Monday

27th May 2019

EU intelligence chief: No way of knowing if information came from torture

Ilkka Salmi, the head of the EU’s intelligence-sharing bureau, IntCen, has said he has no way of checking if its information was obtained using torture.

Speaking on Wednesday (10 December) in light of the US Senate revelations, he noted that IntCen “doesn’t have [its own] intelligence-gathering operations anywhere in the world” and relies on information forwarded by EU countries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • European Parliament map of EU complicity in US abductions, or "renditions", of terrorist suspects (Photo: Council of Europe)

“We cannot, indeed, assess how the intelligence is collected when the member states’ services share it with us. We have to live with the expectation it’s collected in accordance with binding laws and regulations [in those countries] and with international treaties and conventions”.

“We have to assume that whatever is shared with us is in accordance with national legislation … [but] there is no mechanism to verify the method of intelligence gathering”.

He added that, in some “extremely few exceptions”, IntCen does get material from “third countries”, such as the US.

But recalling his work in the Finnish security service, the Suojelupoliisin, prior to taking up his EU post in 2010, he said: “As I’ve been, for a relatively long time, in an operational agency in one of the member states the only thing I can say, on behalf of that service, is that we never used the kind of methods that have now been revealed by the Senate report”.

The 500-page Senate paper, out on Tuesday, caused shock by confirming details of torture of terrorist suspects by the US intelligence agency, the CIA, at secret facilities overseas in the wake of 9/11.

The redacted report doesn’t say which European countries took part in the programme.

But former Polish leader Aleksander Kwasniewski told Polish radio on Wednesday that his country hosted a US facility.

Investigations by the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and NGOs have also implicated Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the UK.

For its part, the US noted that president Barack Obama halted the practice when he came to power.

“We value our partnerships around the world. We hope and have confidence that foreign governments and foreign publics will understand this is a programme that was ended years ago”, a senior US official told press on Tuesday.

But leading NGOs, such as the New York-based Human Rights Watch, have called for the Department of Justice to prosecute the people responsible.

No brainers

Salmi, who was speaking at an event organised by the Martens Centre, a Brussels-based think tank, also shed light on IntCen’s day-to-day work.

He said its priorities are “no-brainers”, listing: the Russia crisis; the war in Iraq and Syria; “foreign fighters” (EU citizens who joined Islamist groups in the Middle East); north African migration; terrorist threats to EU civil aviation; cyberwarfare; and “information warfare” (foreign propaganda).

He added that since the Arab upheavals in 2010 it is filing more ad hoc reports than long-term strategic analysis.

He noted that apart from member states’ input, he gets information from: the EU’s foreign embassies; its overseas civilian and military crisis missions; the EU satellite centre in Spain; and “open source” information, including social media.

But he said he has no mandate to collect people’s private data.

He also said that - except for terrorist alerts - his work is limited to foreign hotspots and doesn’t monitor instability inside EU countries.

IntCen texts are sent to the cabinets of relevant EU commissioners, Europol (the EU’s joint police body), Easa (its air safety agency), and Frontex (its border control agency).

But it principally serves the EU foreign service, the EU Council’s counter-terrorist co-ordinator, and the Council’s Political and Security Committee (PSC) - a cell which handles foreign crises.

Salmi noted that small EU countries have the most to gain from sharing.

Be realistic

“Let’s be realistic, [PSC] ambassadors from the bigger member states will always have additional information. But at least they all have something - a common intelligence product - which they can count on”.

IntCen has about 70 staff, 30 of whom are seconded from EU states, while the rest come from EU institutions.

It produces 500 or so reports a year, half of which are classified “Restricted” and the rest “Confidential”.

The EU’s former justice commissioner Viviane Reding recently called for IntCen to become a fully operational service.

But Salmi said there is no legal framework or political will to make the leap.

“Who would it be accountable to - the European Parliament or somebody else? Who would give the order to launch operations? Who would carry them out and where? There are many practical issues and the devil is in the detail”, he told the Martens Centre event.

“So, certainly, I don’t believe there will be an EU CIA any time soon”.

Ashton picks Finn to be EU 'spymaster'

Ilkka Salmi, the 42-year-old head of the Finnish security service, the Suojelupoliisin, has been appointed as the new director of the EU's intelligence-sharing bureau, the Joint Situation Centre.

Europol busts global cybercrime gang

A loose network of cyber criminals recruited from an online Russian forum managed to infect thousands of computers in an effort to steal online banking credentials. The gang has been dismantled, with some now on the run.

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us