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Editorial comment NRC Handelsblad 8 Feb 2017: 'Intelligence Act is as sweeping as it is immature'

"Today the House of Representatives is debating a bill that is so sweeping, so inadequate and so important that it would be better if the House postponed it until after the elections. The new Intelligence and Security Services Act has already been widely criticised in the preliminary phase and so many changes have already been made that the bill cannot convince. Decisive are the breadth and quality of advice provided by, among others, the current Intelligence and Security Services Regulatory Commission (CTIVD) still recently delivered. But the open letter that 25 academics wrote to the House weighs heavily. It comes on top of critical responses previously given by the Council of State and the Dutch Data Protection Authority. And on top of the cries of alarm from the field. Privacy First spoke of a "totalitarian proposal", Amnesty called it "unnecessary and worrisome".

However, as long as the CTIVD argues that the proposed interception possibilities of digital traffic are insufficiently constrained, that the interests of third parties are insufficiently taken into account, that the scope of the intercepted data is not limited fast enough and that the quality of the data collection is insufficiently certain - then acceptance of such a bill is actually not readily conceivable. At least it should be.

Nor does the chaotic way in which oversight of the new powers will be regulated inspire confidence. The CTIVD says the government is introducing a "layered and complex system" by placing review, supervision and complaint handling in separate bodies. The 25 academics already recommended appointing one specialised judge and opening the possibility of appointing a "public lawyer". This would have to advise on interception when heavy public interests are involved, or the interests of persons entitled to privilege, such as lawyers and journalists, are at stake.

Possibly even more serious is the far too broadly formulated power given to the security services to intercept large amounts of communication data in bulk, store them for three years (!), monitor them and then exchange them with foreign services. That such a thing should be possible in principle is still somewhat justifiable - the days of mail, telephone and telegraphy are well and truly over. But it is only acceptable if it is embedded in a system of destruction obligations, sharp selection for relevance and hard requirements for purpose and clarity. In the view of most experts, this is now lacking. Then there is no shame in sending such a bill back. Or to take it back."

Source: NRC Handelsblad 8 February 2017, p. 2; NRC Next 8 February 2017, p. 30. Also available online at