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Paul Abels Discusses his book 'Spionkoppen' in De Mare

Paul Abels' book 'Spionkoppen' (Spy heads) was recently published; He wrote the book together with students Marijn Adams and David Mendelsohn. In his book, Abels describes the AIVD (Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service), where he himself worked for several decades, based on his superiors.

Paul Abels, Professor by special appointment Governance of Intelligence and Security Services at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs of Leiden University, started working as an expert on Eastern Europe at the Dutch Homeland Security Service (BVD), the predecessor of the AIVD in 1984. At the time, there were only 8 academics working at the service, and Paul Abels was one of them. 'We were securely locked away, and, as some sort of Kremlin watchers, were allowed to comment any time something changed in the Politburo, and what that meant for the course of the Soviet Union. All those men busy keeping track of every visit from the Palestinian leader Arafat to Eastern Europe: a complete waste of time.' 

Turning point

'During the first 4 years at the service absolutely nothing happened', says Abels. 'I just sat there waisting my time. You weren't allowed to share what you were doing with each other. The people listening in on the phones had a different entrance and working hours then we did.' Everything changed when Arthur Doctors van Leeuwen was appointed in 1989. 'He freed me from my isolation', says Abels. 'He got rid of the partitions and created multidisciplinary teams. I was assigned to handle security issues in relation to minorities: radical Islam, extremist-right, and terrorism'. 

Docters van Leeuwen passed away last August. 'I’ve read his recently published mémoire', says Abels. 'He praises some employees for their support, others he burns down to the ground. He also places the head of operations on a pedestal, while I know that person was actually trying to saw the legs from under him. He never caught on to that.' 

You can read the full article (in Dutch) on the website of 'de Mare'.

Prof.dr. Paul H.A.M. Abels (1956) is Professor by special appointment of Governance of Intelligence and Security Services at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs (ISGA) at Leiden University (Campus The Hague). His research interests include the management and operation of intelligence and security services,  the supervision of   the intelligence and security services and their role and position in the wider security system, and intelligence leadership. He conducts research on the gathering of information as a profession and the ethics of intelligence gathering. Abels holds a PhD in church history and has over thirty years’ experience as an intelligence producer (with the BVD and AIVD)and as an intelligence consumer (with the NCTb and NCTV).

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