Bruguiere report on SWIFT-TFTP Agreement

Statewatch just released the second report on the processing of EU-originating personal data by the US Treasury Department for counter-terrorism purposes by Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere. This report by the Judge took place under the previous SWIFT-TFTP agreement with the USA on the transfer of data on all financial transactions recorded by the EU-based SWIFT system. However, this report poses relevant questions for the new EU-USA Agreement. According to Statewatch:

1. The Judge did not, and was not expected to, question who falls into the “terrorist nexus” as defined by US agencies. The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Watch List say that over 1 million people are on the US Terrorist Screening Center watch list used by the TFTP. Although comparisons are difficult to make Interpol says that “in January 2008, there were 8,479 persons suspected in database linked to terrorist activities.”
2. Nor does the Judge address the question of how many US agencies have access to TFTP reports derived from SWIFT and whether they further process them (ie: add data and comments before further circulating them). A US source told Statewatch that the default of US agencies is to “share” information both horizontally (across the Federal government) and vertically (down to state and local agencies) as set out in Bush’s Directive on the Information Sharing Environment. A recent investigation by the Washington Post found that there were 1,271 government agencies dealing with counter-terrorism, homeland security and intelligence (excluding state and local agencies)
3. The TFTP had produced over 1,550 reports (based on data gathered from the SWIFT-TFTP agreement) over the previous 8 years and of these 800 had been sent to non-EU governments: “To protect the original source of the information, the receiving government typically has not known that the information was derived from the TFTP.”

New proposed US money transfers regime undermines EU-US swift agreement

The Obama administration wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country, a dramatic expansion in efforts to counter terrorist financing and money laundering. Financial institutions are now required to report to the Treasury Department transactions in excess of $10,000 and others they deem suspicious. The new rule would require banks to disclose even the smallest transfers.

The proposal is a long-delayed response to the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which specified reforms to better organize the intelligence community and to avoid a repeat of the 2001 attacks. The law required that the Treasury secretary issue regulations requiring financial institutions to report cross-border transfers if deemed necessary to combat terrorist financing.

“By establishing a centralized database, this regulatory plan will greatly assist law enforcement in detecting and ferreting out transnational organized crime, multinational drug cartels, terrorist financing and international tax evasion,” said James H. Freis Jr., director of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

But critics have called it part of a disturbing trend by government security agencies in the wake of the 2001 attacks to seek more access to personal data without adequately demonstrating its utility. Financial institutions say that they already feel burdened byanti-terrorism rules requiring them to provide data, and that they object to new ones.

If the proposed rule goes into effect, transactions between European and U.S. banks would be captured regardless of whether there is a substantiated need.

Sophie in’t Veld, a member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands, said lawmakers undertook “painstaking” negotiations to restrict the amount of financial data to which the United States would have access. “It seems they’re getting it anyway,” she said.

U.S. Wants to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone. Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype  — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

Counterterrorism Squad Densus 88 Now Its Own Police Unit

As part of an internal restructuring process, the Indonesian National Police officially turned Densus 88 (Detachment 88) into a dedicated department within the force, directly responsible to the National Police chief and separating it from the detectives unit. By making Densus 88 a separate department, communication would improve with other law enforcement agencies, particularly the newly established National Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT).

UK Government policy on torture could break law

The UK’s official human rights watchdog has warned the government that its newly published guidance on torture may be unlawful and open to challenge in the courts.The Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to prime minister David Cameron and to the heads of MI5 and MI6 expressing “serious concerns” about the guidance, and explaining how it believes it could be altered to comply with UK and international law.

The EHRC made clear that the correspondence is a formal letter before action, putting the government on notice that it may turn to the courts to seek a judicial review of the guidance if it is not amended.

The guidance governs the conduct of MI5 and MI6 officers and service personnel who are interrogating people held by overseas governments. It also regulates what it describes as the “passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees”, such as handing questions to overseas intelligence agencies who are questioning a suspect. The guidance was rewritten following the formation of the coalition government, and published on the day that Cameron promised a judicial inquiry into the UK’s involvement in torture and rendition since the al-Qaida attacks of September 2001.

However, the EHRC is particularly concerned that although the rewritten guidance prohibits officers and service personnel from taking any action that they “know or believe” will lead to torture, there is no such prohibition if they believe there is a lower risk of cruel or inhuman treatment. In some instances, the guidance says intelligence officers can proceed if the risks can be mitigated through “caveats or assurances”, or if government ministers have been consulted.

CTITF Basic Human Rights Reference Guides

The first two guides on the stopping and searching of persons and on
security infrastructure have just been posted on the CTITF website. The  Guides are an initiative of the CTITF Working Group on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism. They have been prepared to assist Member States in strengthening the protection of human rights in the context of countering terrorism and aim to provide guidance on how Member States can adopt human rights compliant measures in a number of counter-terrorism areas. The Guides also identify the critical human rights issues raised in these areas and highlight the relevant human rights principles and standards that must be respected. Each Guide comprises an introduction and a set of guiding principles and guidelines, which provide specific guidance to Member States based on universal principles and standards, followed by an explanatory text containing theoretical examples and descriptions of good practices. Each Guide is supported by reference materials (including references to relevant international human rights treaties and conventions, UN standards and norms, as well as general comments, jurisprudence and conclusions of human rights mechanisms; and to reports of UN independent experts, best practice examples and relevant documents prepared by United Nations entities and organizations.

U.S. Counterterrorist Pursuit Team in Afghanistan much larger than thought

The Washington Post reports about the role of Firebase Lilley,  a nerve center in the covert war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda which is used as a CIA hub to train and deploy a well-armed 3,000-member Afghan paramilitary force collectively known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, or ‘Afghan OGA’s’ – other government agency. The Counterterrorist Pursuit Team was set up in the months following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 to penetrate territory controlled  by the Taliban and al-Qaida and target militants for interrogations by  CIA officials.

The 3,000-strong Afghan teams are used for surveillance and long-range reconnaissance missions and some have trained at CIA facilities in the United States. The force has operated in Kabul and some of Afghanistan’s most violence-wracked provinces including Kandahar, Khost, Paktia and Paktika, according to a security professional familiar with the program. Field logs from the wikileaks report reveal glimpses into the kinds of operations undertaken by the CIA and its Afghan paramilitary units along the Pakistani border. In addition to accounts of snatch-and-grab operations targeting insurgent leaders, the logs contain casualty reports from battles with the Taliban, summaries of electronic intercepts of enemy communications and hints of the heavy firepower at the CIA’s disposal.

According to an official familiar with the operations the teams’ primary mission is to improve security in Afghanistan and that they do not engage in “lethal action” when crossing into Pakistan. Their cross-border missions are “designed exclusively for intelligence collection,” the official said.

Unlike regular Afghan army commandos, the CIA-run Afghan paramilitary  units mostly work independently from CIA paramilitary or special  operations forces but will occasionally combine forces for an operation. Despite operating independently, the units coordinate their operations  with NATO, the security professional said. The Afghan force became the focus of a debate last year between CIA and  military officials over who would control its operations. The CIA  remained the lead agency, the former official said.

The Army field reports suggest that the Afghan paramilitary forces can also be ruthless. On Oct. 23, 2007, military personnel at Orgun-E reported treating a 30-year-old Afghan man for the “traumatic amputation of fingers” on his left hand. The patient had been “injured by Afghan OGA during a home breach,” according to the report. The Kandahar branch paramilitaries shot and killed Kandahar’s police  chief and nine other Afghan police officials in 2009 over a dispute  after one of its own members was arrested. During their face-off with  the police chief, the paramilitaries were wearing uniforms and guns bought by the CIA.

Jonathan Horowitz, a human rights expert working with the Open Society  Institute, said: ‘

These paramilitary groups operate in such a cloak of  secrecy that accountability for their abuses is nearly impossible for  most Afghans. These forces don’t fall under an Afghan military chain of  command, and if a civilian is killed or maimed, the U.S. can say it  wasn’t the fault of the U.S.

ICJ paper on Sri Lanka’s mass detention of LTTE Suspects

Although the conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in May 2009, the GoSL continues to detain approximately eight thousand individuals under administrative detention without charge or trial.  “Beyond Lawful Constraints: Sri Lanka’s Mass Detention of LTTE Suspects” addresses the human rights concerns arising from the world’s largest mass detention of persons held in connection with an internal armed conflict. The ICJ is concerned that the GoSL’s “surrendee” and “rehabilitation” regime fails to adhere to international law and standards, amounting to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and denial of the right to a fair trial.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week stopped short of explicitly calling for the Geneva Conventions to be changed. The president said Sri Lankans had faced the “atrocities of terrorism” for decades, and that the country lost nearly 100,000 lives. It was therefore, he said, worth examining the capacity of international humanitarian law to meet today’s needs.

Kenya defends arrests over Uganda World Cup bombing

Kenyan authorities have defended the rendition of suspects to Uganda for trial over July’s bombings, by leaking documents alleging their terror links.The documents, published by Kenyan media, describe an al-Qaeda cell in East Africa and provide details of how the Kampala attack was planned. They say that “tens of youths” from across Kenya have joined the cell, trained in Somalia and fought alongside al-Shabab. The details also suggest that plans for twin attacks on Nairobi have begun.

In recent weeks dozens of Kenyans have been extradited over the suicide attack, which killed some 76 people. Ten of the 36 Kenyan suspects in total have been charged in connection with the attack.

Last week Human Rights Watch reported that two Kenyan activists working on the cases of suspects charged with terrorism for the July 11, 2010 Kampala bombings have been illegally detained in Uganda and are at risk of abuse. The Kenyan activists traveled to Uganda to attend the scheduled hearing of 34 terrorism suspects.

F.B.I. Searches Antiwar Activists’ Homes

F.B.I.  agents executed search warrants Friday in Minneapolis and Chicago in connection to an investigation of material support of terror organizations, the New York Times reports. The searches in Minneapolis took place early in the morning at the homes of people who have helped organize demonstrations against the war in Iraq and protests held two years ago during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

The warrant said agents were gathering evidence related to people “providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support” to terrorist organizations, and listed Hezbollah, the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The warrant also authorized the agents to look for information connected to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and to unnamed “co-conspirators” and allowed them to seize items including electronics, photographs, address books and letters.