EU: European police step up cooperation on technological research and development

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26.11.12 - EU Member States' police forces have reinforced their cooperation on technological research and development, with current "priority areas" including video surveillance automatically cross-referenced with database searches; new systems for covert listening; research into open source and instrumentation signals intelligence (OSINT and ISINT); and even, through "physical or electronic means", the ability to stop vehicles remotely or to "prevent a stationary vehicle from moving". [1]

The suggestions are made in a document put together by the European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (ENLETS), an initiative started by France and now led by a "core group" made up of Belgium, Greece, France, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland and the UK, who at a meeting in Cyprus in September agreed upon a "mission":

"ENLETS supports front line policing and the fight against serious and organised crime by gathering user requirements, scanning and raising awareness of new technology and best practices, benchmarking and giving advice. It is active in joint initiatives, sharing information and networking between law enforcement agencies, industry and research organisations. It is a point of contact to access European law enforcement technical organisations." [2]

At the same meeting, participants agreed upon their "vision" for the network: to be:

"the leading European platform that strengthens law enforcement cooperation and bridges the gap between users and providers of law enforcement technology."

The adoption of a "mission" and "vision" gives renewed impetus to ENLETS, whose members will share information - on technology, conferences, meetings, and "information regarding new offers on the market, etc." - via an online "platform for experts" hosted by Europol.

Alongside Europol at the September meeting were representatives from Cyprus, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Finland, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Ireland, Spain and the UK.

A Statewatch analysis published last year concluded that given the interests and connections of ENLETS members, "it is likely that technologies with military origins such as drones, the plethora of high-tech sensor systems or new generations of command-and-control centres, will diffuse further into areas of policing." [3]

Statements in the document outlining "Member States' needs in terms of new technologies" seem to confirm this view, with the National Police Board of the Swedish Police Service declaring its intention to "conduct a feasibility study on so-called UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)"; and the Romanian contribution stating a need for "integration of several pieces of information from multiple types of sensors/devices into the Command and Control Centers with the purpose of coordinating the field operations in real time, including satellite communications."

The Romanian contribution also outlines a need for "real time information regarding the field situation in the area of mass-management through projection on optical individual devices (googles) [sic], using the "augmented reality" concept," although this did not make it into a list of "priority areas" for which there will be further research, co-creation, or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) acquisition.

The proposal for tools that would allow police forces to stop vehicles remotely or "prevent a stationary vehicle from moving" came from the UK (where nearly ten years ago, police sought the same abilities) [4] and was one of the seven agreed "priority areas":

- Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Systems, led by Cyprus;
- UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or drone, led by the Netherlands);
- OSINT (Open Source Intelligence, such as that from newspapers or websites, led by Romania);
- Covert listening, in which Poland, the UK and the Netherlands (leader of the group) will exchange info and joint an unspecific "running project"; [5]
- ISINT (Instrumentation Signals Intelligence, a subset of SIGINT or Signals Intelligence, led by Romania);
- Remote vehicle stopping, led by the UK;
- "Protective vest/materials and non lethal weapons", led by France.

The work on ANPR systems also involves Romania, Denmark, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, and the Czech Republic, which included amongst its needs:

"An improvement of the reliability and enlargement of automatic video surveillance systems for the identification of licence plates of passing vehicles for purposes of searching, especially in the Schengen Information System (there are video surveillance systems in EU countries with different reliability. It is necessary to improve and enlarge an automatic system that requires only minimum subsequent human interventions)."

Romania outlined a need for more research into OSINT in its answer to the ENLETS questionnaire, and the country's interest in integrating information and data from "multiple types of sensors/devices into the Command and Control Centers" is likely to tie in with its leadership of the work on ISINT.

The term ISINT is not widely used. FISINT - foreign instrumentation signals intelligence - is far more common, and includes "telemetry, missile and satellite command signals, beacons and PROFORMA (generally computer-based data)." [6]

Signals intelligence, of which ISINT is a sub-category, includes information and data emitted by wireless technologies such as phones, laptops, and tablets. [7] The Metropolitan Police, from the UK - which is also involved in the ISINT project along with Denmark and the Netherlands - have a clear interest in this, having already deployed:

"covert surveillance technology that can masquerade as a mobile phone network, transmitting a signals that allows authorities to shut off phones remotely, intercept communications and gather data about thousands of users in a targeted area." [8]

ENLETS is planning to invite non-participating Member States to join the network - delegates to the Law Enforcement Working Party were invited to join at its most recent meeting [9] - and is also hoping to "coordinate" with national representatives in three important sites of funding: the Prevention of and Fight against Crime (ISEC) Committee and the security components of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and Horizon 2020 research programmes.

Three steps are outlined for immediate work: the first "is to get the right people to talk to each other"; the second is "to assess the content of the challenge/project"; the third is to "make a report/proposal to the core group". A presentation of progress will be made at the next meeting, due to be held in Ireland before the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU begins on 1 January next year.

[1] General Secretariat of the Council, 'ENLETS', 9 November 2012
[2] Presidency, 'Results of the ENLETS meeting held on the 18-19 September 2012 in Cyprus', 9 November 2012
[3] Eric Töpfer, 'A new player in security research: the European Network of Law Enforcement Services', October 2011 p.3
[4] Juliette Jowitt, 'Police call for remote button to stop cars', The Guardian, 21 December 2003
[5] The "running project" may be a reference to Project ISLE - see 'Another secretive European police working group revealed' and 'Parliamentary questions in Germany reveal further inforamtion on European police project aimed at enhancing covert investigative techniques', Statewatch News Online
[6] National Security Agency, 'Cryptologic Almanac 50th Anniversary Series: A Brief Look at ELINT at NSA', p.3
[7] Agilent Technologies, 'Signals Intelligence (SIGINT)'
[8] Ryan Gallagher and Rajeev Syal, 'Met police using surveillance system to monitor mobile phones', The Guardian, 30 October 2011
[9] Law Enforcement Working Party, 'Summary of discussions', 20 November 2012, p.2

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