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I wasn't planning to write about the creation of a European Information Security Agency, if only because a professional interest means that I have in front of me the confidential and embargoed document that the commission will vote on this week. However, as much of the detail on Europe’s proposed equivalent of Washington’s NSA has already slipped into the public domain, there’s no reason not to share its ‘Raison d’etre’, without giving away the true size of its entertainment budget.

Leaving aside the domestic squabble over which country would rather sell its weapons to Iraq before the Americans bomb it, “Security”, the document says, “Has become a major policy concern - for the European state. Governments see a widening responsibility for society and are increasingly making efforts to improve security on their territory”

Recent worries over the explosion in cybercrime and the hidden threat of terrorism have, in the words of the document in front of me,” Woken Europe up to the need to equip and train law enforcement to deal with computer and Internet related crime”. Why, because “There is no systematic cross-border co-operation on network and information security between Member States” and “There is no mechanism to ensure effective responses to security threats”.

What this of course is telling us, is that Europe needs to tackle the challenge of the Internet as a priority, as once before it moved to solve the far more vexing and expensive problem of the Euro-sausage. This time however, the plan is to first establish a centre of competence where both Member States and EU Institutions can seek advice on matters relating to cyber security but not sausages, which is a separate regulatory office in Strasbourg.

Now, I happen to have an unofficial but I’m told, reasonably accurate picture of how much resource is presently devoted to the subject of Internet crime in Euroland and I’m left with a comforting picture of Inspector Clouseau asking “Do you have a license for that minkey”.

It’s easy to laugh at Europe sometimes, weighed down as it is by legislation that has little or no relevance in the minds of the average citizen. But crimes, like paedophilia and hacking have to be pursued and prosecuted as vigorously in one member state as another or the concept of common European law risks becoming an irrelevance.

So let’s wait and see what this European NSA achieves once its budget has been awarded. Its biggest challenge is going to lie, not in catching cyber-criminals but in finding the expensive and experienced IT forensic experts needed to staff the agency in the first place. This was Detlef Eckert's last project as 'Information Commissioner 'before he joined Microsoft and the biggest challenge of all is who on earth is going to lead it?

Forget Inspector Clouseau. It Sounds like a job for The Men in Black to me.


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