Internal wranglings within Belgian military intelligence

Eight commissioners from the General Intelligence and Security Service (“the SGRS”) sent a letter to the Minister for Defence Steven Vandeput, of New Flemish Alliance and Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

It is reported in De Standaard on Wednesday that these commissioners lamented therein the “critical situation” of their service.

Dated December, the letter which the daily newspaper was able to obtain is six pages in length. The signatories suggest a “dramatic staff shortage” and say that the counter-espionage service is unable to undertake its role properly. They assert that the Head of Army Intelligence, Eddy Testelmans, may well take no action about the situation. The signatories even suspect “that [Testelmans] has sabotaged the rules.” Mr Testelmans acknowledges that there are problems, which he attributes to many years of under-investment. He does, however, criticise those who wrote the letter for adopting “Calimero”-style behaviour.

The appropriate minister, Steven Vandeput, assures all concerned that he has heard the signatories’ grievances. He concludes, “It is not my place to intervene at this stage, but I have asked Comité R to look into this matter. Only after these measures have been followed through will I potentially be able to take steps on behalf of those complaining.”

In its conclusions around the second arm of its brief, the “extraordinary investigatory committee for the fight against terror” flags up the position on both intelligence services; State Security and the SGRS. Its observations are at times severe: a cruel lack of means when compared to their foreign counterparts, and an operational mode which does not appear to be adapted to current challenges. It makes several recommendations. These include greater collaboration with other services, undercover operations, presence within given embassies abroad, and even so-called “disruptive” action regarding certain people or places posing a serious threat.

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