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

By Matthias Monroy

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.


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

By Matthias Monroy

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”   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  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.


German Federal Criminal Police Office trains secret services in Egypt on monitoring extremism on the Internet

By Matthias Monroy

The Federal Ministry of the Interior is stepping up its cooperation with Egypt in spite of persecution against the opposition, abuse, torture and death sentences. What is more, the Federal Criminal Police Office is cooperating with two notorious intelligence services. The focus here is on “extremism” and “terrorism”, two labels that have been used to justify the incarceration of thousands of moderate members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is training Egyptian security authorities on Internet surveillance with a range of measures. The Federal Ministry of the Interior disclosed this information in its reply to a minor interpellation, according to which a further workshop on “monitoring websites” is scheduled to take place in December. The focus is on websites “that are abused by terrorists in order to disseminate their extremist ideology and to plan terrorist attacks”. No information has been provided on which forms and instruments are being used for monitoring purposes. The training measures also include financial investigations into bank accounts and transfers.


Bundeswehr drone projects: further delays to Global Hawk, Euro Hawk and Triton systems

By Matthias Monroy

The US company Northrop Grumman is constructing several derivatives of the Global Hawk drone, including the Euro Hawk, which was once prized by the Bundeswehr, and its successor model Triton. NATO is procuring five Global Hawk drones, which are to be stationed in Sicily. They are scheduled to have initial capability from the end of 2017.

Five Global Hawk high-altitude drones are currently being procured and will be stationed in Sigonella, Sicily, as part of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme. These drones will be deployed for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes in the context of NATO missions. Their express focus is on flights in countries bordering Russia. All NATO member states are required to provide financial assistance for the programme to the tune of an estimated 70 million euros annually. The first procurement is only being financed by a handful of member states, however. The majority of the costs of around 1.45 billion euros is being met by the US (42 per cent), Germany (33 per cent) and Italy (15 per cent). The 13 countries involved in these procurements include the three Baltic states, as well as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.


New EU network of judicial authorities to combat the “challenges stemming from encryption”

By Matthias Monroy

The European Union intends to simplify investigative authorities’ access to encrypted content. This emerged from the replies to a questionnaire that was circulated to all Member States by the Slovak Presidency of the EU Council. After a “reflection process”, efforts in this area are, according to the summary of the replies, intended to give rise to a framework for cooperation with Internet providers. It remains unclear whether this will take the form ofa recommendation, regulation or directive.

The replies to the questionnaire are now being examined by the Friends of the Presidency Group on Cyber Issues (FoP Cyber), which also held discussions on “increasing tendencies to exploit encrypted communication in order to hide criminal activities, identities and crime scenes”. Those taking part included the European External Action Service, the European Defence Agency and other EU institutions. FoP Cyber’s recommendations will then be addressed at the meeting of the next Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels.


#Brexit: 'The European Union has to review its security measures'

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Stockpiling, layering and carrying out profile-based searches: implementation of the EU Directive on the use of passenger name record data

By Matthias Monroy

The PNR directive obliges air carriers to collect a whole host of data and pass it on to the border authorities in advance of all flights. This information includes registration data, seat and flight numbers, along with food preferences, credit card details or IP addresses. PNR passenger information units (PIUs) in the Member States then analyse the information to identify “suspects and anomalous travel patterns”.

On 27 April, the European Parliament and the Council adopted the Directive on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data. Information collected at the booking stage can now be used by police forces and intelligence services to “prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute” terrorist offences or serious crime. For flights from and to the EU, up to 60 individual pieces of data on passengers are collected and stored for five years. These include registration data, seat and flight numbers, along with food preferences, credit card details or IP addresses. 

The collection of PNR data not only applies to airlines, but also to travel agencies, tour operators or other service providers who book flights. In the future, the plan is for European PNR data to also be exchanged with third countries or international organisations.  


Europol loses 700 pages of confidential information on terrorism investigations

A long-standing Europol employee posted by the Dutch police took dossiers containing sensitive personal information home and copied them onto a hard drive. The information ended up in the hands of a TV station.

By Matthias Monroy

Dutch media have reported a huge data leak at Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency based in The Hague. A staff member allegedly took classified information home and made digital copies of the data on a hard drive. This Lenovo storage device was connected to the Internet. More than 700 pages of confidential information ultimately landed in the hands of TV magazine Zembla who exposed the leak.


Evidence: Internet companies in the USA to facilitate direct enquiries by European authorities

By Matthias Monroy

When conducting digital investigations, authorities often run up against the problem that the data they are looking for is stored on servers abroad or that service providers do not respond to requests. The European Commission is therefore working to develop uniform standards. A number of companies are already cooperating in these efforts.

The European Union intends to make it easier for the police and secret services to access servers belonging to Internet providers. This is set out by a position paper by the European Commission on gaining access to e-evidence, which was discussed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council. The paper contains proposals for implementing the Council conclusions on “Improving criminal justice in cyberspace” of June of this year. Allowing authorities to submit direct enquiries to companies is on the table.


Interpol launches new facial recognition database

By Matthias Monroy

Law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on facial recognition systems. In addition to their use in identifying criminals, these might also be used in future to perform automatic matching against appropriate databases of everyone crossing an external border of the EU. Interpol is also considering searching through images on social networks.

Following a two-year trial period the international police organisation Interpol has launched a new facial recognition system. This system, called MorphoFace Investigate, complements a database currently used by law enforcement agencies for fingerprint storage and crime-solving.

Developed by the French company Safran Identity & Security, it allows a range of image and video formats to be processed. In the first instance, data on persons wanted by Interpol or reported as missing are being used. Photos held in two relevant databases are presently being checked for their quality and, if suitable for facial recognition, will then be entered into the new database.

Need for surveillance of public events

In reply to a minor interpellation the Federal Ministry of the Interior confirms that the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA, Federal Criminal Police Office) plans to use Interpol’s MorphoFace Investigate. “The technical and data protection aspects of German participation are currently under examination”, says the Ministry.

Searches might be possible as part of police checks, with biometric data in identity documents being read and forwarded to Interpol. The developer of MorphoFace Investigate names other applications, including facial identification or linking a crime to a suspect by matching facial images. Photos might also be compared against public media images as a way of tracing wanted or missing persons.

The images targeted are photos and videos on the Internet and in social networks. This was confirmed by a technical expert from Interpol in a presentation describing further areas of crime in which the system might be used. They include trafficking in human beings, maritime piracy, drugs, financial crime or counterfeiting. Interpol also needs, says the expert, to use the system’s automatic process to take stills from video surveillance footage or trace persons present at “critical public events”.

FBI training

A further possibility is that the system could be integrated into border control systems. Crossing a border would automatically trigger a query to Interpol. This could also be done “in real time” using police officers’ mobile devices. The European Union is currently planning a new “entry and exit register” which will also process facial images. At the moment checks at the EU’s external borders only consult the Interpol database for identity documents that have been reported as stolen or lost.

Photo queries to the Interpol database can currently be performed only by a regional office designated by each member country. Access is by the hit/no hit method: if a person is identified by facial recognition, queries for further information can then be submitted.

Interpol has set up a Facial Expert Working Group to implement the new procedure and link in the Organisation’s 190 member countries. Following a number of conferences and work sessions the Group has finalised a Best Practice Guide for the format and quality of facial images transmitted to Interpol. Expertise on this was provided by the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.

INTERPOL 2020 initiative

The new facial recognition capability is part of the INTERPOL 2020 initiative, through which the General Secretariat in Lyon, France, seeks to reform the Organisation’s tasks, priorities and structures. Under the watchword of “interoperability”, existing Interpol databases are to be expanded and more member countries linked up to them.

Interpol will, for example, be seeking new sources of funding to ease the burden on the taxpayer and expand the Organisation. The benefits of existing partnerships will be reviewed and new partnerships will replace old ones as appropriate. This applies to private firms too. Interpol also intends to set up more regional bureaus and improve the links between them.

Two years ago, Interpol added to its General Secretariat in Lyon and its Command and Coordination Centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a new Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore, which is developing new strategies for combating digital crime and deploys incident response teams (IRTs) to provide special investigative support to member countries.

Knowledge transfer from the BKA

The INTERPOL 2020 initiative was launched in January 2015 by the new Secretary General and former Vice-President of the BKA, Jürgen Stock. Prior to his move to Interpol Stock was responsible for technical development and liaison with industry. One of his tasks was to oversee the facial recognition project trialled in Mainz railway station in 2006. Matching by means of the now outdated 2-D technology was ultimately deemed too prone to error.

A year later the BKA introduced a facial recognition system for the INPOL database, managed centrally in Wiesbaden. Criminal police offices in the Länder are linked to the database, accessing it via a network interface, and the Federal Police also uses the system. The last few years have seen a marked increase in the number of photo queries run against the database. BKA and Federal Police are working through research projects to improve the technology. It is expected that forensic image enhancing software supplied by the firm Advanced German Technology will be used to generate high-resolution stills from video footage. The new 3-D method will trialled at a German railway station soon.

Prüm, Europol and EURODAC

At the same time the European Union too is expanding its biometric capabilities. It has been suggested that the “Prüm Process”, whereby the EU Member States allow each other a modicum of access to their DNA and fingerprint databases, should be extended to facial images. Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, is working on an “image comparison and identification tool” and has sought information from the BKA on the Cognitec system it uses.

Lastly, the EURODAC database, which stores the fingerprints of asylum seekers, is also being upgraded. The new EURODAC Regulation is currently under preparation, and both the Commission and the Council want facial image processing to be included.

Translation: German Bundestag

Andrej Hunko, MdB 2017