Intelligence agencies in Europe — including Germany — were heavily criticized following the terror attacks in Paris, November 13, 2015, when it emerged many of those involved had been on the radar of EU member states' law enforcement agencies, but had been able to travel unheeded throughout Europe and to and from Syria, in some cases.
The EU is stepping up cooperation between member states in an effort to streamline information flows and coordinate counterterrorism programs. Now Henning has joined Michael Chertoff, ex-NSA chief and former UK GCHQ agency chief David Omand — among others — in calling for a "permanent Core Transatlantic Counter-Terrorism Hub."
"Any progression on intelligence-sharing is going to invaluable in terms of the commonality of threat that we all face — particularly from extremists and jihadists" Will Geddes, a security expert with ICP Group told Sputnik.
"Intelligence goes all the way down — not only on the extremist level, in terms of jihadists — but also in terms of other types of activist groups and movements which, potentially, present threats on a state level. It goes back to the common threats from groups like [Daesh] who present a threat to everybody and who are using the freedom of borders — particularly within Europe — to transport people, capability, weapons and facilitation."
However, creating a common intelligence framework could have political difficulties, Geddes said, in threat agencies are notoriously secretive about what they know and — despite being allies — are often unwilling to share their depth of capability.
"It's always a challenge between various intelligence agencies: pulling the curtain back as to what their capabilities are and — although most of them will know what the other is capable of doing — nobody wants to enable full disclosure.
"There are also jurisdictional issues in terms of who actually actions on that intelligence and whether that intelligence could potentially compromise other operations that are running. So it's a constant balancing act between 'let's play together' but at the same time ' we don't want to give you too close an idea of what we're potentially also doing,' " he told Sputnik.
German-US Diplomatic Row
The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany after allegations arose that the NSA had hacked Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone — in breach of a US-German memorandum of understanding and against diplomatic protocol.
Although the complaint was formally dropped, the issue of NSA activities within Germany remains a political hot potato — especially when it emerged the BND has been cooperating with the NSA on intercepting political and commercial targets on German soil in secret, but with the knowledge of the German Chancellor's office.
"There's always going to be a balancing act between what the intelligence agencies are doing and what the political parties need to be aware of," Geddes said. As an example, he highlighted the potential surveillance on a senior figure in the UK Government.
"So, for example, one of the biggest issues at the moment is [UK Brexit Minister] David Davis — leading UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan to be implemented next year — who has already been told he is a target by various EU members who are going to be interested to see how that plan's being formulated, what it could involve and what it would ultimately mean for them," he told Sputnik.