Can police databases kill?

It is hardly possible for asylum seekers to correct wrong entries in German information systems. In North Rhine-Westphalia, these false entries led to the death of Amad Ahmad. In Hesse, too, this digital police arbitrariness is now becoming evident.

On 29 September 2018, Amad Ahmad, originally from Syria, died of his burn injuries in the Sankt Antonius Hospital in Kleve. Twelve days earlier, the 26-year-old had been found in his burning cell in the prison in the district town. He or someone else had piled up the mattress, bedding and sheets and set them on fire. Because there are no smoke detectors in the cells of the prison in North Rhine-Westphalia, Ahmad could only be rescued after long minutes and therefore only with severe burns.

The case has been investigated by a sub-committee of the Düsseldorf state parliament for almost two years. It is not only the circumstances of Ahmad’s death that are to be clarified. In fact, the Syrian was suicidal. However, the fact that he really wanted to die does not fit with the fact that he triggered the emergency call via the intercom and apparently opened the windows. „Can police databases kill?“ weiterlesen

Where have all the military drones gone?

The German Bundeswehr is one of the armies that flew unmanned systems for reconnaissance already in the 1960s. The first aircraft resembled a model aeroplane and came from the US Army, later they looked like a rocket. From the turn of the millennium, Airbus in particular benefited from the German drone programme.

According to various answers given by the Ministry of Defence to parliamentary questions, the Bundeswehr today has almost 1,000 unmanned aerial vehicles in various designs and sizes. Not counted are aircraft that have been lost; as explained by a list from 2013, about one in seven Bundeswehr drones crashes or is destroyed during an emergency landing.

It is little known that Germany is one of the countries that have been using unmanned military systems for many decades. The first projects date back to the early 1960s, when the Ministry of Defence sent 22 soldiers to the Grafenwöhr military training area to train on US drones. Further soldiers were trained as maintenance and repair personnel in the USA. „Where have all the military drones gone?“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third

Millions of faces, fingerprints and palm prints are stored in German police databases. Law enforcement agencies are also processing more and more biometric data at the EU level.

The comparison of photographs by German police authorities has again increased sharply in the past year. This is shown by statistics based on information provided by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in a parliamentary interpellation. According to this, a total of 76,535 queries were made in the facial recognition system of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in 2020. The year before, there were still around 54,000 queries, so the increase is more than a third (2018: 41,000, 2017: 27,000). According to the statistics, most of the searches come from the criminal investigation offices, which is also where the greatest increase was recorded.

Since 2009, the BKA has made it possible for the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Police to identify unknown persons with the help of the central police information system (INPOL-Z). In the database, the BKA stores photographs mainly from the identification service. The „Z“ stands for „central file“, which is kept by the BKA but filled by all police authorities. „Facial recognition at German police authorities increased by more than a third“ weiterlesen

Artificial intelligence: Frontex improves its maritime surveillance

Frontex wants to use a new platform to automatically detect and assess „risks“ on the seas of the European Union. Suspected irregular activities are to be displayed in a constantly updated „threat map“ with the help of self-learning software.

The EU border agency has renewed a contract with Israeli company Windward for a „maritime analytics“ platform. It will put the application into regular operation. Frontex had initially procured a licence for around 800,000 Euros. For now 2.6 million Euros, the agency will receive access for four workstations. The contract can be extended three times for one year at a time.

Windward specialises in the digital aggregation and assessment of vessel tracking and maritime surveillance data. Investors in the company, which was founded in 2011, include former US CIA director David Petraeus and former CEO’s of Thomson Reuters and British Petroleum. The former chief of staff of the Israeli military, Gabi Ashkenazi, is considered one of the advisors. „Artificial intelligence: Frontex improves its maritime surveillance“ weiterlesen

Libya and Russia: NATO spy drones fly first missions

Western military forces have stationed seven GLOBAL HAWK on Sicily. Unlike US Air Force drones, NATO switches off their transponders during missions

A drone stationed in Sicily as part of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme has completed its first missions. Flights were made towards Libya and Russia, reports ItalMilRadar. The internet portal evaluates the data from transponders that large aircraft must have installed. However, the devices were switched off over the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. So it is unclear how close the aircraft flew to the territory of the two countries. Depending on the altitude, NATO drones can perform reconnaissance up to 200 kilometres inland. „Libya and Russia: NATO spy drones fly first missions“ weiterlesen

Spain wants to station its gendarmerie in Gibraltar

Frontex should actually control the new EU external borders at the Rock of Gibraltar. According to an EU paper, however, the Guardia Civil will take over border tasks there for the first time. In addition to maritime surveillance, this concerns queries of the Schengen Information System or the new EU travel register ETIAS and the imposition of entry bans into the British exclave.

Literally at the last minute, the European Commission and the UK have agreed on a post-Brexit deal. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded on 31 December regulates numerous aspects of future coexistence. Among other things, fishing quotas, but also the uncontrolled border crossing between the British Northern Ireland and the EU member Ireland were disputed until the end.

Brexit also has far-reaching effects on Gibraltar. However, the overseas territory, which has belonged to Great Britain for over 300 years, appears in the agreement exactly once: According to the final provisions, its regulations „shall neither apply to Gibraltar nor have any effects in that territory“. The small town at the Rock is therefore also not part of the EU Customs Union and the Schengen area. Spain would thus have had to introduce border controls on goods and people from Gibraltar from 1 January 2021. This is a major problem in the region, as every day around 15,000 people commute from Spain to work at the crossing in the small town of La Linea to the much richer Gibraltar. „Spain wants to station its gendarmerie in Gibraltar“ weiterlesen

European police networking in the twilight

The Police Working Group on Terrorism (PWGT) consists of the political departments of police authorities in all Schengen states. The informal group was established in 1979 as a response to left-wing armed movements. After their disappearance, the purpose of the PWGT was expanded to include „political violent activities“.

Together with police authorities from the Netherlands, Belgium and Great Britain, the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) started the European „Informal Terrorism Working Group“ in 1979. The founding date was 25 and 26 April, prompted by attacks by armed left-wing groups in various European countries. One month earlier, the British ambassador Richard Sykes was killed in The Hague. The Irish IRA claimed responsibility, initially, however, the police also considered the involvement of Palestinian groups or the German RAF possible.

Before Margaret Thatcher was elected British Prime Minister in May 1979, the Irish National Liberation Army killed her future Northern Ireland Minister with a car bomb. In Germany at that time, IRA commandos carried out attacks on British soldiers, in Belgium the RAF tried to blow up the NATO supreme commander in Europe. This was reason enough for the BKA’s „Terrorism“ department, like the left-wing movements, to do better in international networking. „European police networking in the twilight“ weiterlesen

Brexit agreement: Close EU police cooperation with the UK continues

British authorities retain access to the EU-wide exchange of PNR data and are allowed to query biometric records in EU member states. Additional agreements regulate close cooperation with Europol and the rapid extradition of wanted persons. However, the UK must leave Europe’s largest manhunt database.

Even after Brexit, Britain retains an important place in the European Union’s security architecture. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement presented by the EU Commission and the British government at Christmas reaffirms the „need for strong cooperation between national police and judicial authorities“.

Among the „areas of mutual interest“ are law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters. To combat and prosecute cross-border crime and terrorism, British authorities may continue to participate in important EU information systems and also cooperate with agencies. Each of the new forms of cooperation is subject to the obligation to respect the European Convention on Human Rights. There is no way to involve the European Court of Justice for legal action concerning any of the measures foreseen in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. „Brexit agreement: Close EU police cooperation with the UK continues“ weiterlesen

After the war over Nagorno-Karabakh: British military flirts with Turkish-style armed drones

Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles are smaller and much cheaper than their US counterparts. They can be procured in large numbers, so their loss in action is of little consequence.

There is growing support in the UK for a new programme with smaller armed drones. This is what the daily „Guardian“ writes with reference to senior officials of the British Ministry of Defence. According to the paper, the military should procure light-weight unmanned aerial vehicles like those used by Turkey in Azerbaijan’s attack on the region around Nagorno-Karabakh. These are significantly cheaper than the US combat drones currently flown by the Air Force. Therefore, they could be bought in much larger numbers.

Azerbaijan’s six-week war against the Armenian-defended region of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered the first to be decided with the help of drones. The Azerbaijani military used so-called kamikaze drones of the type „Harop“ from Israel, which can circle over the area of operations for hours before hitting. The German Army had also considered procuring these „loitering munitions“ until 2013, but initially postponed the plans until 2019 and later abandoned them in favour of larger drones. „After the war over Nagorno-Karabakh: British military flirts with Turkish-style armed drones“ weiterlesen

Germany abandons plans for own NATO drones

In Sicily, NATO has stationed five and the US Air Force two high-flying GLOBAL HAWK. An additional „national provision“ was to cost German taxpayers over half a billion euros

The German government is refraining from plans to acquire its own spy drones for NATO. This is what the Ministry of Defence writes in its answer to a parliamentary question on German participation in the NATO programme „Alliance Ground Surveillance“ (AGS). According to this, there are no longer any intentions to provide NATO „with its own high-flying drones of the High-Attitude-Long-Endurance class“.

As part of the AGS, NATO is stationing five GLOBAL HAWKs at the Italian airbase Sigonella in Sicily. The drones are made by US manufacturer Northrop Grumman and carry optical and radar-based surveillance technology („Imagery Intelligence – IMINT). The platform includes a high-resolution radar for ground observation, which according to media reports has a range of at least 200 kilometres. The drone programme is under the command of the NATO European Air Command in Ramstein. „Germany abandons plans for own NATO drones“ weiterlesen