Saturday 18 September 2021

Dutch law on phone taps applies to NSA as well, says minister

The American security service NSA may operate in the Netherlands but needs permission from the Dutch security organisation AIVD before doing so, home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk told parliament in a briefing.

While other countries may think they have good reason to collect information in the Netherlands and intercepting metadata is an ‘acceptable’ way of researching terrorism, this must always be done within the bounds of Dutch law, Plasterk said. ‘Dutch law applies in the Netherlands, to allies as well,’ the minister said in his briefing.

Earlier this month, Dutch website Tweakers reported the American National Security Agency had tapped into 1.8 million Dutch telephone calls in one month alone as part of its Boundless Informant surveillance programme.

Plasterk said he had already discussed the issue with NSA’s director and that talks are being held between the two security services.

Law

The Netherlands is already the most heavily phone-tapped country in the world. The number of phone taps rose 3% to nearly 25,500 last year, according to justice ministry figures. These do not include phone taps instigated by the security services.

Gerard Schouw, an MP for the D66 Liberal democrats, said he hoped Plasterk would ‘come down hard’ if the US or other secret services broke the law.

The fact that ministers must be briefed on any taps is an important development, Schouw is quoted as saying by Trouw.

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