Yesterday's "must be seen to be doing something" meeting of some, but not all, European Union interior / justice/ police Ministers with our own Home Secretary John Reid at the Home Office in Marsham Street London, produced some worrying "must get tough" soundbites in place of detailed, well thought out, practical policies against the underlying causes of terrorism.
Why is there any need whatsoever for "more cooperation" and "more sharing of intelligence" across the European Union ?
Is John Reid making another "not fit for purpose" attack on civil servants and institutions for which he is wholly are partially responsible for ?
- Europol - "European Law Enforcement Organisation which aims at improving the effectiveness and co-operation of the competent authorities in the Member States in preventing and combating terrorism, unlawful drug trafficking and other serious forms of international organised crime."
- Eurojust - established "to enhance the effectiveness of the competent authorities within Member States when they are dealing with the investigation and prosecution of serious cross-border and organised crime".
- SitCen -" the European Union Joint Situation Centre - "monitors and assesses events and situations worldwide on a 24-hour basis with a focus on potential crisis regions, terrorism and WMD-proliferation. The SitCen also provides support to the EU High Representative, Special Representatives and other senior officials, as well as for EU crisis management operations."
- EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator - Gijs de Vries
- FRONTEX - European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union
This was all meant to have been sorted out after the Madrid bombings in March 2004, and then again after the London bombings in July 2005, so why is there any need to call for this "intelligence sharing" to be happening yet again in August 2006 ?
According to the New York Times, the country which refuses to promptly share such terrorist intelligence the most is Britain.
Will bureaucratic heads roll and will these EU organisations, and national intelligence and police authorities be forced to get their acts together ?
Or are these agencies all actually cooperating very well, but the politicians were just uttering soundbites and hand waving, at an uncritical press conference ?
John Reid kept quiet, whilst Franco Frattini, the Vice-President and EU Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security wittered on about "blocking websites" which incite people to terrorism or which provide "bomb making instructions".
As investigative journalist and expert witness Duncan Campbell demonstrated during the Scrambling for Safety 8 conference, this sort of policy would have to include blocking, censoring or "taking down" websites in the United States of America, such as Yahoo Groups, or Wikipedia, or the Google search engine, because that is where most of the "home made" bomb making instructions and chemical or biological weapons information available on the web is authored and published.
Is Franco Frattini proposing a European Union equivalent of the national firewalls and censorware employed by the repressive regimes in Communist China and Saudi Arabia etc ?
Even if he really means targeting a limited number of websites, such a policy is fraught with danger and is likely to be counterproductive, just like the "websoite takedown notices" introduced into UK law, but still not yet used in practice, under the Terrorism Act 2006 Section 3.
Who exactly will be deciding whether or not a particular website deserves to be "taken down" or blocked ?
What mechanisms for compensation and legal redress will there be to make amends for the inevitable mistakes which will be made ?
The conceivable mechanisms of "official website takedown notices" pose real risks of "collateral damage" to other innocent customers on a shared webserver. There is also the likelyhood of them being subverted by criminals and terrorists, in exactly the same way as online banking "phishing" attacks happen right now, to attack innocent or rival websites by means of faked official "takedown notices",
What is the proposed "takedown notice" authentication mechanism which is somehow meant to work across the European Union ?
Since so much "intelligence" used by the authorities to arrest terrorist suspects, appears to be derived from "internet chatter", then surely it is better to keep such websites under electronic surveillance, rather than to try to shut them down ?
Why is there no strategy of providing rival, more attractive and interesting websites for the "impressionable youths" who might be radicalised ? Where is the policy of engagement and persuasion, rather than the policy of supression and banning ?
If, like us, you disagree with these "make the intenet / web a hostile place for terrorists" policy soundbites being made by Francio Frattini, then please contact him, and let him know your views.
Contact details for Franco Frattini (no published email address):
Vice President Franco Frattini
0032 2 299 11 11 (central)
0032 2 292 13 51
0032 2 292 12 16
0032 2 292 13 49
Our Home Secretary John Reid should not simply be allowed to endorse such stupid policies without comments from the public - write to:
Rt Hon John Reid MP
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Telephone: 020 7035 4848 (09:00-17:00 Mon-Fri)
Fax: 020 7035 4745
Minicom: 020 7035 4742 (09:00-17:00 Mon-Fri)