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Europol's Rob Wainwright - how safe are we?


Europol's Rob Wainwright - how safe are we?


In the aftermath of Osama Bin Laden’s death and in the perspective of the on-going crises in Northern Africa, Ali Sheikholeslami of Euronews talked to the director of Europol about security:

Euronews: “Would you say Europe is a more threatened place now because Osama bin Laden was killed?”

Rob Wainwright, Europol Director:

“We must not underestimate the threat from terrorism, absolutely not. We have seen change in the methodology, even the type of jihadi terrorism than what we had ten years ago, when we had the awful attacks in the United States. We have not had any major particular attacks in the recent years in Europe not since Madrid and London. But let’s not underestimate it. A lot of that is because of the excellent work of the police and security services in Europe which have denied the terrorists the opportunity to carry out those attacks. I know from the intelligence that we see the jihadi groups remain active. But they are going through a change: they are becoming more dislocated, they are becoming a looser set of networks, there is not great commander control network from parts of Asia for example. So it is a more fragmented threat that we face and that makes it more dangerous, a threat that is operating on the internet. Individuals have been radicalised, very often by propaganda on the internet, acting as so called lone wolfs carrying out these attacks, very difficult to police therefore, and I think the threat that we have in Europe today is substantial, and something that we have to face up to in a stronger, more concerted way in Europe.”

Euronews: “Let’s speak about Stuxnet for instance, it’s a virus based on a sophisticated code, it was called a cyber weapon, because of its ability to search and destroy a particular target. What if the terrorists start using such a sophisticated code (advanced technologies)? Is Europol ready?”

Rob Wainwright:

“I think this is a particular danger that we face, this rapidly evolving environment where new, dangerous, malicious codeware is being developed at a very, very fast rate on the internet, commonly used by organised groups to generate literally billions of dollars of income in different ways across the internet, and target millions of citizens in Europe. I think we do face a potential threat, where these tools become used by terrorists to carry out attacks on government facilities, critical national infrastructure, for example. We have to be very alert to this, and make sure that governments, the law enforcement community in Europe are equipped to deal with this in the right way. And here at Europol, we are busy developing an ambitious, dynamic new programme to provide the headquarters, the centrepiece of the European’s law enforcement community’s response to cybercrime. We look forward to the establishment of a new European cybercrime centre in the future, which I hope will be housed in our impressive new building of ours.”

Euronews: “Is your cybercrime unit ambitious enough?”

Rob Wainwright:

“Particularly in the field of cybercrime, we have an ambitious programme to develop our work. This work involves not just the traditional areas of working more with police contacts, but also with academia, with the private sector, working with the industry. I have had many meetings in recent months with the chief executives of internet security firms, particularly in the Silicon Valley in the United States, talking about how we can form a new joint programme, a community platform of activity, cooperation, information sharing, developments of new forensic capabilities between industry where so much of the best work has been done and the law enforcement community as well. We certainly have to be progressive, thinking in different, sharper ways to develop a stronger capability and that is what I expect to achieve in Europol in the coming years.”

Euronews: “Drugs kill between 25,000 to 50,000 people in Europe every year. Does Europol lead something similar to what the US calls the war on drugs?”

Rob Wainwright:

“I don’t talk about a war on drugs, I think it is the wrong language. I think that very often the answer to defeating the problems of crime within the society is finding for example a good connection between data privacy and data security for example, the right of an agency like our own to collect data but to an excessive amount, the right for us to balance the interest of justice with security as a whole, and I think the language of war on drugs is therefore giving the wrong impression. But it is true that we still face a very significant problem of drug consumption in Europe. A lot of it is the product of sophisticated organised crime groups that are shipping dangerous drugs from all around the world to Europe, in ever different ways: we have cocaine now entering into Europe through the Adriatic, for example, through the Balkans, even through the Baltic States, even though it comes from the western hemisphere of Latin America. We have the routes of heroine multiplying around Europe, we have dangerous new synthetic drugs that are being produced in Europe, that are causing increasing harm to society. Drugs is the traditional venue of organised crime activity. We have very many more new threats to deal with right now, but drugs remains a very important part of our work.”

Euronews: “You’re a father of three. How does it make you feel seeing children trafficked for forced labour, for sexual abuse? And as the Director of Europol, what are you doing to stop it?”

Rob Wainwright:

“Well, it is one of the worst areas of serious crimes that we have to deal with of course, but it is a great privilege to lead an organisation that can do something about it, that can add real value in society in protecting families and the children themselves of course from these terrible crimes. We have a really opportunity here to use our unique intelligence capabilities, the experts that we have, some of which are the best in Europe. Our operation capabilities is to give support in the field to real operations, in really important cases. Earlier this year we dismantled, as I said one, of the most important significant child sex abuse networks in the world. And that allowed us to identify over 700 child sex offenders across Europe, and only through our analysis, only through the work of my forensic analysis that crack the security code in that operation, will we be able to break the case, identify so many suspects, which has since led to the dismantling of this group and in particular to the rescue of 230 children across Europe and beyond. That is real work, real meaningful work, and when I see that happening I am proud of the work of our experts, proud that we can make a real difference in society, because in this area especially we have to have a decisive impact against the criminals that we are operating against.”

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