The EOS services are increasingly engaging in international cooperation, and they are also sharing more and more information across national borders – and a lot of these data are sensitive personal data.
This development brings new challenges for the oversight bodies as well. Therefore we need contact with foreign oversight colleagues in order to share experience and receive input that could help us to improve our oversight. Since 2015, the EOS Committee has taken part in a project together with the oversight bodies of Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands. In this project, the oversight bodies investigated their national services’ international exchange of personal data about foreign terrorist fighters.
And in 2018 the EOS Committee together with the four other oversight bodies published a statement about “Strengthening oversight of international data exchange between intelligence and security services”.
This cooperation was born as a consequence that oversight bodies in these countries experienced new problems and issues arising from the rise of foreign terrorist fighters and more and more exchange of information between intelligence agencies internationally.
We intend to cooperate with more than the four oversight bodies, and hopefully others will join in the years ahead. United Kingdom’s IPCO has from spring 2019 been a partner in the cooperation, which now is named the Intelligence Oversight Working Group (IOWG). the six participating oversight bodies have all signed a charter that you may read here.
The Committee has also had meetings and been in touch with oversight bodies from other countries than the abovementioned, Sweden, Germany, the USA and Canada among others.
The ways in which various countries oversee their secret services vary greatly. Regardless of the many differences in how to approach oversight activities, however, the new oversight schemes all share one key objective, which is to safeguard the democratic and legal rights of citizens and to make sure the services do not encroach on these rights.
The Committee has also cooperated with the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and Professor Ian Leigh at the Human Rights Centre, University of Durham. The collaboration has so far led to a 2003 seminar in Oslo, which in turn led to the publication of a handbook on the oversight of security and intelligence services. A similar seminar was held in Oslo on October 2008 as well. And in 2015 the book «Making International Intelligence Cooperation Accountable» was published.
The last years the Committee has also had several meetings with Thorsten Wetzling from Stiftung Neue Verantwortung who heads the think tank’s research on surveillance and democratic governance.
The Committee’s annual reports account for the Committee’s meetings with and visits to foreign collaborative partners in the last year, as well as any conferences and seminars the Committee has attended abroad.