Paul Abels on the ‘dragnet law’
There was a lot of fuss last week about the ‘dragnet law’, in which intelligence services are now authorised to conduct large-scale tapping of cable communications. The public image here is that the privacy of innocent citizens will almost certainly be violated. Paul Abels, professor of governance of intelligence and security services at Leiden University and adviser to the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV), sheds light on these ‘visions of doom’.
The citizen response to the ‘dragnet law’ was a call for a referendum. According to one of the initiators, student Stijn de Vos, the biggest objection is that ‘you modify your behaviour if you know you are being listened to.’ So far, more than 300,000 signatures have been collected, which means there may well be a consultative referendum next year.
The public image
Abels explanation of the public’s image is, ‘It’s not the case that every citizen’s communication will be tapped.’ Gathering data is far from active monitoring. For example, security services will first search through bulk data, searching for information that should help to prevent threats early on. A spokesperson from the security service AIVD pointed out that a green light is required from the minister and an approval committee both for gathering the data and searching through it.
Abels believes that new powers are required not only immediately to counter terrorist threats, but also for other reasons, including economic espionage and cyber attacks.