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NRC Handelsblad, Nov 7, 2013: 'State must come up with facts on eavesdropping'

NRC today published a short interview with Vincent Böhre (Privacy First) following the lawsuit against the Dutch state for illegal data spying by the NSA:

"Privacy First is joining a case against Minister Plasterk against the use of illegally obtained NSA intelligence.

Dutch intelligence services must stop using data obtained through foreign intelligence agencies. To achieve this, an occasional coalition of journalists, lawyers and privacy organisations has started a court case against minister Ronald Plasterk (Interior, PvdA). (...) On 27 November, the case will be heard at the court in The Hague. Privacy first, which advocates for privacy interests, is also joining the Citizens against Plasterk coalition. Vincent Böhre explains.  

Why this collaboration? 

,,The initiative came from lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm. When he asked us to join, we immediately agreed. We are very concerned about the activities of intelligence and security services in the Netherlands. 

,,It has become clear that this data was often obtained illegally, i.e. not according to Dutch laws governing wiretapping or eavesdropping. We have strict requirements for this, and as a Dutch citizen you must be able to trust that the security services comply with these laws. Now that appears not to be the case. A breach of trust has arisen between the population and the government." 

In parliament, Interior Minister Plasterk also routinely says only that he either knows nothing or cannot say anything about it. 

"Because of Edward Snowden's revelations, we can no longer rely on the government to follow the law, and not use that data. Around the world, the secret service NSA eavesdropped on people. Borders or laws in other countries did not matter to the US. And if you know a bit of the history of secret services and their mutual cooperation, it is very naive to think that the Dutch government would not then use that data as well, if it turns out to be available through foreign services."   

What should this lawsuit achieve?

"In my opinion, this could bring openness about the eavesdropping. It also depends on how much nerve the judge has, but he could order witness hearings, for example, and get experts to give testimony. If the judge takes a thorough approach, he can ensure that there is an investigation into the exact facts. 

"The state will have to come up with facts to disprove that interception is illegal. I expect we will win the case. Then Plasterk will have to stop using that info as well as inform all citizens who have been tapped illegally."

Has this already happened in other countries?

"Not that I know of. But this case could cause a chain reaction. It would be very difficult for an average citizen to bring a case against the state on his own about this bugging. Then he would have to prove as an individual that he is being tapped, he would have to have an interest of his own. While we are now litigating on behalf of the public interest.

''Moreover, the collective is made up of people who are a cross-section of groups in society for whom privacy is especially important. Journalists, lawyers, and us. It will be a lawsuit with big implications.""

Source: NRC Handelsblad 7 November 2013, Cultural Supplement, p. 13.