‘Weak’ European spy agencies are ‘ineffective’ & prone to turf wars – Hammond

A forensic police prepares outside the terminal at Brussels airport March 23, 2016. © Vanden Wijngaert
Britain’s foreign secretary has called out ‘weak’ European counter-terror efforts, saying there’s too much red tape and poor intelligence sharing. His frank remarks come as the EU border agency admitted terrorists could be hiding among migrants entering Europe.

Philip Hammond claimed Britain has the best intelligence service in Europe, accusing its European counterparts of lacking “operational effectiveness,” largely as a result of poor integration, bureaucracy and even turf wars.

Hammond’s comments come as the EU’s border agency admitted on Tuesday that terrorists could be hiding among migrants and refugees entering Europe.

Britain now rates Europe as big a terror concern as the Middle East and North Africa.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Hammond said British intelligence services differ from most European countries because they are highly integrated.

Our intelligence agencies work seamlessly together. We don’t talk about the different agencies in government — whether it is SIS [MI6, or foreign intelligence], SS [MI5, or domestic intelligence] or GCHQ [electronic surveillance]. We just talk about the single intelligence [output].”

By contrast, most European countries have an internal and external security agency, which often don’t communicate with each other.

The unavoidable conclusion is that some of the weaknesses for counter-terrorism work in Europe is that they just don’t have the operational integration.

There are different legal structures, different powers, and often there are even turf wars, all of which reduce the operational effectiveness of [other countries’ agencies] compared to ours,” he added.

Hammond’s unprecedented criticism of European intelligence agencies comes a day after EU border agency Frontex logged a record 1.82 million illegal crossings into the union in 2015, six times more than the previous year.

Even these figures were rough, according to Frontex, which said it had no accurate figure as to how many migrants and refugees entered Europe.

Frontex admitted terrorists may have infiltrated groups of migrants to enter the EU.

With no thorough check or penalties in place for those making false declarations, there is a risk that some persons representing a security threat to the EU may be taking advantage of this situation,” the agency said in its report.