EU database: European domestic secret services increasingly hunt abroad

50,000 people are under secret surveillance throughout Europe by the French police, another 50,000 are to be checked during routine police operations or when crossing the EU border. In the field of secret services, this wanted list is headed by Germany. Requests for such clandestine observation can also come from third countries.

More than 1,500 persons are being observed by the German secret service with the help of the Schengen Information System (SIS II) throughout Europe, the Federal Ministry of the Interior writes in an overview. Entries are made by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), which is the leading office in the field of clandestine observations in Europe. Secret services in France and Great Britain have each posted slightly less than 1,500 persons, Sweden 625, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic around 500.

The SIS II has been used for 25 years by border, police, customs and immigration authorities as well as secret services from 26 EU Member States including Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Last year, almost one million people were wanted from these countries in the SIS II, for example, with a European arrest warrant or for missing persons. However, most entries concern persons who are subject to an entry ban after their deportation. Article 36 of the SIS II Council Decision covers with 168,000 in total a relatively large proportion of these one million, and the number is increasing significantly every year. „EU database: European domestic secret services increasingly hunt abroad“ weiterlesen

EU opens its biggest database for secret services from third countries

In the Schengen Information System, police and secret services may, inter alia, issue alerts for secret monitoring. Authorities from non-EU states can now have searches carried out via a detour. The German government remains silent about the exact role of its own secret service.

The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the largest European database, which has been used for 25 years by border, police, customs or immigration authorities and secret services. Today’s SIS II involves 26 EU Member States (all except Ireland and Cyprus) as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. As of 1 January 2020, more than 90 million people and objects were stored. Most of the entries, which increase every year, come from Italy, followed by France and Germany. The number of searches is also growing rapidly, with almost seven billion of them reported last year. That is about 220 searches per second.

Each Member State is responsible for the accuracy of its entries and must respect deadlines for deletion. Information that is stored in SIS II may also come from third countries, which is part of the normal practice of police forces and secret services. Last year, however, the European Union launched a pilot project to extend these entries to selected „trusted third countries“ and to find a uniform procedure for handling them. „EU opens its biggest database for secret services from third countries“ weiterlesen

Secret documents: European domestic intelligence services networking worldwide

30 European domestic secret services cooperate with the foreign services Mossad and CIA. With other authorities of the „Five Eyes“, the „Club de Berne“ exchanges information on „non-Islamic terrorism“ and „right-wing and left-wing extremism“. Governments like Germany have so far kept these details secret.

The „Club de Berne“, in which directors of domestic secret services of the EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland are organized, has grown into a worldwide network. Jan Jirát and Lorenz Naegeli report this in the online edition of the Swiss „Wochenzeitung“, citing a secret document dated 2011. The „Club de Berne“ is thus involved in an international exchange of information with authorities in several continents.

The informal „Club de Berne“ was founded in 1969 by initially nine heads of secret services. Even then, following research by Aviva Guttmann, the European services cooperated with Israeli partners Shin Bet and Mossad as well as the US FBI. The networking was done via a cable system called „Kilowatt“. „Secret documents: European domestic intelligence services networking worldwide“ weiterlesen

Germany: Many „silent SMS“ at federal and state level

Inquiries in parliaments and under the Freedom of Information Act show the amount of secret text messages to find out the whereabouts of telephones and their owners. Police use the method in real time for arrests, while secret services create longer-term movement profiles with it.

„Silent SMS“ are text messages whose reception is not indicated by the mobile phone. However, they generate a communication process that is logged by the telephone providers. With a court order, security authorities query this data record. Police and secret services are interested in the radio cells in which the phones are located. In this way, they obtain the location and a movement profile of the persons concerned.

For some years now, biannual inquiries to the German government have documented that the figures for „silent SMS“ at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the Federal Police are at a similar level. The highest value for both authorities together was in the first half of 2016 at around 138,000, the lowest in the first half of 2019 at around 26,000. Subsequently, the figures have more than doubled again, the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced last week. „Germany: Many „silent SMS“ at federal and state level“ weiterlesen

The tracking bug in your pocket: Mobile phone surveillance in Germany

Procedures according to §§ 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO) to determine the whereabouts and identification of mobile phones in Germany

In addition to telecommunications surveillance (§ 100a StPO) and online searches (§ 100b StPO), German police authorities use technical means within the framework of §§ 100 StPO to determine the location of mobile phones. These include the so-called „silent SMS“, IMSI-Catcher and cell site analysis. Customs and the secret services are also partially authorised to perform these tasks. Six-monthly parliamentary inquiries in the Bundestag document that the number of measures for federal authorities has remained at about the same level in recent years. According to the figures of individual states, the investigative methods under Sections 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure are in some cases used much more frequently there than by federal authorities. Some measures for the localisation of telephone owners are in a grey area and have led to legal adjustments. A ruling by the Federal Court of Justice last year could be the reason why the figures for „silent SMS“ have suddenly fallen sharply. Some federal states are currently merging into „Joint Competence and Service Centres“ in the field of police telecommunications surveillance (GKDZ), which are being set up in Hamburg and Leipzig/Dresden. It is possible that with these centralised GKDZs, the number of measures for telecommunications surveillance within the framework of §§ 100 StPO will increase further. „The tracking bug in your pocket: Mobile phone surveillance in Germany“ weiterlesen

Secret document: „Club de Berne“ criticises member in Austria for possible extremism

An audit report of the „Club de Berne“ finds serious deficiencies in the Austrian domestic intelligence service. Its IT systems were not approved for secret information. The authority should also ensure that it is not infiltrated by „extremist organisations“.

The Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT) is regarded as a security gap for European intelligence cooperation. This is the conclusion reached by the European „Club de Berne“ in an audit report. The document classified as „secret“ was leaked to the daily newspaper „Österreich“ and published.

Following an intervention by the government in Vienna, however, the editorial staff took essential parts offline again, and the public prosecutor’s office is now investigating for „treason of state secrets“. Netzpolitik.org was able to inspect the report, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the current Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Peschorn. It contains 156 „observations“, „recommendations“, „advice“ and „expectations“. „Secret document: „Club de Berne“ criticises member in Austria for possible extremism“ weiterlesen

Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services

Although the Lisbon Treaty excludes intelligence cooperation, European domestic services cooperate with Europol and a Situation Centre in Brussels. Next week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss extending this questionable practice.

The European Union intends to further intensify cooperation with the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG). At the forthcoming meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Brussels, the group will once again present a report on cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Afterwards, an „exchange of ideas“ is planned. Because two non-EU states are also organised in the CTG, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will take place in the so-called Schengen format with Switzerland and Norway.

The secret services group has been regularly invited to the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers for the past four years. Its last report took place at the joint meeting in June. Topics included returning combatants from countries such as Syria and Iraq and the need to decrypt telecommunications. The CTG also reported plans to extend its tasks, currently limited to Islamist terrorism, to other areas. „Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services“ weiterlesen

Surveillance of 5G: Governments plan to change laws

5G telephony makes communication more secure. Connections, subscriber and device identifiers are partly encrypted, also conventional IMSI catchers become useless. Providers could therefore be forced to install new surveillance technology.

With Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), the fifth mobile phone generation (5G) decomposes the transmission of telephone calls into individual stages and and encrypts them. Telecommunications providers no longer process the traffic centrally, but via various network edges. The metadata and content is only decrypted at these decentralized nodes.

That means that with 5G telephony, communication becomes much more secure. This poses a problem for police forces and secret services. „Surveillance of 5G: Governments plan to change laws“ weiterlesen

Europol to coordinate hacking authorities in Member States

European police should access computers and telephones with Trojan programs. Europol is now building up a „decryption platform“ in The Hague.

The European Union wants to support the Member States in intercepting telecommunications. Investigators should be able to penetrate private computers or mobile phones to install software to read encrypted messages. This was confirmed by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior (MOI) in response to a question by a Left Party Member of Parliament. The focus is on the police agency Europol, which has been commissioned to set up a „decryption platform“. „Europol to coordinate hacking authorities in Member States“ weiterlesen

Bundestag report finds flaws in the oversight of European intelligence services in The Hague

The Federal Ministry of the Interior is using every possible means to keep Parliament from learning details of the cooperation between European domestic intelligence services in The Hague. The official reason is an internal agreement between the services. Yet the Federal Government has an obligation to furnish parliamentarians with information, even when there is a legitimate interest in maintaining secrecy.

The Bundestag’s Research Services have produced an expert report on parliamentary oversight of European cooperation between the intelligence services. The background to this is the Federal Government’s continuing refusal to provide information about the activities in which Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is engaging in The Hague.

The report indicates that this secretiveness is legally questionable. It states that, although the Federal Government is permitted to safeguard its interest in maintaining secrecy, it must also seek ways of meeting the parliamentarians’ need for information. „Bundestag report finds flaws in the oversight of European intelligence services in The Hague“ weiterlesen