Sea rescue in the Aegean: Greek secret service persecutes human rights observers

The government in Athens is targeting organisations and individuals who observe and document human rights violations. An „information management“ agency set up with EU funding is involved in the investigation.

Once again, Greek authorities are striking a blow against European human rights organisations. A total of ten people from different countries are alleged to have facilitated the „illegal entry of foreigners“ in the Aegean Sea since June 2020. This was announced by the police at a press conference last Monday. Those involved are also accused of espionage as well as „impeding investigations“. Some of them are also said to have violated immigration law. However, no arrests or searches have been made so far.

The investigations are targeting members of four different organisations working on the islands of Chios, Samos and Lesvos to monitor human rights, as well as six other persons. According to the pro-government newspaper „Kathimerini“, the Norwegian organisation Aegean Boat Report is among those affected. „Sea rescue in the Aegean: Greek secret service persecutes human rights observers“ weiterlesen

Schengen Information System: Largest European police database now with Ireland

Presumably because of the Corona pandemic, queries to Europe’s largest wanted persons database have dropped drastically. Irish authorities now also participate in the system, but are only allowed to process about a third of the wanted persons entered there.

On Monday, Ireland joined the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This makes the Republic a participant in the largest and most widely used information system in Europe. The SIS II was set up in 1995 partly to compensate for the removal of internal border controls. Another purpose of the system is to improve „internal security“.

In the SIS II, the authorities involved can enter searches for persons and objects. By far the largest part, with about 87 million entries, concerns vehicles or documents reported as lost or stolen. As of 1 January, according to the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, 933,061 persons were listed in the SIS II. After Brexit, around 37,000 UK-registered persons and 4.6 million objects were deleted on 31 December. „Schengen Information System: Largest European police database now with Ireland“ 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

European police networking in the twilight

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

Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol

Germany uses its EU Presidency to reorganise digital surveillance in Europe. A 5G working group temporarily set up by the BKA is now being consolidated at Europol. It is to coordinate the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States and facilitate interception through new legislative proposals.

The German Presidency of the EU Council wants to set up a Europe-wide working group on the interception of telecommunications by police forces and secret services. This emerges from a document put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. The „Permanent Group of the Heads of Interception Units“ is to consist of the departments responsible in several Member States.

With this initiative, the German Government wants to improve the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States. However, a central office for interception of telecommunications located at the European Union is probably not adressed, as this would be contrary to the EU treaties. Europol could, however, take on an intermediary role, as it does in the cross-border tracking of GPS transmitters, and ensure that in cross-border investigations different authorities do not monitor the same telephone lines. „Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol“ weiterlesen

Secret document: „Club de Berne“ criticises member in Austria for possible extremism

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

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