New regulation: Europol becomes quasi-secret service

The EU police agency processes billions of personalised „big data“, much of it from governmental hacks or intelligence sources. The new Europol vice-director, who was trained in the French military, plays a special role. Now it’s up to the EU Parliament to decide.

The day before yesterday, the EU interior ministers agreed on a mandate for negotiations on the amendment of the Europol Regulation. The final draft has already been published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. This means that negotiations on the planned law with the EU Parliament can begin. The proposal is controversial, as Europol would be allowed to process data from private entities on a large scale, even if they include innocent people or contact persons of suspects.

Six months ago, the Commission had presented the draft for the new Europol Regulation. According to the proposal, Europol should have an additional 178 million euros and 160 new posts by 2027. Because the police agency would then also be allowed to use the Schengen Information System (SIS II), a proposed amendment of the SIS Regulation is also being discussed. With the new legal and financial powers, Europol would be on its way to becoming a „European FBI“, as some German interior politicians have demanded in recent months. „New regulation: Europol becomes quasi-secret service“ 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

Privileged third country: EU security cooperation with Great Britain after Brexit

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

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

How it all began: Five years of fight against end-to-end encryption

The German EU Presidency wants to enable police forces and secret services to circumvent end-to-end encrypted communication or to use technical tools to defeat it.

A look at the activities carried out over the past five years allows some conclusions about who is particularly committed to the new crypto war. In its wake, Europol is also developing new capabilities for using Trojans and cracking encrypted storage media. „How it all began: Five years of fight against end-to-end encryption“ weiterlesen

Anti-terrorism at walking pace: Little European Union action against right-wing extremists

Only after the attack in Christchurch did the EU Commission and the Council take violent right-wing extremism and terrorism more seriously. However, no progress has been made in the cross-border fight against the phenomenon. Some Member States are putting the brakes on political decisions and consider terrorist attacks only as „extremism“.

On 15 March 2019, the Australian-born right-wing terrorist Brenton Tarrant shot 51 people in cold blood and injured another 50 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The perpetrator is considered a „lone wolf“ or „lone actor“, i.e. an individual who has radicalised himself in right-wing forums and social media on the internet. For many years, European police and secret services have monitored and prosecuted the phenomenon exclusively in the field of Islamist terrorism. Only after the momentous attack did cross-border right-wing networks and „lone actors“ radicalised through their structures find their way onto the EU agenda.

There are well-organised right-wing extremist associations such as Blood and Honour, Combat 18, Hammerskins, Soldiers of Odin, the Nordic Resistance Movement or the Identitarians, which all operate throughout Europe and also have connections on other continents. Their activities were partly observed by the EU, but not perceived as a threat. The EU police agency Europol publishes the „Trend Report on Terrorism in Europe“ (TESAT) every year. There, „right-wing terrorism“ is still at the end of the document after „jihadist terrorism“, „ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism“ and „left-wing terrorism“, where Europol counts mainly arson attacks in the member states. „Anti-terrorism at walking pace: Little European Union action against right-wing extremists“ weiterlesen

SIS 3.0: Thousands of new authorities use the Schengen Information System

After police, customs and immigration offices, numerous non-police authorities are now connected to Europe’s largest database for security purposes. All Schengen states now have to implement three new regulations. Surprisingly, there is resistance in Switzerland. In the end, the country may even leave the network.

With the implementation of three new regulations, some 2,000 additional German federal, state and local authorities will be connected to the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This is what the German Ministry of the Interior wrote in its response to a minor enquiry in August this year. At that time, it was said that „no reliable estimate could be made“ of the number of new authorised persons. In a new answer, the Ministry is now becoming more specific. „SIS 3.0: Thousands of new authorities use the Schengen Information System“ weiterlesen

Backdoors vs. Trojans: Europol is examining „solutions“ against end-to-end encryption

The German police also uses a „decryption platform“ at Europol. The system belongs to an „innovation laboratory“ and is currently being equipped with new technology. The EU Commission will soon decide whether Europol should also handle the decryption of secure connections.

Since 2014, Europol has been offering Member States support in decrypting data carriers or mobile phones. The unit is based at the „Centre for Combating Cybercrime“ (EC3), which was set up a year earlier at the headquarters of the EU Police Agency in The Hague. What forensic tools Europol uses for this purpose is not answered by the European Commission, which is responsible for the functioning of the EU agencies.

According to Europol’s annual report for 2018, the „decryption platform“ has been requested 32 times since its creation, in 12 cases successfully. Operations are carried out in various fields, including cybercrime, drug trafficking and migrant smuggling. According to the German government, the services are also available to third states. „Backdoors vs. Trojans: Europol is examining „solutions“ against end-to-end encryption“ weiterlesen

Upgrade for the Schengen Information System

The European Union is restructuring its police database landscape. Existing systems are being merged and supplemented by new ones. The number of authorised users is also increasing. Following technical changes, the relevant Council working groups are now being reorganised.

The European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems (eu-LISA) has carried out an upgrade for the Schengen Information System (SIS II). With version 9.3.0, the database managed by the Agency based in Tallinn, technically implements its three new regulations. In future, Europol, Eurojust and Frontex will also be able to query all types of alerts in the system, including „discreet searches“.

A total of 26 EU Member States participate in SIS II, plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Last year, the database contained 81 million objects and around 900 thousand persons. In 2017, most entries (20 million) came from Italy, followed by France (11 million) and Germany (over 10 million). In 2017, the system was queried five billion times, mostly by border, police and immigration authorities. In 2018, the number of hits rose to six billion, according to eu-LISA. „Upgrade for the Schengen Information System“ weiterlesen

New database at Eurojust: Who’s a terrorist?

The EU has a Criminal Record Information System since 2012, but last week a second database was introduced only for „terrorist threats“. Its added value is unclear and may be the search for „interconnections“. The system also includes „right-wing and left-wing extremist groups“ in Europe.

Last week, the European Union set up another information system on „terrorist threats“. Since 1 September, data from criminal procedures can be stored in a „Judicial Counter-Terrorism Register“ (CTR). The database is maintained by Eurojust, the judicial authority of the European Union based in The Hague. The Agency is responsible for judicial cooperation.

The creation of the new „Judicial Counter-Terrorism Register“ is an initiative of the governments of France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Past extensions of police information systems have mostly been justified by the increase in Islamist terrorism. However, the new anti-terror register will also cover „right-wing and left-wing extremist groups“ in Europe. „New database at Eurojust: Who’s a terrorist?“ weiterlesen