Brussels — Report : “Intelligence Agencies are dysfunctional” [UPDATE — Egmont Institute : The time has come for Belgium to significantly strengthen its counterintelligence capabilities.]

“Stuff happens in Belgium. From the inside, it is chaos, to the point that a tooled-up anti-lockdown terrorist nicknamed ‘Belgian Rambo’ roaming the woods seems par for the course. In Belgium responsibility is shared between so many layers that ultimately no one is in charge.”

The Economist (July 2021)

July 7 2021 — The Belgian Intelligence Oversight Committee has reviewed the work of the two intelligence services. Their report reads like a book of blunders. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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The Belgian intelligence community has recently kickstarted a much-needed growth spurt, but it is improbable that this rate of expansion will suffice for an effective counterintelligence apparatus.”

From Russia With Love – Brussels At The Center Of Foreign Intelligence Activities

Tom Van Rentergem (7 April 2022)

UPDATE (April 10 2022) — The EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations is an independent think-tank based in Brussels.

“Its interdisciplinary research is conducted in a spirit of total academic freedom. Drawing on the expertise of its own research fellows, as well as that of external specialists, both Belgian and foreign, it provides analysis and policy options that are meant to be as operational as possible.”

A commentary [From Russia With Love – Brussels At The Center Of Foreign Intelligence Activities] recently posted on their website argues that the time has come for Belgium to significantly strengthen its counterintelligence capabilities.

As host of the European institutions and NATO, Brussels comprises the second largest pool of diplomatic representatives in the world, just after New York. This reality makes the international city attractive and prosperous, but also turns it into a playground for foreign intelligence services, especially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. Russia, but also other states, including allies, are likely to step up their intelligence efforts on Belgian soil, since the country remains at the centre of Western multilateral decision making in times of crisis. (…)

In March 2022, The Special Committee on Foreign Interference at the European Parliament specifically asked the Belgian authorities to boost counterintelligence operations, to prevent infiltrations within the EU-institutions, and rightly so. With the threat coming mostly from anti-Western regimes such as Russia, China, and their proxies, acts of espionage and foreign interference in Belgium are disproportionally high for a relatively small country. (…)

Firstly, both the Civilian State Security Service (VSSE) and the Military Intelligence Service (SGRS) are expanding their staff. VSSE is augmenting its full-time employees to 1000 by the end of this administration’s legislation in 2024. Part of the newly trained intelligence officers and analysts will be assigned to the counterintelligence (CI) department, reaching operational efficiency and autonomy approximately 3 to 6 months after training. Nevertheless, given that the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) has approximately 2000 employees, and knowing that Belgium runs a higher risk of being confronted with foreign intelligence activities compared to the Netherlands, this clearly seems insufficient. (…)

Secondly, when intelligence is collected and analysed, VSSE uses the classic prevent – advise – disrupt strategy to counter espionage, interference or terrorist activities on Belgian soil. A whole of society approach is needed for this tripod to work effectively though, through cooperation with the relevant government institutions on the one hand, and by informing (possible) human targets of foreign recruitment on the other hand. Individuals such as Belgian diplomats, government officials, think tankers, academics, journalists, IT-experts and businessmen and -women, could be targeted by foreign intelligence services because of their strong information positions. Building up societies’ resilience against this type of recruitment is thus essential. (…)

Lastly, political interest in the intelligence apparatus has been lacking over the years, with 2021 and 2022 finally being transformative years for Belgian intelligence, partly because of the Jürgen Conings case, which served as an unfortunate wake-up call. Substantial investments are made in human means, with an increase in full-time employees, both for the civilian and military intelligence services, and a further professionalisation of training modules for intelligence officers. Additionally, expansions include the improvement of technical intelligence collection capabilities, such as the further development of the cyber intelligence culture (CYBINT), the increase in social media intelligence exploitation (SOCMINT) and the investment in a new satellite and drone technology to increase imagery intelligence (IMINT). (…)

The fight against hostile foreign actors on Belgian territory is an everlasting security threat, and policy makers have every reason to consider it as such, as Belgium’s privileged role in hosting multilateral institutions inherently obliges it to ensure their secured workings.

In terms of intelligence activities, Belgium finds itself at the centre stage in between the big boys, whether it likes it or not, and efficient and effective counterintelligence is therefore an essential instrument to provide security.

Of course, none of this is actually new. I have argued these points for years. But it is nevertheless interesting that the Royal Institute is openly making the point that Belgium needs to urgently strengthen its counterintelligence capabilities.

So, what should we expect? In short, nothing at all. First of all, Belgian politicians are corrupt. The biggest cases of espionage have been systematically ignored.

RELATED POST: Brussels, Den of Spies — Intel Committee Chairman : “Politicians Under Chinese Influence”

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Secondly, and most importantly, you do not train a counter-intelligence expert in six months. For instance, it takes 10 years to train someone in techniques of detection of microwave spying.

Brussels does not currently have even one such expert. And the public record indicates that they do not have the equipment needed to detect such attacks.

RELATED POST: Random Thoughts — Reading Behind the Black Bars [ODNI Redacted Summary on Havana Syndrome] UPDATE : How about “Terahertz frequencies” ?

I know what you think…. This blogger is a grumpy old man. Well, in the Middle East, people say that a pessimist is simply an optimist with a lot of experience.

END of UPDATE

“In a society with ever more and more complex threats, there is a need for a strong intelligence service. We are going to seriously invest in the security of the state. The challenges we face, and the threats to our country, are very great.”

Belgian justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (June 2021)

In the aftermath of the 2016 Brussels terrorist attacks, the Belgian Intelligence Oversight Committee made a series of urgent recommendations.

Last month, the Committee has looked again at the work performed by these agencies.

They concluded that nothing has been done. If anything, the current situation is worse than 5 years ago.

The main conclusions:

There is a structural staff shortage — One person working on right-wing extremism, no one working on Chinese espionage….

There is a large staff turnover — As a result, institutional knowledge and experience are about nil

The threats, when identified, are not followed up.

There is no information flow between the security services and with the government

There is no strategy

“Als de ene blinde de andere leidt, vallen ze beiden in de gracht.”

[“When one blind man leads another, they both fall into the ditch.”]

Dutch proverb

The Blind Leading the Blind — Painting by the Netherlandish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1568)

The few people who have read the report are not mincing their words….

These people are incompetent. They are simply unable to do their work. They have committed grave mistakes. And they use National Security as an excuse to hide their incompetence. More often than not, they lie to their oversight Committee. They must be prosecuted for their crimes. Heads must roll…

A few people go even further and suggest that the Belgian Military Intel Service should be disbanded.

On Monday, Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder announced a new action plan aimed at reviewing the functioning of Belgium’s military secret service.

Do not worry. This is Belgium. A few weeks from now, all of this will be forgotten. Move on. There is nothing to see around here….

A rare glimpse at the TRUTH

When people get mad, they sometimes speak a bit to much…

As I have explained long ago, it is very clear that both the Paris and Brussels attacks would not have occurred if some Belgian politicians had not moved Heaven and Earth to obtain the release of Oussama Atar from an Iraqi jail.

RELATED POST: Paris & Brussels Attacks — Q&A About Oussama Atar in the Belgian Parliament (UPDATE)

During an interview yesterday morning, George Dallemagne — who was a member of the committee that investigated the Belgian Intel services after the 2016 Brussels attacks — made the following comment.

“The Belgian Intelligence services had some information about Oussama Atar, and that information was ignored.”

The readers familiar with this blog will hardly be surprised. I have repeatedly argued that Atar was working for the Belgian Intelligence services, probably at the request of the CIA.

This extremely important comment has now been edited out, as you would have expected.

“We will evolve from the position of a Lilliputian service to a service that can meet the challenges it faces.” 

Jaak Raes — Head of State Security (June 2021)

REFERENCES

Report slams the role of the Military Intelligence Service in the Jürgen Conings case — NWS

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Brussels — Report : “Intelligence Agencies are dysfunctional”

Brussels — Report : “Intelligence Agencies are dysfunctional” [UPDATE — Egmont Institute : The time has come for Belgium to significantly strengthen its counterintelligence capabilities.]

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