Prof. Dr. Herman Matthijs
(Senior Lecturer at Free University at Brussels and RIEAS Member of International Advisory Board)
The kingdom of Belgium is a country with an open market economy and is centrally located in Western Europe and is the home of several institutions of the European Union and also the home base of the NATO headquarter. With the growth of radical Islamic terrorism; Belgium has come increasingly into the picture. Several services are the actors in the field of the Belgian intelligence community.
I. The State Security Service
The state security service operates under the control of the federal Minister of Justice and for some aspects under the authority of the home affairs Minister. Between 1830 and 1998 this service operated outside the framework of the law. The missions of this service are the following one:
--the collection , analyses and processing of information relating to every activity that threatens or could threaten the internal security of the state, and the continued existence of democratic and constitutional order , the external security of the state and international relations, scientific or economic potential or every other fundamental interest of the country;
-- the performance of security investigations. It’s up to the state security service to conduct security investigations of people who by reason of their position are required to hold a security clearance;
-- the performance of missions for the protection of persons which is a busy job with all the NATO and EU meetings in Brussels;
-- the performance of all other missions entrusted by or pursuant the law.
The State Security Service is administered by an administrator general and his deputy. One must belong to the Dutch language community and the other one is French speaking.
II. The Customs Service
The customs service depends on the federal ministry of Finance. This service has been a component of this administration since the independence of 1830. The Belgian customs services checks compliance with national and international regulations on the import, export and transit of goods. The performance of the customs service is relating with the halting of criminal and prohibited goods and this service is the player of the ‘cargo police ‘in the intelligence community.
III. The Military Intelligence Service
The military intelligence service was created during the first World War and like the state security service was only put on a legal footing in the year 1998. The service falls under the purview of the defence Minister. The missions of the service are the safety of military installations, the coordination of the military attaches, the guidance of military operations (ex. NATO missions ), the protection of Belgian subjects in foreign countries, the performance of security inquires and the updating of the military archives. The military intelligence service is headed by a general or admiral but employs also civilians.
IV. The Federal Police
The federal police falls under the authority of the Home Minister, but when it concerns judicial matters they report to the federal Minister of Justice. The intelligence work of the federal police is not merely a legacy mission, some of the missions are particularly suited to obtaining intelligence. These are including border controls and specific works like financing of terrorism etc.
The coordination organ for the analysis of the threat (OCAD) is the newest actor in the field of intelligence in Belgium. The Home Minister is responsible for this service. The duties of OCAD are as follows:
-- periodically conduct a joint strategic evaluation to make it possible to determine whether threats may arise of it threats have already been determined how these are evolving and where applicable what measures are required;
-- conduct spot joint evaluations to make it possible to see whether threats have arisen of it threats have already been determined;
-- data information or intelligence obtained via these contacts is passed on to the relevant Belgian services.
VI. Ministerial Committee
The ministerial committee has to determine general policy towards intelligence, set the priorities of the intelligence community and coordinates the activities of these services and to determine policy on the protection of sensitive information the committee is made up of various Ministers with the prime minister as chief. In relation with this committee there is the intelligence and security college joined by the chiefs of the services. They have to transfer the political guidelines of the committee into operational instructions.
VII Committee Intelligence
Until 1992 there was no external independent and permanent scrutiny of the domestic intelligence services. This controls supplements the existing internal scrutiny. The three members of this committee are appointed by the Belgian Senate. This political Assembly is responsible for this committee. Private persons who have been directly affected by the working of an intelligence service may submit a complaint or statement to committee Intelligence.
The political responsibility is divided with four Ministers involved (Defence, Home affairs, Justice and Finance). The fact that four Ministers are authorized for these services undoubtedly hampers the coordination of counter terrorism policy.