Belgium’s civil intelligence service will receive millions of euros in investment in the coming years to beef up its ICT capabilities and double the number of operatives.
Those were the main points of a plan presented yesterday by justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) and head of State Security Jaak Raes.
“In a society with ever more and more complex threats, there is a need for a strong intelligence service,” said Van Quickenborne.
At present the service employs 583 people. By 2024, the plan is to increase that to around 1,000. Among the new recruits: liaison officers to work with Washington, and the US intelligence services there, as well as The Hague and Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency.
“We hope in due course to have a comparable workforce to our sister services in neighbouring countries,” Raes said.
ICT investment will amount to an additional €7.5 million a year over the same period, which brings us to the end of the current government’s mandate and new elections. Much of that investment will be taken up by simply bringing the service’s capabilities up to scratch.
The rest will allow them more power on social media, especially closed platforms like Telegram, where much traffic is related to terrorist or extremist communications.
“That battle continues unabated,” said Raes. “We are coming out of a wave of Islamic terror attacks in Europe, and recently we also saw an increase in the threat from the right-wing extremist faction worldwide.”
Another concern is foreign espionage targetting economic and strategic targets, but Raes described that as difficult even to imagine, let alone investigate.
“We are going to seriously invest in the security of the state,” said Van Quickenborne. “The challenges we face, and the threats to our country, are very great.”
“We will evolve from the position of a Lilliputian service to a service that can meet the challenges it faces,” added Raes.