Intensive surveillance of “violent radicalisation”

Statewatch has obtained documents showing that the EU has agreed a plan to gather intelligence on those they consider ‘extremists’. The plan has glaring similarities to the PREVENT strategy already operating in the UK, targeting so-called Islamic and domestic ‘extremism’. But this will operate across Europe.

The plan is focussed on the normal suspects, defined in the document as,

Extreme right/left, Islamist, nationalist, anti-globalisation etc.

If the UK’s experience is anything to go by, this will include everyone from Muslim rights workers to G20 protesters. The objective appears to be to gather intelligence on anyone promoting a ‘radical message’, in order to trigger actions to disrupt their activities.

According to Statewatch:

The aim is to exchange information and increase the quantity “obtained by other, non-specific means or instruments” (by any means possible?). Apart from providing analyses (termed “ISSUES”) the information gathered would result in assessments and “tactical operational… decision making” (a security euphemism for targeting, undermining or destabilising). The individual or groups on which the information is to be gathered and exchanged are called “AGENTS” and: “data assessment will therefore automatically be built into tactical operational decision-making, with the measures and steps considered appropriate here being taken.”

Information would therefore be gathered with a view to disrupting the ‘radicalisation process’. The information collected seems to be determined by a series of illuminating questions:

Administrative position? Original nationality, acquired nationality, illegal resident, temporary residence, work permit, study permit, etc.”

Economic situation? Unemployed, deterioration in economic position, loss of scholarship or financial assistance, etc.

Relevant psychological traits? Psychological disorders, charismatic personality, weak personality, etc.

Level of direct personal support? Family, civil status (single, married, widowed, divorced, separated), children, friends.
Relationship with the various institutions/government bodies at State level, regional level and local level?: Social services, educational establishments, security services (immigration, police, prisons, intelligence, etc.), other.

Social environment in which VR (violent radicalisation) occurs? Family home, friends, Internet, educational centre, religious or prayer centre, prison, workplace, leisure centre, etc.

How does the person consider or interpret the relationship between that collective identity and other agents, and the social, cultural, religious, political or economic situation? Terrorist groups exaggerate situations of injustice, inequality, oppression, etc.

Has the person made oral comments on: intention of taking part in violent action?

Has the person made oral comments on: other issues, mainly of a political nature, using arguments based on RMs [radical messages].

This plan is clearly not restricted to investigating people suspected of terrorism. ‘Violence’ is not defined, but could quite clearly include public disorder.

This initiative, like its predecessors in the UK, has big implications. It can only entrench suspicion that any Muslim holding non-mainstream views is automatically branded a potential terrorist. Not just Muslims, of course. Anyone challenging the status quo is fair game for an increasing array of state sanctions.

There are potentially big consequences for protest too. An unstated but clear objective of all this is surely to put a halt to all those annoying and very costly protests at G8, G20 and environmental summits. Let’s hope that our response to this will be to take to the streets in even bigger numbers.

We really are being watched

Civil liberties groups have expressed outrage at the discovery of secret European Union documents showing the extent of Britain’s involvement in spying on its own citizens.

Documents obtained by non-governmental organisation Statewatch reveal that an EU initiative initially set up to gather and share data on alleged Islamic extremists has now been extended to encompass lawful campaigners and protesters.

The European Security Programme, first published in 2006, was claimed to be predicated on the need to deliver “new security-enhancing technologies” to the union’s member states in order to “protect EU citizens from every conceivable threat to their security.”

But it has now emerged that the programme’s remit has been extended from that of monitoring terrorist suspects to potentially encompass a vast array of organisations such as anti-war and environmental groups.

In effect this means that political activists who have never committed a crime and have no links with terrorism can have their families and associates monitored as well as their ideological beliefs, internet usage and psychological profiles recorded.

In recent years the Muslim community has been controversially targeted by the Prevent programme and environmental activists have found themselves infiltrated and subject to pre-emptive arrest. But the exposure of this new shadowy EU initiative has been seen as a dangerous further erosion of civil liberties.

Stop The War convener Lindsey German said: “In recent months we have begun hearing the term ‘domestic extremists’ used to describe people exercising their completely legal right to protest.

“People should not be criminalised for exercising their civil rights. We said at the time that the war on terror would lead to a huge erosion of civil liberties. This is a very dangerous step and should be opposed.”

Ms German said that to a certain extent most activists assumed they were being monitored but that this did not make it right.

“I’ve been active in campaigns for over 40 years,” she said.

“I imagine there are tapes and photos of me and files on me because of campaigns I have been involved in but when you think about many of those protests, such as the anti-apartheid movement and the Irish civil rights movement, which were seen as extremist campaigns by some at the time, they are now completely acceptable.

“When you have such a homogeneous mainstream political situation as we do in Britain with the coalition government and where the Labour Party is not distinguishing itself by being left wing, anyone who is outside the mainstream is seen as extremist.”

Liberty legal director James Welch said: “It’s bad enough that the police in the UK already target legitimate protesters as ‘extremists.’ It’s not made any better by the prospect of this being encouraged or driven by a secretive European agreement.”

Val Swain of activist group FITwatch told the Star: “In this country we know the police and other organisations are collecting large amounts of data on political activists including protsts they attend and those they associate with and this is clearly very dangerous.

“The consequences are extremely serious because due to this style of policing people are being prevented from attending protests as they feel intimidated.”

And CND chairwoman Kate Hudson said: “Citizens not only have the right to engage in peaceful political protest – one of our hard-won democratic rights over centuries – but we also have a moral duty to challenge brutal or unjust laws and policies introduced by our government.

“Opposing war is a matter of saving lives and preventing sorrow and suffering. To describe it as ‘extremism’ is just absurd.”

Intensive surveillance (PDF)

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