Europol Security Breach As Terror Alert Grows

Politics - March 31, 2024

The personal files of Europol’s executive director Catherine de Bolle and her three deputies have mysteriously disappeared from the agency’s headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands, according to the European edition of ‘Politico’. This incident represents the most serious breach of internal security rules that has ever occurred within the agency, involving senior Europol officials. It generated a crisis of confidence within the organisation and triggered a large-scale investigation to shed light on the incident.

Following the incident, Massimiliano Bettin, director of the agency’s human resources department, was suspended and placed on administrative leave. This is according to an official document examined by ‘Politico’ and information provided by Europol employees, according to which printed copies of the management’s personal files containing confidential information disappeared last autumn.

The document consulted by ‘Politico’, dated 6 September 2023, attests to the reported disappearance of the personal paper files of several Europol employees. During a general check of the agency’s documentation, it turned out that several other documents were missing. An internal note dated 18 September of the same year points out: ‘Given Europol’s responsibilities as a security agency, the disappearance of personal documents constitutes a serious incident that violates security rules and could lead to the disclosure of sensitive data’.

According to Europol officials, some of the missing copies were later recovered ‘in public places’ by residents of The Hague, who handed them over to the police authorities. However, the exact circumstances of the disappearance of the documents and the reason for their loss remain unclear. The Hague police spokesman Steven van Santen said that ‘some police officers were involved in cases related to the ongoing internal investigation conducted by Europol’.
Based in the city of The Hague in the Netherlands, Europol’s mission is to assist Member States in preventive measures and in the fight against serious organised and international crime, including cybercrime and terrorism. In addition, Europol cooperates with several non-EU Member States and international organisations.

Large-scale criminal and terrorist networks pose a significant threat to the internal security of the European Union, jeopardising the safety and livelihood of its citizens.

Politico’s scoop calls into question the security of this key European security agency, just as, in the wake of the tragic attack in Moscow, the shadow of Islamic terrorism falls once again over European nations on the eve of the upcoming Easter holidays.

ISIS-K, or Islamic State-Khorasan, is a terrorist organisation active mainly in Afghanistan and some neighbouring regions. It is considered a branch of the Islamic State (ISIS) and has carried out numerous terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings and armed attacks against civilians and security forces. Its alleged ability to carry out attacks in other parts of the world has caused concern among many countries, including those in Europe, which have adopted enhanced security measures in response to this threat.
With the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the tragic increase in civilian casualties, Europe had already intensified its thinking on implementing stricter controls.

In France, where the alert is constant, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal declared that the Vigipirate plan had been taken to the highest level (‘attack emergency’) and decided to personally visit the Saint-Lazare station in Paris to support the troops involved in the Sentinelle anti-terrorist operation. According to the French Ministry of Education, some 130 schools across the country have been subject to threats of attacks and ‘malicious acts’ since last week. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that soon – this summer – the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be held, adding an extra challenge for the French security forces. This is all the more significant considering that President Emmanuel Macron has made it known that the Islamic State of the Khorasan Province (ISPK) has made ‘several attempts’ to attack on French soil in recent months.

Italy, too, in the wake of France, raised the alert level. The Ministry of the Interior has announced the intensification of surveillance and control activities, especially in view of Easter, with greater attention paid to places of gathering and transit and to sensitive targets. Special attention will be paid to the capital, with controls at airports, stations and in the area around Vatican City

In Germany, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser raised concerns about possible terrorist attacks in Germany, highlighting the presence of active cells of Islamic terrorist groups in the country. Isis-K is one of them.