assess the feasibility of centralising systems in such cases. „Pretty complicated: The European data landscape“ weiterlesen

Berlin police introduces electroshock weapons for patrolling officers

In the future, Berlin police officers will carry taser guns when patrolling the districts of Mitte and Kreuzberg. After a test phase of three years, these weapons could be introduced across the board.

The Berlin police departments of police stations 32 (Mitte) and 53 (Kreuzberg) are being armed with electroshock weapons. This is part of a test phase that is scheduled to last for three years. Ten police officers at each of the departments received training on the use of taser guns. Costs are said to be in the region of 55,000 euros.

Actually known as electroshock guns, tasers fire projectiles fitted with barbed hooks. Wires connected to these conduct shocks of 50,000 volts, thereby inducing a state of temporary paralysis. While their manufacturers claim that taser guns are a “non-lethal weapon”, critics prefer to use the term “less-lethal weapon”. According to reporting by the Guardian daily newspaper, at least 47 people died in the USA following the use of taser guns as of November 2015. „Berlin police introduces electroshock weapons for patrolling officers“ weiterlesen

The road to a population register: EU Commission outlines roadmap for a “common repository of data”

With the statement “Data protection is all well and good, but in times of crisis like these, security takes precedence” the German Minister of the Interior called in March 2016 for a restructuring of EU databases. Major information systems, including biometric data, will be centralised on a step-by-step basis. The planned population register also affects EU citizens.

In April last year, the European Commission established a “high-level group of experts” (HLEG) to investigate „current shortcomings and knowledge gaps of information systems at Union level“. The group aims to find possible ways of improving IT systems and their interoperability. Previously, Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) called for the European Union to improve links between its data repositories. The Commission has now presented the interim report of the HLEG. „The road to a population register: EU Commission outlines roadmap for a “common repository of data”“ weiterlesen

Deadly Incident on the Mediterranean Sea: Rescue Organisation Accuses Libyan Coast Guard

The private rescue organisation Sea Watch e.V. is pressing charges against the Libyan coast guard because of an attack during a rescue operation on the Mediterranean Sea. According to the organisation 30 refugees died after their dinghy was damaged by a patrol boat on 21 October 2016. The rescue team rates this incident as an attack on maritime transport.

The coast guard’s patrol boat with the registration mark ‚267‘ interfered with the rescue operation of the ‚Sea-Watch 2‘, which was instructed by the sea rescue control centre in Rome. Pictures of the professional photographer Christan Ditsch, who was on board, show the coast guard pushing between a speed boat of the ‚Sea-Watch 2‘ and the dinghy. The crew was prevented from provideing the refugees with life jackets. A person in uniform then came on board of the dinghy and started hitting the passengers. According to the Sea Watch organisation he tried to take away the outboard engine. „Deadly Incident on the Mediterranean Sea: Rescue Organisation Accuses Libyan Coast Guard“ weiterlesen

Yet another new European intelligence forum: the Paris Group

Intelligence service coordinators from 15 European countries are organising themselves in a new group, known as “G15”. Initial meetings have been held in Berlin and Rome. The attendees were meant to remain anonymous – but one of them has broken cover.

Rather unexpectedly, a number of European governments have initiated moves to set up yet another intelligence network, whose remit will go beyond cooperation among national agencies and is likely to involve foreign intelligence services as well. Early this year, the intelligence service coordinators from 15 countries formed the Paris Group, known in some publications as “G15”.

The German Government describes the group as a “discussion format” in response to the terror attacks “on European soil”. Germany’s representative is Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, Federal Intelligence Service coordinator at the Federal Chancellery. It is not known where the Paris Group first met; however, in May, the members convened – probably for the second time – in Berlin. The meeting was organised and chaired by Fritsche. Peter Altmaier, Head of the Federal Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Tasks, gave the opening speech. A follow-up October meeting in Rome was organised by the Italian intelligence service coordinator.  „Yet another new European intelligence forum: the Paris Group“ weiterlesen