The Dutch “Surveillance Kings of Europe” Are About to Get Even Nosier


AMSTERDAM — When the exiled American whistleblower Edward Snowden dubbed the Dutch “the Surveillance Kings of Europe” earlier this year, he attracted little attention outside The Netherlands. But he was talking about an issue with global implications, not least for the United States.

Snowden, now resident in Russia (and largely silent about its pervasive surveillance activities) told “Nieuwsuur,” a Dutch television news program, that the U.S. National Security Agency and its partners in Europe were encouraging the Dutch intelligence services to join the FVEY or “Five Eyes.”

These Anglophone countries—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States—share electronic surveillance in its many forms under a  multilateral treaty dating back to the early days of the Cold War. (The term Five Eyes comes from the classification heading “SECRET—AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US EYES ONLY.”) And their goal, Snowden claimed, is to “create a surveillance super-state that shares all of its information.”

Snowden suggested The Netherlands is being bullied into an unhealthy alliance with the Five Eyes.  But if Dutch Minister of Interior Ronald Plasterk is worried about that, it certainly doesn’t show.

Indeed, those in charge of the Dutch intelligence services seem positively enthusiastic about the possibility they could play surveillance with the big boys and they get rather resentful when some of their fellow Europeans try to rein them in. (The Dutch are already part of a second-tier agreement called the Nine Eyes, with the “Anglo-Saxons” plus Denmark, France, and Norway, and a third-tier one called the Fourteen Eyes that adds Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden. But those a junior varsities.)

In a memorandum addressed to the Dutch parliament last month, Plasterk registered his strong opposition to proposals for what is called the European Intelligence Codex, an initiative from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that insists current intelligence practices “endanger fundamental human rights” (PDF). The codex is meant to help protect personal data Europe-wide.

“I have serious hesitations on the subject,” Plasterk wrote: “A codex in which allied countries commit to not use investigative power on one another for, for instance, political reasons, is not realistic. The intelligence..

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