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Professor warns about risk of politicising security services

The amended Intelligence and Security Services Act (WiV) enacts a fundamental change in the relationship between the security services and politics. This carries the risk of politicisation of information, according to Professor Paul Abels. Inaugural lecture on 16 February.

It is not politics that should determine what these services look at, but the law. However, changes in legislation mean that politicians are increasingly taking over the role of the security services. This is the message given by Paul Abels in his inaugural lecture. Abels himself has worked for over twenty years for the Dutch National Security Service (BVD) and the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). He is also Professor by Special Appointment in the Governance of Intelligence and Security Services at Leiden University.

Change in relationships 

The WiV traditionally stated that the security services must consider all those things that pose a threat to national security. Moreover, to date it was the security services themselves that assessed the seriousness of threats - with the political responsibility resting with their ministers. The amended WiV sets out a different   relationship between the security services and politics and government. As an example, a number of ministries and ministers have now been appointed as commissioning parties, who, in line with a so-called 'integrated indication', determine which threats the AIVD and the MIVD will scrutinise and with what degree of intensity. 

Short-term interests

Abels makes the point that politicians and ministries often have short-term interests, while national security is a long-term concern. He also questions whether these parties have the necessary knowledge of the threat to be able to make well-reasoned choices. Abels: ‘It can also happen that departments or ministers prefer not to receive certain information or conclusions from the security services because they will then be forced to take some action that they would prefer not to take, or because it would undermine existing policy.' 

Alert to politicisation

Abels explains that the integrated indication arose from a need expressed by the security services to make politicians share some of the responsibility for the difficult choices that have to be made, and also to offer insight into the consequences for finances and staff. There is also a need on the part of the receivers of information for more usable data that can be linked with concrete actions. If the integrated indication is intended to offer a solution, according to Abels it is important that all parties remain alert to the risks of politicisation and that they deal with the risks responsibly. 

More about the referendum

Read the interview with Professor Paul Abels, or come to the public lecture at the Law Faculty on 16 March.

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