Belgian intelligence concerned about increasing spy presence

Alain Winants

Alain Winants

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. Speaking at a public Parliamentary hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary, Mr. Winants pointed to “dozens” of spies who operate in Brussels under journalistic cover. He stated that it was “horrible how many Chinese and Russian [supposed] reporters are running around Brussels” using journalism “as a cover for their espionage activities”. Over a thousand foreign journalists are active in the Belgian capital, which hosts the world headquarters of the European Union and NATO, among other international organizations. If approved, the proposed bill on special intelligence methods will allow SV/SE agents to assume false identities in the course of their investigations, among other powers.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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