Quitting EU adviser: Gilles de Kerchove invents „left-wing terrorist“ threat

A handful of property damages in Italy could lead to left-wing activism being pursued more closely by police and secret services across the European Union. The initiative bears the hallmarks of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Meanwhile, a package of measures against „violent right-wing extremism and terrorism“ has petered out.

In the Terrorism Annual Report for 2020 (TESAT), Europol recently counted 24 left-wing and anarchist terrorist attacks. According to the report, the incidents all took place in Italy, with none of them resulting in human casualties. Most of the attacks were on mobile phone masts and other telecommunications infrastructure, such as relays or cables. Meanwhile, the same report counts only one right-wing terrorist attack, Hanau (Germany), which left nine dead, and six jihadist attacks that killed 12 people.

Each country can determine for itself whether the incidents mentioned in the TESAT are classified as „extremist“ or „terrorist“. It is obvious that the high figures for „left-wing terrorism“ are due to the special counting method of Italian authorities. Nevertheless, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has now presented a paper proposing initiatives against a „left-wing terrorism“. „Quitting EU adviser: Gilles de Kerchove invents „left-wing terrorist“ threat“ weiterlesen

„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military

Authorities in the European Union use biometric data and crime scene evidence from Iraq and Syria to process war crimes, secretly track suspects and control migration. Now the procedure is to be extended to African countries.

After a meeting of EU interior and defence ministers in 2017, authorities in member states have been using so-called „battlefield information“ to fight terrorism. In this way, the authorities want to identify and detect „foreign fighters“ when they cross an external EU border. The procedure is to be expanded, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove is therefore calling on governments to engage in a „regular dialogue with their military forces and relevant intelligence and security services“. This is according to two documents posted online by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch.

„Battlefield information“ comes from countries such as Syria or Iraq, where the „Global Coalition against Daesh“ has been operating militarily since 2014. The intelligence is usually collected there by military secret services. Their dissemination and use goes back to „Operation Gallant Phoenix“, an initiative of the US government. It has a secretariat in Jordan and involves military and intelligence services from 27 Western and Arab states as well as their police authorities. „„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military“ 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

Europol uses Palantir

Since 2016, the European Police Agency has been using the „Gotham“ software to analyse big data. Europol has signed a contract for 7.5 million euros with the company Capgemini, just over half of the money has already been spent. Palantir promoted the software at the „European Police Congress“ in Berlin.

The police agency Europol in The Hague has been running the „Gotham“ software of the US company Palantir for several years. This is what the European Commission writes in its answer to a parliamentary question. The application was tested in 2016 within the framework of the „Fraternité“ task force, which Europol set up after the attacks in France at that time. Palantir is criticized for his close cooperation with the military and secret services in the USA.

Since mid-2017, „Gotham“ has been in continuous operation, and Europol is using it for „operational analysis“. This enables investigators to calculate and visualize relationships between persons, objects or the course of events. „Structured data“, such as contact lists, tables from radio cell queries and travel histories, are linked with „unstructured data“ such as photos or location data. This big data analysis is intended to generate new investigative hints. „Europol uses Palantir“ 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

Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one“

Customs authorities are seen as „gatekeepers of EU borders for the flow of goods“. They increasingly rely on „risk analysis“ and new information systems. Now the EU customs cooperation with police and border authorities will be enhanced.

Since 1968, the European Economic Community has been a Customs Union for industrial products, and from 1970 for agricultural products as well. All customs formalities at the internal borders of the member states have been dropped. Even the level of customs duties at the external borders, on which all countries had previously decided on their own responsibility, has since been regulated by a common customs tariff.
The framework for today’s EU customs union is the Union Customs Code (CCC) adopted in 1992. It provides uniform rules for customs tariffs on imports from outside the EU. The European Commission constantly proposes updated customs regulations and monitors their implementation. The Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD) in Brussels has responsibility for this. It also operates the tariff system (TARIC3), which displays the current rates.

Customs duties are generally paid where the goods first arrive. The revenue generated is considered the EU’s „traditional own resources“ and covers around 14 percent of its total budget. The member states retain 20 percent of this amount for expenses incurred by their customs authorities and their control activities. In 2016, for example, the EU collected around 25 billion euros in customs duties, leaving 20 billion after deduction of national expenditure. In the last three years, around four billion euros of the total revenue came from Germany. „Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one““ weiterlesen

New investigative tools: German police receives 78 million euros for Schengen Information System

Three new EU regulations significantly expand the possibilities of the largest European police database. Four different biometric data can now be entered in SIS II. The number of storages and searches is once again increasing significantly. German authorities are among the power users.

The storage of data in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) continues to increase. This was written by Hans-Georg Engelke, State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, in response to a parliamentary question. According to the report almost 90 million people and objects were listed in Europe’s largest police database as of 1st January. In 2018 there were 82 million, in 2017 about 76 million. The current number of wanted persons, at around 983,000, is the smaller part of all alerts. One tenth of these entries come from Germany, and this number has also risen significantly. „New investigative tools: German police receives 78 million euros for Schengen Information System“ 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

European Anti-Terrorist Force now coordinated at Europol

For four years, Austria is in charge of the EU network of special units. The head of the Cobra decided on a closer connection to the EU police agency. This also applies to military forces that assume tasks in the field of internal security.

The Network of European special units now has a permanent „Support Office“ at the Europol Police Agency in The Hague. The so-called ATLAS network has been based at Europol’s Anti-Terror Centre (ECTC) since 1 January. A corresponding decision was already taken in 2017, but only last October Europol concluded a contract with Austria’s Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl. It regulates the tasks that Europol performs for the special units and is intended to guarantee the independence of the troops. For example, the office will not be financed by Europol, but by the EU funds earmarked for ATLAS.

The now opened „Support Office“ consists of permanent staff with management functions and police or gendarmerie officers from the member states will also be seconded to The Hague. The cooperation is to be evaluated by June 2020. „European Anti-Terrorist Force now coordinated at Europol“ 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