The Netherlands has ‘no idea of the extent of US spying’ here

The American journalist who has been cooperating with US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has told the Volkskrant that "you have no idea of the extent of US spying in the Netherlands."

Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil, has been publishing Snowden’s information in the UK paper The Guardian, which has primarily concerned the GCHQ (British Government Communications Headquarters) and the NSA. Now, he says the revelations about the Netherlands are coming soon.

Spying in the Netherlands

In mid-September, the Dutch government made an official response to revelations on the extent of US spying internationally, saying that it had its positive side, as the US had promised to inform the European Union more closely on its spying programmes.

Interestingly, a report on cyber security by the Ministry of Justice and Security defined espionage by other states as "high threat," saying that those who spy do so with the intention of improving their geopolitical or economic position.

That is precisely the purpose the Greenwald ascribes to the US. "It’s about power, both economically and politically. The goal is to end internet freedom. The more the US knows about others, the more power they can have over them."

Dutch government’s position

Greenwald said the Netherlands fell into a third category of countries in relation to the US: not a close friend like Canada, the UK, Australia or New Zealand, but not a country simply being spied on like Iran, North Korea, Russia or China.

In the Netherlands, as in other similar countries, "The US spies on these countries and their people, but also works with them. For example, if the government of such a country is interested in a particular population group, they can get information on them from US security. In exchange, the Americans will spy on the rest of the system."

Digital espionage and cybercrime are the biggest threat at the moment, according to the latest report from the Dutch National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), especially for economic information.

To respond to the threat, the Joint Sigint Cyber Unit will begin operations from the start of 2014, joining the Dutch security agencies AIVD and DISS in gathering information over computer networks.

New revelations

Snowden’s revelations made it clear that the US and Britain are engaged in large-scale spying through the Prism computer, using Facebook, Skype and Google as they collect data from citizens, politics and businesses.

Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk said in June that the Netherlands does not use the Prism programme.

Questions concerning spying on telecom providers were raised after it was revealed that GCHQ had been spying on Belgian telecom company Belgacom. Dutch providers indicated that there was no reason to think they were being watched.

Greenwald, however, claims to have a lot of material about the Netherlands that is still undergoing the journalistic process. "The Netherlands is an aggressive ally of the United States," he said. "The tone of the debate will likely change once the revelations are out."

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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