Belgian intelligence services get more power

Belgium has approved a draft law designed to give the Belgian intelligence services more freedom and thus more clout. Agents of the state security and military intelligence services will be given additional opportunities to gather information. There will also be a stronger framework for the internal flow of information.

Intelligence services will from now on fall outside the criminal law within the framework of their missions. They will also be allowed to apply special investigative methods to their sources to test their reliability, discretion or loyalty. This gives agents more opportunities to infiltrate dangerous organizations, virtual and real.

"Terrorists and extremists are increasingly organizing in closed forums in obscure caverns of the Internet. With this law, we are giving our intelligence agencies greater ability to infiltrate these groups. In order to succeed in this, they will also be allowed to commit certain criminal offences," says minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne. He emphasizes that the services will not get a free pass and that the method must be approved in advance by the three magistrates within the BIM Commission, among others.

For the military intelligence service ADIV, the bill means an extension of the possibility of responding to a cyber attack. Until now, the ADIV could only respond to a cyber attack when military infrastructure was attacked. In doing so, the service had the legal possibility to identify the attacker, neutralize him and, if necessary, even respond with its own cyber attack. From now on, this will also be possible in the case of a cyber attack on systems that are not managed by the secretary of Defence.

"This change in the law allows our cyber experts to intervene - and even carry out a possible counterattack to eliminate the origin of the attack - in the event of a cyber attack on non-military infrastructure in our country. In doing so, Defense ensures better protection of vital installations and infrastructure for our country," Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder said.

"In addition, we are strengthening - at the request of ADIV in the wake of the Jurgen Conings case - the legal framework around the internal flow of information within the intelligence services and with the other Belgian security partners. It allows the intelligence services to better circulate sensitive information internally so as to be able to curb any threats or security risks more quickly," she adds. Conings was a Belgian soldier who had taken several weapons from military barracks in Leopoldsburg and threatened the Belgian government and virologists in his farewell letters last year. His body was eventually found in Dilserbos forest.

Strengthening the intelligence position was one of the important recommendations of the commission of inquiry into the terrorist attacks of March 22, 2016. Part of it was also included in the coalition agreement.

The Parliamentary Committee on Justice approved the text on Friday. At the vote, N-VA abstained, Vlaams Belang and PVDA were not present. The text now moves to the plenary session of the House.


© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK- ​ Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder pictured during a session of the chamber commission of Defence at the federal parliament, in Brussels, Thursday 22 July 2021.

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