How Europol is coordinating cross-border undercover investigations and surveillance

While the European Union has agencies for police and border police cooperation, it does not have own police powers of attorney. The same also applies to undercover observation and surveillance measures. The police agency Europol has played a most active role in this area nevertheless and has worked for years to interconnect relevant units and working groups from the member states.

Europol first organised an experts’ conference on undercover surveillance in 2008, holding a second conference in 2011. Prominent attendees included the European Cross-Border Surveillance Working Group (CSW), an alliance of a number of mobile task forces and comparable units from the member states, which was formed in 2005. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the CSW is investigating “the scope for deploying technical equipment in efforts to combat crime”. It is also addressing the question as to how “criminal activities and technical means to identify police measures” can be prevented. How Europol is coordinating cross-border undercover investigations and surveillance weiterlesen

Database on “European extremists”: How is the plan pursued since 2001 supposed to function?

After each major summit protest, there are calls for a European “troublemakers” database to be established. Centralised data storage at EU level or decentralised networking of national systems would be conceivable options. For a number of reasons, it has not been possible to set up a database of this kind since the turn of the millennium. The governing coalition in Germany has now announced a new initiative to this end following the G20 Summit in Hamburg.

Cooperation on summit events between European security authorities has been running like clockwork for more than 20 years. Police and intelligence services have exchanged information on threats and “individuals who pose a terrorist threat”, have assisted each another with personnel and equipment and seconded liaison officers. Shortly before such summits, the Schengen Agreement is partially suspended and border controls reintroduced while travel bans are imposed on undesirable protesters. Database on “European extremists”: How is the plan pursued since 2001 supposed to function? weiterlesen

“E-smuggling”: Europol steps up efforts against online-assisted migrant crossings

According to the EU police agency, in the past year 17,459 people operated as “human traffickers”. In the majority of cases, refugees and their facilitators communicate using Facebook or Telegram. Seizing of electronic evidence is thus to take on a greater role in investigations.

Last year, the EU police agency Europol received reports of 1,150 social media accounts apparently used by refugees to facilitate their entry into or travel through the European Union. This information is based on figures (PDF) published by the European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC) at Europol for 2016. The number of incriminated accounts in 2015 was just 148.

The report does not differentiate between humanitarian assistance for refugees and commercial offers. It is also unclear how many of the accounts were reported to the online providers to be removed. According to Europol, the rate of compliance with requests for deletion among companies was around 90 percent. “E-smuggling”: Europol steps up efforts against online-assisted migrant crossings weiterlesen

Counter-terrorism and the inflation of EU databases

Heiner Busch and Matthias Monroy. Translation by Viktoria Langer

The topic of counter-terrorism in Europe remains closely linked to the development and expansion of police (and secret service) databases. This was the case in the 1970s, after 11 September 2001 and has also been the case since 2014, when the EU Member States started working on their action plans against ‚foreign terrorist fighters‘.

The first effect of this debate has been a quantitative one: the amount of data in the relevant databases has increased explosively since 2015. This can be seen by looking in particular at available data on the Europol databases, like ‚Focal Points‘ (formerly: Analytical Work Files) of the Europol analysis system. Since 2015 they have become one of the central instruments of the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) which was established in January 2016. Counter-terrorism and the inflation of EU databases weiterlesen

Who drives EU counter-terrorism? On the legislation of the European Union

Heiner Busch and Matthias Monroy. Translation by Viktoria Langer

The formal process of developing and implementing EU counter-terrorism law and policy begins with the heads of government, in the European Council, setting out strategic guidelines. Thereafter, the Commission produces proposals for laws and policies that are discussed by the Council of the EU (made up of government officials) and the Parliament. However, this formal task-sharing between the institutions of the EU does not say much about the power relations and impulses surrounding counter-terrorism policy. Who drives EU counter-terrorism? On the legislation of the European Union weiterlesen

Biometric data exchange with the US military: Europol seconds liaison officer for Operation Gallant Phoenix

Police forces in the EU member states could be able to use fingerprints and DNA traces collected by the US military in Syria and Iraq in the near future. Intelligence services would also be granted access.

According to an EU Council document, the EU police agency Europol intends to process fingerprints and DNA traces in The Hague that are processed by the US military in war zones. This data is being exchanged in the context of Operation Gallant Phoenix, which is an intelligence project spearheaded by the US military that according to media reports, is based in Jordan. US intelligence services are also involved in this undertaking. Operation Gallant Phoenix is being coordinated by the United States Joint Special Operations Command, which commands the special units of all branches of the US military. Biometric data exchange with the US military: Europol seconds liaison officer for Operation Gallant Phoenix weiterlesen