‘Security services should have more powers to intercept internet traffic’

The Dutch security services should have greater powers to access and analyse emails and other internet traffic, according to a government committee investigating electronic surveillance.

However, all activities should have ‘the explicit permission of the minister’ and the regulator should have the power to call a halt if he sees problems.

‘It is about a balance between effectiveness and guaranteeing the rule of law,’ said committee chairman Stan Dessens.

The committee says the current laws covering internet-based surveillance, which date from 2002, need overhauling to cover the latest technology.

Cable networks

‘The explosive growth in international cable networks makes it increasingly important that the services can also investigate and analyse cable-based internet traffic, in the interests of national security,’ Dessens said.

There is growing mistrust of the services, which is a worrying trend, the former senior civil servant said. There is a real need for a better management and supervisory system and increased transparency

At the moment, the security services are only allowed to collect bulk details about conversations made via satellite or short wave. But they are keen to expand the scope of the legislation to cover internet and cable-based telephone connections.

According to the Volkskrant last month, the security services have already ordered listening systems which will allow them to bulk collect data about internet and telephone traffic.

Internet privacy lobby group Bits of Freedom has  warned then that any expansion of the security services’ powers would be ‘totally unacceptable’ and a ‘gigantic breach of privacy and the right to freedom of speech’.

Opposition MPs said on Monday the regulatory system needs to be improved before the security services should be given new powers.

The recommendations open the door to monitoring everyone, said D66 MP Gerard Schouw. ‘Innocent Dutch people will be treated as guilty,’ he said. ‘That should not happen without democratic guarantees.’

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