The British exit from the European Union strengthens cooperation in informal circles. One of these questionable alliances is now launching measures to decrypt secure communications. This also involves the US government.
With Brexit, the UK has left the „European area of Freedom, Security and Justice“. From the EU’s point of view, the Kingdom became a third country, which can still participate in various measures of the Schengen states via a „Trade and Cooperation Agreement“. However, the government no longer has any say at EU level.
Nevertheless, according to a statement by the British Home Office, the country remains part of the „G6 Group“, in which the interior ministers of the six most populous EU member states have organised themselves for 18 years. The agenda of the most recent meeting at the end of March included the prevention of immigration. Home Secretary Priti Patel presented „landmark changes“ to the British asylum system. By „intelligence and expertise“, the Kingdom’s authorities wanted to „tackle illegal migration across the continent“. „Cryptowars and migration: Great Britain continues to influence EU policy“ weiterlesen
British authorities continue to participate in many EU instruments in the area of justice and home affairs, and cooperation in some cases even goes further than with the Schengen states Norway, Iceland or Switzerland. The exit from Europol and the Schengen Information System could strengthen the secret services.
With its withdrawal from the European Union, the UK will have left the „European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice“ as of 1 January 2021, and the country will become a third country from the EU’s perspective. This will also end cooperation within the framework of the Schengen Agreement. The government in London will lose its place as one of the most important partners in the EU security architecture. The loss of participation in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) will probably weigh heavily in the UK. In 2019, British police forces and intelligence services had around 37,000 persons and 4.5 million objects stored there. Many covert Article 36 alerts, which allow police and domestic intelligence to track the movements of wanted persons across the EU, also originated in the UK.
However, British authorities are to be allowed to continue to participate in important EU information systems in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and also to cooperate with agencies. These are the provisions of the provisional „EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement“ (TCA), which the parties negotiated at the last minute before the turn of the year. „Privileged third country: EU security cooperation with Great Britain after Brexit“ weiterlesen
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
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
Although this violates EU treaties, the police agency Europol is to cooperate closely with secret services. This involves lists of suspicious persons originating from third countries. The individuals listed there will then be discreetly searched for throughout Europe.
In fact, the European Union has no competence to coordinate the secret services of the Member States. In the case of Germany, this would also violate the principle of separating the tasks of police and services. Nevertheless, the German EU Presidency is now for the first time pushing for operational cooperation coordinated by Europol.
The German proposal for a „coordinated approach“ deals with covert searches for persons under Article 36 of the SIS II Council Decision, which are based on lists of secret services such as the USA, but also from North Africa or the Western Balkans. They are to be entered into the Schengen Information System (SIS II), to which third countries do not have access. Only the 26 EU Member States involved, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland may issue such alerts. „German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door“ weiterlesen
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
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
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
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
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