EU interior ministers are debating tools in the fight against terrorism with special emphasis on shoring up online security borders by monitoring and blocking Web sites to foil the planning of attacks on the Internet.
EU ministers are zooming in on Internet sites
EU interior ministers meeting for informal counter-terrorism talks in Lisbon on Monday, Oct. 1, are zooming in on the role of the Internet in the planning of terrorist attacks. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini is pushing for greater powers to monitor the Web.
Frattini is in favor of developing technology to block and monitor Internet sites offering bomb-making recipes as well as making online recruiting of terrorists a punishable offense.
"They (terrorists) can find precise information and instructions for all kinds of terror attacks on the Internet, for instance how to make bombs," Frattini said ahead of the meeting.
Frattini wants to develop a whole range of new tools to fight terrorism
However, the aim is not to "follow every person that 'googles' the word 'bomb' on the Internet," Frattini added, referring to the wariness the proposed measures have triggered among critics and proponents of civil liberties.
Online surveillance being stepped up
In response to a recent series of arrests and the unfolding of terror plots and planned strikes in Sweden, Germany and Austria, individual countries in Europe are already moving ahead to step up surveillance of the Internet.
In Germany, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is seeking powers allowing investigators to send software that secretly installs itself on specific computers, relaying data to police computers as users operate online.
A court in Germany is also trying a man for posting al Qaeda hate messages and audio and video recordings, by Osama bin Laden among others, in an Internet chartroom for Islamists. The defendant's computer was being monitored for a year and a half by security officials before the man was arrested.
In Sweden, too, the defense minister has cited the threat of terrorism to seek broad powers to monitor e-mail traffic without court orders.
Controversial recording of data
At Monday's meeting, Frattini is expected to bring up another controversial security proposal.
Following the example of the US, the commissioner wants to collect data on all airline passengers flying into the EU and keep a register of foreigners entering or leaving the bloc that would ultimately include details such as their photograph, fingerprint and even a retina scan. Under the proposals, law enforcement officials in all member states would be allowed to share the data.
Frattini wants to gather data on all passengers flying into the EU
"Europe is a target of terrorism, just like the United States. And I simply cannot ignore that there is a real threat that one day terrorists will try once again to attack a country in the EU," Frattini said.
The commissioner also wants to create an EU-wide data bank in which police across the bloc can enter information on the theft of explosives. The measure will help authorities follow the trail of terrorists faster and thus thwart attacks, according to Frattini.
The EU commissioner is to present the exact details of his counterterrorism proposals in early November. He is expected to lobby support for the plans among the EU's 27 interior ministers at the informal talks in Lisbon whose approval is crucial for the go-ahead.