Belgian intelligence services increasingly resort to “exceptional methods”. Belgium

State Security (VSSE) and the General Intelligence and Security Service (SGRS) are increasingly using “exceptional methods,” according to the group’s 2022 operational report.

Last year, state security used exceptional methods 587 times, compared to 363 in 2021. Listening, understanding and recording communications saw particularly strong growth (330 in 2022 vs. 192 in 2021). Another widely used method is the collection of data related to bank accounts and bank transactions, which was used 108 times last year and will be used 73 times in 2021. Computer hacking, opening mail, and monitoring and inspecting places inaccessible to the general public are also considered exceptional methods.

Terrorism, security’s “absolute priority”

Terrorism (715 authorizations), espionage (612), extremism (362), and interference (325) are the main threat contexts that require implementation of this type of system. The report says the “terrorist” threat has increased slightly compared to 2021 and is therefore a “key priority” of state security. This indicates that multiple threats may appear in the same file.

Although the number of interception cases will drop even more sharply in 2020, it is now rising sharply from 121 two years ago to 325 in 2022. The R Committee points out that, in practice, it is difficult to distinguish between spying (and implicit data collection). ) and interference (influencing decision-making processes). The “extremist” threat has experienced a strong resurgence, rising from 279 cases in 2021 to 362 last year. Finally, “criminal organizations” have come back since 29 files were opened in 2022, and none in 2021.

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For its part, SGRS used exceptional methods 172 times last year, up from 89 the previous year. The increase is particularly marked in interception, interception and recording of communications (60 in 2021 compared to 95 in 2022) and computer system intrusion (14 in 2021 to 24 in 2022).

“Social Media, Unprecedented Amplifiers of Misinformation”

Serge Lipszyc, director of the Comité R, underlines in the report the need to reform the mechanisms and functioning of these “essential institutions” such as the intelligence and security services. He specifically points to the invasion of Ukraine, which after the coronavirus pandemic “has reinforced the global crisis that affects us in a way that has not happened since World War II. This crisis has resulted in social insecurity.

“In the acceleration of geopolitical, economic and social movements, our communication society is clearly struggling to face catastrophic events for humanity, such as extremism, extremism or conspiracies seen in social media amplifiers. Misinformation sometimes out of control”, says Serge Lipsik.

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