The State Security Service (VSSE) (in Dutch as Veiligheid van de Staat (Staatsveiligheid is a false term); French: Sûreté de l’État) is a Belgian intelligence and security agency. The State Security is a civilian agency under the authority of the Ministry of Justice, while the other federal intelligence agency, the General Information and Security Service, operates under the authority of the Ministry of Defense. The current Administrator-General is Jaak Raes, after his predecessor Alain Winants occupied the position for about two years ad-interim. Before him, Administrator-General Koen Dassen resigned amidst the controversy over State Security losing sight of suspected Kurdish militant Fehriye Erdal.
Tasks and other
The main objective of State Security is the collection, analyzing and processing of all intelligence that might prove relevant to the prevention of any activity that might be a threat against the internal or external security of the state, the democratic and constitutional order and international relations, to carry out security inquiries, and to perform tasks in relation to the protection of certain people.
Since the Second World War, the Belgian Security Service has had the following directors (called ‘administrateur général’):
- Robert de Foy (1933–1940, 1947–1958)
- Fernand Lepage (1940–1944) (for the Belgian government in exile in London)
- Pol Bihin (1944–1947)
- Ludovic Caeymaex (1958–1977)
- Albert Raes (1977 – June 1990)
- Stephane Schewebach (1990–1993, ad interim)
- Bart van Lijsebeth (1994 – September 1999)
- Godelieve Timmermans (June 2000 – August 2002)
- Koen Dassen (September 2002 – February 2006)
- Alain Winants (October 27, 2006 – March 2014)
- Jaak Raes (March 2014–present)
During the 1980s, a number of incidents including the Brabant supermarket killings, the activities of terrorist groups such as the Combatant Communist Cells and the neo-Nazist Westland New Post brought attention and criticism to the activities and ineffectiveness of the nation’s police and intelligence agencies.
In 1991, following two government enquiries, a permanent parliamentary committee, Committee I, was established to bring these agencies, not previously subject to any outside control, under the authority of Belgium’s federal parliament. Legislation governing the missions and methods of these agencies was put in place in 1998.
The entitlements of the Security Service were expanded in 2006. Before, they did not have much police power, and were only able to gather and analyse information. The agency was allowed to surveil people, but not to interfere. This has changed now with what are called the Special Inquiry Methods (Bijzondere Inlichtingenmethodes). Federal lawmakers have given significantly more power to the Service, enabling them to work more efficiently. These powers are, among others: the possibility to put taps on phones, to enter homes of people suspected of being involved in terrorist activities without them knowing, or to detain and question people. This all under the supervision of specially appointed judges, much like the system already in place in the policing system with what are called examining magistrates. This adjustment of the system has made the Security Service more like its kins in other countries. They are, however, not yet as strong as the services in Britain or France. The change in policy had been in the loop since several years, but recent events gave the final impulse for change. One of these was the escape of Fehriye Erdal.