Last year's Police Act armed British police with the legal tools to break n'enter an individual's home with bugging equipment and burgle their property. This legislation opened a new surveillance rule book for police intelligence gathering operations - with a mandate for Special Branch, CID, NCIS [National Criminal Intelligence Service] and NCS [National Crime Squad] to move into old MI5 waters. The individual targets of these intelligence fishing expeditions now covers anyone "pursuing a common purpose". That's the whole of the direct action movement and the Hampshire YMCA covered in one statutory sentence.
Uncoincidentally, in the same year Europol police were granted free operational rein to investigate anyone "pursuing a common purpose". Sound familiar… Security Services Act1, Police Act, now European police? Yes, they are after the common people with a common purpose.
Since 1994 the secret EC K4 committee has built Europol from being a drug intelligence unit into the new European FBI. From monitoring and filing data on drug smugglers, Europol police now have the power to investigate any case of terrorism, illegal immigration and subversive activity. At an international gathering of intelligence agencies in Cambridge last September, its Deputy Director said Europol was a "blank page for future law enforcement".
Cross border operations, intelligent data policing and surveillance tools are being mobilised by Europol and the Schengen2 member states to build a new Europe-wide electronic fortress. In France 60% of all police vehicles now have mobile data terminals linked to both Europol and Schengen databases. If a Belgian peace campaigner is pulled over in Paris, then their license plate number can be scanned against these databases to identify the individual and make a record of their movements.
In Europol, European ministers and intelligence chiefs are creating a secret, unaccountable and powerful operational body to police the new European superstate. Already, Europol officers carry their own diplomatic immunity passes. They cannot be prosecuted for corruption by national justice courts, and are only open to discipline by the Agency's director.3 In Europol's Hague HQ, they are busy feeding information into their own databases, which can be accessed by national police forces across Europe. Again though, the core database will not be accessible by anyone save Europol. No data protection checks exist to monitor what goes in. Stored information could be anything from criminal records to DNA samples to telephone networks.
Police operations Europe-wide are increasingly being conducted along lines of information technology. "Intelligent policing" is currently being employed by law enforcement agencies from Interpol and Europol, to NCIS and Kent police. A typical "intelligent" operation uses covert Closed Circuit TV cameras to spy on an individual's home. The footage is then converted into data (people entering, car number plates), analysed against other data (criminal records, DSS), and then screened for patterns. Any raid or bugging operation can be planned with this analysed information in mind - selecting the prime time to mobilise any action.
Intelligent policing was operational throughout Euro 96 - with briefs, analysed data and records being sent from country to country on individuals and potential trouble spots. The common link of football hooliganism with the Public Order Intelligence Unit (POIU)/ Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) [See "The Empire Strikes Back", Do or Die No.6] brings us back to the direct action link. Given the amount of intelligence gathering, notetaking, visual surveillance etc - it is likely that this analysis will be used to plot DIY networks, actions and campaigns. Intelligence held on European activists and multi-national actions like those at Gorleben and the mobilisation against the EU Conference in Amsterdam (June 1997)4, may increasingly be collected on Europol and Schengen databases. Likewise, cross border operations might combine local, national and European police officers.
Still, it is important to remember that this police data driven technology is still in its infant stages. The more misleading, inaccurate personal information the better. With electronic data trails flowing from your bank account details, DSS, phone billing information etc, it is important to think anonymous, think imaginary identities. The more data they have to handle - the more time they have to spend untangling it behind a computer screen. On European trips you are only obliged to carry a passport, so leave anything with addresses, phone numbers, contacts at home. Being outside Schengen, English activists travelling in Europe cannot be identified through their database - but may have details logged for future reference. Again, keep it inventive and keep them guessing. By training the eyes and ears just one step ahead of the game it's not impossible to be the ghost in the system.
Europol has been developed out of an earlier body with an absolutely priceless title: 'TREVI', or "Terrorism, Radicalism, Extremism and Violence International" (a name to die for!) Set up during the height of the Euro-terrorism wave in 1976, it was a coordinating network for the Interior Ministries of Europe. At first explicitly political in focus, it later expanded its remit to include Europol's other two areas of 'expertise' - drugs and immigration. (Thus, as various commentators have pointed out, it reinforced the racist tendency to criminalise all immigrants, associating them with the entry of drugs and violence into an otherwise 'pure' Europe.)
For further information on this and other abuses of state power in the UK and Europe, contact:
PO Box 1516
London N16 0EW
PO Box 2600
1. Passed just before the notorious Police Act, this legislation redefined the security forces' objectives, expanding their focus to take in those legendary groups who are "pursuing a common purpose". The effect of both Acts is to enable a greater convergence between the security forces and the police, with the former now integrating themselves much more into ordinary policing operations. Thus they can now have a role investigating seemingly mundane matters such as dole fraud, with the added bonus of being even less accountable than the conventional police.
2. The Schengen agreement rose out of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and obliges those states that have signed up to it to share 'law enforcement' information. It provides a basis for much more extensive joint policing operations - for example, there are plans to link up the police radio systems of all participating states onto the same bandwidth.
3. Given that they have this immunity from prosecution, it is worth noting that the only division of Europol in operation so far is the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU). The EDU has the rather tasty power of permitting "controlled deliveries" of drugs (33 were recorded in 1996), in order to protect its informants. An interesting indication of where such powers might lead (especially when coupled with Europol's immunity and lack of accountability) is provided by the behaviour of the Dutch police in a similar situation. Their policy on "controlled deliveries" allowed £1.5 billion worth of drugs into Western Europe, and resulted in a hilarious incident in which Dutch police had to explain that 1.5 million E's seized by British Customs at Sheerness were nominally their responsibility. An enquiry into the whole scandal concluded that it was hard to tell whether the police were "fighting organised crime or a part of organised crime". (Source: Observer, 14/12/97.)
4. Many of the demonstrators at the Conference were held under Article 140 of the Dutch penal code - that is, accused of being "members of a criminal organisation".