Journalist’s mobile data collected by Belgium’s intelligence services
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    Journalist’s mobile data collected by Belgium’s intelligence services

    A journalist's data is protected by law and can only be collected by intelligence services under "extraordinary" circumstances. Credit: © Belga

    State Security Services requested the mobile and location data of a journalist in 2018 and harvested them illegally, a new report by an intelligence oversight body found.

    In its 2018 report, the Standing Intelligence Agencies Review Committee (Committee R) said that they had identified one “irregularity” in the 2018 activities of Belgium’s intelligence agency.

    “(…) it concerned a request that was made to a [mobile services] provider to obtain localisation and identification data without the authorisation of a high-ranking service director,” the report read.

    “Moreover, the request concerned a journalist and it would have therefore required clearing from the BIM Commission,” it added, referring to a body which monitors the collection of data in “specific or special” case files.

    The Committee R found that “one intelligence service” intended to implement a surveillance method from a specific date and for a period of two months, an operation which it ruled had “no legal value.”

    Upon being informed of the operation, the BIM Commission halted and it and ordered that the data that had been successfully collected be destroyed, according to the report.

    Belgian law strictly bars intelligence or security services from obtaining or exploiting data or information protected by journalistic source protection principles, as well as by doctor-patient or client-lawyer confidentiality.

    The law only allows for such data to be harvested in “exceptional” conditions where there are “serious indications” which can justify access to the data.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times