The start of C3I

At the very start of 2007, the new director of the EU Cross-border Combined Criminal Intelligence Agency took up his post. It was an early start, his administrative assistant was not due to join him until the 2nd of January, but he wanted to take a look around his department before the rest got there. It would be a small team, at least at the headquarters. The logic was simple – the fewer operatives there are in plain sight, the smaller the footprint in the mind of those watching. Considering the total budget which had been agreed for the organisation (from a variety of EU budgets), the number of people visible here would be astonishing. The fact he’d driven himself to work this morning was already enough of a surprise. At the very least, someone in his position would normally have a chauffeur. It was time for him to set the wheels in motion. With his nicely prepared secure line, he made a few phone calls.

C3I’s public birth was a very low-key announcement to enforcement agencies across the EU, made on the 3rd of March 2007. It wasn’t trumpeted, or described as a “bold new initiative”. It was stated that law enforcement agencies were to extend the usual courtesy to visiting agents of the organisation to enforce the law. The more alert members of those constabularies knew how to smell a spook organisation, and realised that this would mean another gang of untouchables snooping around. A few key senior police officers were quietly briefed on the overt goals of the organisations, and allowed to see some of the organisation’s assets, to which they were promised a degree of access, in return for their cooperation in a professional manner.

A similar process went on with the official, and some of the unofficial, security agencies around the EU. As a courtesy, the Americans were told of the formation of the organisation and its name. As a matter of policy, no details over and above that were forthcoming.

While the public birth may have been the 3rd of March, some people entered the training programme a little before that date, and even before that, someone was identifying people and approaching them; and someone was drawing up and organising a selection and training program. First, the selection, which felt like a long process. It was sufficiently gruelling to include a complex battery of intellectual, social, and physical tests. There were ethical dilemmas, induced stress situations, and an array of psychological tests, many conducted while hooked up to all manner of monitoring equipment. It reminded many of the candidates because of their backgrounds of Special Forces selection processes, and for those who were not used to this level of pressure and inspection, it seemed more like some form of torture.

After the selection, which some did not complete, came the training. There was a great deal of information to assimilate, for many some firearms training with a variety of different weapons, fitness training, maybe even language training, all of which took time. Once enough had gone through the training, there was a selection pool available, and from this pool, cells grew. Some did not end up in a cell; many were returned to the units and organisations from which, up to that point, they had been on secondment, or even on leave. Some natural partnerships arose from the training, and some natural frictions too, and these formed a factor and indeed were allowed to form a factor when those who were selected to be cell leaders were invited to suggest who they would like to have in their cell. These selections were made relatively “cold”, as full information as to the purpose of each cell was not forthcoming in that situation.

Preferences were logged, some entire cells were returned to their original organisations on detached duty, in case they were needed, as were some specialists. There were also three cells which were put together by order. Unlike their fellows, they were not afforded the luxury of choice.

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