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

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European Union targeted by Colombian intelligence, documents show

DAS seal

DAS seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Several members of the European Parliament have voiced concern over the recent disclosure in Colombia of an alleged operation to undermine the European Union’s parliamentary and human rights bodies. The operation is reportedly mentioned in internal documents belonging to Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security (DAS), which were recently confiscated by the office of the Colombian Attorney General. The confiscated documents describe a clandestine program codenamed Operation EUROPE, which aims to wage a “legal war” intended to discredit and “neutralize the influence of the European judicial system, the European Parliament’s human rights subcommittee, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”. Read more of this post

Could Turkey invoke NATO clause over Israeli attack on flotilla? [updated]

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Tayyip Erdoğan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
IntelNews hears there is some speculation in diplomatic circles that the government of Turkey may try to involve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in its dispute with Israel, which began after Israeli commandos killed several Turkish citizens in international waters yesterday. Up to 19 civilians are thought to have been killed during an early dawn raid by Israeli Defense Forces commandos on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of the four-year-old Israeli blockade. The fact that the deadly raid took place in international waters prompted Ankara to call for an emergency meeting of NATO’s 28 member states. A NATO spokesperson confirmed that ambassadors from all 28 member states, Turkey included, will be attending an emergency meeting today in Brussels, Belgium. 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

EU officials warned of increasing espionage

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
British newspaper The Daily Telegraph has leaked an internal European Union (EU) memorandum, warning EU officials that “the threat of espionage is increasing day by day”. The memorandum, authored last December by the European Commission’s Director of Security, Stephen Hutchins, notes that an increasing number of “countries […] lobbyists, journalists [and] private agencies […] are continuing to seek sensitive and classified information” in Brussels. Commenting on the confidential memorandum, a European Commission spokesperson hinted that many of these entities use presentable female interns as agents, who often employ sexual attraction as a means of extracting classified information from EU officials. Several hundred interns descend on the Berlaymont –EU’s headquarters in Brussels– every year, most of whom are under the age of 25. 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