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

Advertisements

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