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

How European secret services organise themselves in „groups“ and „clubs“

For cross-border cooperation, Europe’s secret services or their responsible ministries join together in non-transparent formats. These networks are difficult to monitor and control.

„Club de Berne“ and CTG

One of the most important cooperations is the „Club de Berne“, in which domestic intelligence services of all other EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland participate. The „Club de Berne“ was founded in 1969 as an annual meeting of the directors of Western European domestic intelligence services. In 2001, the association founded a „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG), in which members regularly exchange information on incidents and discuss follow-up measures. Since 1 July 2016, the Bern Club and its CTG are running an „operational platform“ in The Hague. The domestic intelligence services there maintain a common database and a real-time information system. Details are secret, so parliamentary control of the activities in The Hague is hardly possible. The CTG is supposed to network more closely with police structures of the EU or individual member states, and „soundings“ have been underway with Europol since spring 2016. „How European secret services organise themselves in „groups“ and „clubs““ weiterlesen

Dutch Review Committee sees shortcomings in cooperation between European secret services

The domestic secret services in Schengen states exchange real-time data on terrorism and operate a database of individuals. A Dutch review of the cooperation has revealed several deficits. The data protection commissioners in the member states involved thus need to work together to ensure oversight.

For almost two years, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has been cooperating with 29 European intelligence services on an “operational platform” in The Hague. The system belongs to the “Counter Terrorism Group” founded in 2001 by the “Club de Berne”, the informal group of domestic secret services of EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland. The services involved operate a real-time information system and a shared database. The focus is on Islamist terrorism. The authorities do not only cooperate virtually, but also send liaison officers to The Hague. „Dutch Review Committee sees shortcomings in cooperation between European secret services“ 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

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

Europol to cooperate with new European intelligence service center

European intelligence services are establishing a „Counter Terrorism Centre“ in the Dutch city The Hague. The centre belongs to the „Counter Terrorism Group“ (CTG) that was founded by the so called Club of Berne in 2001. It consists of domestic intelligence services from all European member states plus Norway and Switzerland. France and Italy are participating with two different authorities. The CTG members are now invoked to send liason officers towards the Dutch centre. Which security services will participate in the „Counter Terrorism Centre“ is yet unclear. Reportedly to German media „not even half of the countries want to join“. „Europol to cooperate with new European intelligence service center“ weiterlesen