Belgian intelligence employees ‘outed themselves’ on LinkedIn

LinkedIn logoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Several alleged employees of Belgian security and intelligence agencies have revealed their identities on social networking sites, it has been reported. Belgian newspaper De Standaard, which made the revelation in a leading article on Tuesday, said that many LinkedIn and Facebook users appear to list their employer as Belgium’s State Security Agency (Sûreté de l’État or SE/SV) or the Coordinating Body for Threat Analysis (OCAM/OCAD). The SE is Belgium’s foremost civilian intelligence agency, operating under the country’s Ministry of Justice. OCAM is one of Belgium’s several anti-terrorist intelligence collection and analysis agencies, which operates under the joint supervision of the Justice and Interior Ministries. De Standaard contacted the two agencies, which refused to comment on whether the social networking profiles are authentic. But the paper spoke with an unnamed Belgian senior intelligence official, who said that this was potentially a very serious issue for Belgian national security. “Russian and Chinese intelligence services employ thousands of people”, said the official, “and have the resources and time to manually search for such profiles and then exploit the information they provide. Our people could, by their very presence on such sites, become the target of hostilities”. De Standaard also spoke to Belgian Senator Dirk Claes, who is a member of the country’s Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence. He told the paper that his colleagues in the Committee would be up in arms if the profiles turned out to be authentic. “These individuals have security clearances and are obligated to stay in the background, as much as possible. I will be raising this issue in the [Intelligence] Committee”, Claes told De Standaard. Read more of this post

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Belgium suspends senior diplomat on suspicion of spying for Russia

Belgian embassy in CopenhagenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Belgian government has admitted suspending one of its senior diplomats following allegations in the press that he had spied for the Soviet Union and Russia for over two decades. According to Flemish-language Belgian magazine MO, the diplomat, identified only as “O.G.”, has been “suspended in the interest of the [Belgian diplomatic] service” and is currently under investigation by the Office of the Federal Prosecutor. Citing “sources in the Belgian State Security Service”, the SV/SE, the article said the subject was stationed at the Belgian embassy in Danish capital Copenhagen when he was recalled to Brussels late last year. The man is said to have spent nearly three decades as an employee of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having served in several Belgian embassies and consulates in Japan, India, Algeria, Nigeria, Portugal, and the United States, prior to arriving in Denmark. However, according to the MO article, he was accosted by the Soviet KGB in the late 1980s, shortly after he arrived at the Belgian embassy in Tokyo, Japan, for his first-ever diplomatic posting. Since that time, said the magazine, “O.G.” has spied for the KGB and its successor, the SVR, having stayed in contact with “several different Russian handlers”. Prior to 2011, when he ceased contact with Russian intelligence, the Belgian diplomat was allegedly tasked with providing the FSB with information that could be used to concoct false identities belonging to deceased Belgian citizens. The Russians would then use these identities to supply their intelligence operatives with high-quality Belgian identity papers and travel documentation. Late last week, another Belgian publication, The EU Observer, contacted the Belgian Foreign Ministry to inquire about “O.G.”. A Ministry spokesperson told the paper: “we can confirm that an official from our ministry was suspended from his functions a bit over one year ago, following indications of a security breach”. Read more of this post

Belgian intelligence chief says Brussels is world’s spy capital

Alain WinantsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The head of Belgium’s counterintelligence service has said in an interview that Brussels, which hosts the head offices of several international organizations, is home to more spies than any other city in the world. Alain Winants, Director of Belgium’s State Security Service (SV/SE), made the comment during a rare public interview to the Brussels-based English-language newspaper EU Observer. Winants told the paper that Belgium hosts “an enormous concentration” of diplomats, members of international non-governmental organizations, as well as employees of transnational institutions, including the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Because of this, he said, Belgium “is like a kindergarten” for spies, “the place to be” for intelligence operatives. The latter often operate under diplomatic cover or pretend to be students, lobbyists or business executives, he added. When asked how many case officers and spies operate in the Belgian capital, Winants, whose organization is responsible for counterterrorism and counterespionage, said “we are not speaking in the dozens; we are speaking in the hundreds, several hundreds”. He added that the numbers of intelligence operatives currently active in Belgium are “at the same level as the Cold War”. These intelligence operatives, he added represent countries such as Russia, China, and many others. When asked whether nations allied with the European Union also conduct espionage in the Belgian capital, Winants responded diplomatically that intelligence “is one field where the difference between neutral, friendly and unfriendly services tends to disappear”, as “every service is in competition with the others”. And he added that “it would be naïve to think that only countries like Russia, China, Iran are spying” in the Belgian capital. Read more of this post

Mystery surrounds conviction of alleged Belgian spy in Morocco

Belliraj

Belliraj

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A court in Sale, Morocco, has sentenced to life a Belgian national of Moroccan origin, who Belgian media claim was a “golden informant” for the Belgian secret services. Moroccan authorities arrested Abdelkader Belliraj, 50, in early 2008, and charged him with a plethora of criminal offenses, including armed robbery, money laundering and arms smuggling. More importantly, Belliraj is accused of participating in at least six killings carried out in Belgium by Abu Nidal in the 1980s and early 1990s, supplying arms to the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front, and leading a militant group aiming to overthrow the government of Morocco. Interestingly, however, in March of 2008, Belgian newspaper De Tijd reported that Belliraj had acted as an invaluable informant for Belgium’s State Security Service (SV/SE) and had recently supplied information that helped foil a bomb attack in a Western European country. Read more of this post

EU official confirms Brussels espionage warnings

Dale Kidd

Dale Kidd

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
Last February, intelNews reported on a leaked internal European Union (EU) memorandum warning EU officials that “the threat of espionage is increasing day by day” and that  an increasing number of “countries [...] lobbyists, journalists [and] private agencies [...] are continuing to seek sensitive and classified information” in Brussels. The memo appeared to echo concerns by Alain Winants, Director of Belgium’s State Security Service (SV/SE), who in late January 2009 requested expanded investigative powers to combat the increasing presence of foreign spies in the country, including “dozens” of spies who operate in Brussels under journalistic cover. After pressure, EU officials hesitantly confirmed the existence of the internal memorandum. Now a new article in Wave magazine adds yet another confirmation from an EU insider. It quotes European Commission press officer Dale Kidd, who says that the European Commission has in fact “sent [out a] note in which it warns [...] of increased risk of espionage”. Read more of this post

Belgian intelligence concerned about increasing spy presence

Alain Winants

Alain Winants

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Despite Belgium’s strategic location and central role in the Cold War, the Belgian secret services have historically had a very limited presence in the country. Their postwar function has been primarily one of information analysis, and it was not until 2006 that they were given powers to intercept communications, conduct authorized breaking-and-entry operations, or detain and question suspects. This situation is changing, however, as the Belgian Federal Parliament prepares to consider a bill on “special intelligence methods” that will further expand the powers of Belgian intelligence services. Last week, Alain Winants, Director of Belgium’s State Security Service (SV/SE) said his agents required expanded investigative powers to combat the increasing presence of foreign spies in the country. Read more of this post

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