New powers for the German Federal Police: undercover agents to combat unwanted migration

In the future, the Federal Police will also be able to deploy undercover agents. The provision is part of the new “Act to Improve Information Exchange in the Fight Against International Terrorism”, which the Grand Coalition adopted on 24 June 2016 and the parliamentary groups of the opposition voted against.

The version amended by the Committee on Internal Affairs which was finally adopted states that the deployment of undercover agents has now become “indispensible and long overdue” [1] for the central policing duties the Federal Police has assumed for 20 years now. In the debate over the bill, the President of the Federal Police, Dieter Romann, also spoke out. In a statement submitted late[2] he cited the phenomenon of “illegal migration” as justification for the need for statutory undercover threat-prevention powers. He stated that the Federal Police was no longer in a position to sufficiently counter the tactics of “smuggler organisations” “using traditional, conventional methods”. “People smugglers” acted “highly conspiratorially, with division of labour, shielding themselves from police actions to a large degree”. Witnesses and victims, he claimed, were “intimidated with violence or coerced into giving false evidence”. “The most deaths”, he said, were in the area of organised crime, which “illegal people smuggling” is subsumed under. For this reason the preventive deployment of undercover agents by the Federal Police was a “tactical requirement”. This included, he went on, “discretionary investigations”. Such a possibility existed in almost all of the police laws of the Länder, or federal states, (with the exception of Schleswig-Holstein) and in the Federal Criminal Police Office Act and had proven successful. New powers for the German Federal Police: undercover agents to combat unwanted migration weiterlesen

The United Kingdom will have to withdraw from Europol by next spring

The Treaty of Amsterdam gives the United Kingdom the right to decide on its involvement in EU legislation in the area of justice and home affairs on a case-by-case basis (opt-in/opt-out). Alongside police and judicial cooperation on criminal matters, this applies to the external borders, asylum, migration and cooperation on civil matters. Thus, the United Kingdom opted out of the Blue Card Directive, the Directive on the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents and the Directive on the return of third-country nationals, for example. This means that the authorities cannot access the Visa Information System.

At the same time, however, the British government benefits from individual legislative acts to combat and prevent undesired migration. British authorities are not part of Frontex, yet take part in Frontex measures via bilateral agreements (e.g. joint deportations). The United Kingdom will have to withdraw from Europol by next spring weiterlesen

First child pornography, now extremism: Internet providers and police investigation authorities to use Microsoft upload filters

Material uploaded onto the Web could soon be scanned for extremist or radicalising content with an upload filter produced by Microsoft. The filter would be installed in the systems of Internet service providers (ISPs), but the necessary databases could be held by the police authorities.

Two weeks ago in Washington, the international Counter Extremism Project presented a software solution with which extremist content is said to be detectable on upload. The process is based on PhotoDNA, an application originally developed by Microsoft to combat child pornography. It is able to detect video and audio content. The recognition rate is reportedly in the region of 98%.

PhotoDNA operates on the principle known as ‘robust hashing’ and extracts a distinct digital signature from the file. With the checksum, the software is then able to recognise images even if they have been distorted or post-edited. The comparison is made with a hash database, which is administered either by ISPs or by both ISPs and public authorities. In the United States, for example, PhotoDNA makes use of the database of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, also maintains a Child Sexual Exploitation Image Database. First child pornography, now extremism: Internet providers and police investigation authorities to use Microsoft upload filters weiterlesen

International investigative bureau in Vienna to combat “migrant smuggling”

On 4 May 2016, the Austrian Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Sobotka opened the “Joint Operational Office against Human Smuggling Networks” (JOO) in Vienna. In a statement, the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior stated that the institution was an “international investigative bureau against human smuggling”. The centre has an initial complement of 38 staff members, Europol intends to second additional personnel. It is intended to be a point of contact for investigations of authorities also from the migrants’ countries of origin.

According to the German Ministry of Interior, the JOO is formed within the Sub-Department “Trafficking in Human Beings and Human Smuggling” at the Federal Criminal Police Office in Vienna. Authorities from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, the UK, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia and Slovakia, as well as Europol and Frontex, support the JOO as “members”. Legal basis of the JOO is the Police Cooperation Convention for South East Europe (PCC-SEE) with police personnel from the Balkan region and EU countries. International investigative bureau in Vienna to combat “migrant smuggling” weiterlesen

New Europol regulation due to enter into force from May 2017 – oversight is likely to remain superficial

On 1 May 2017, the new regulation on Europol will enter into force. The compromise agreed on in the framework of the trilogue procedure lays down new more detailed provisions on oversight of the activities of Europol by the European Parliament. Article 88 (2), sentence 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides for the national Parliaments to be more closely involved with this scrutiny. Article 51 of the regulation mentions the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group (JPSG). The European Parliament had lobbied hard during the trilogue procedure to achieve this. The Group is to consist of Members of the European Parliament and the national Parliaments. Yet it is unclear how this will work in practice. New Europol regulation due to enter into force from May 2017 – oversight is likely to remain superficial 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