Effectiveness of the AIVD and MIVD
The law forces, time presses, practice compels
Preparation and introduction of the Intelligence and Security Services Act (WIV 2017) paid too little attention to how the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) and the Netherlands Defence Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) would implement the act. The two services need additional capacity to put new safeguards in place to protect public privacy. They accordingly have less time for their core task of carrying out investigations in the interests of national security. An audit by the Netherlands Court of Audit has found that the operational effectiveness and future resilience of the AIVD and MIVD are coming under pressure.
Audit findings: Intelligence position of the AIVD and MIVD under pressure
The WIV 2017 has had a significant impact on the intelligence and security services’ organisation, processes and IT systems. Our main conclusion is that the debate of the introduction of the WIV 2017 and the preparations for the new act’s implementation paid too little attention to the practical and operational impact on the services. It cannot be said who bears responsibility for this situation. Both the executive and the legislature played a role.
Below, we consider the consequences for the intelligence and security services’ operational effectiveness and future resilience and the underlying causes.
Operational effectiveness and future resilience of the intelligence and security services under pressure
- Cable interception, the most important new power for the intelligence and security services, has not yet been realised more than 2 years after the act came into force.
- Our audit found that the introduction of cable interception has not increased effectiveness; moreover, effectiveness is being weakened by the WIV 2017’s impact on operational capability. The main impacts are:
a. new safeguards in the WIV 2017 restrict the use of certain special powers. Some operational teams’ investigations of new and covert threats, their strategic positions (in anticipation of future developments) and international cooperation are being adversely affected;
b. furthermore, the additional administrative burden necessary for the regular implementation of the WIV 2017 reduces the time and capacity available for operational teams to carry out investigations in the interests of national security. The application process to use special powers, for instance, takes more time and capacity under the WIV 2017 than under the WIV 2002. With fewer investigations being carried out, the services’ intelligence position is negatively impacted. The operational effectiveness of the intelligence and security services is expressed in the intelligence position they hold in a particular field of investigation. As part of our audit, we attempted to quantify the increase in the administrative burden due to the WIV 2017 (see box);
c. the services’ intelligence position is also under pressure because implementation of the WIV 2017 was underestimated and has not yet been completed. Implementation is an ongoing and continuous process that requires both incidental and structural capacity to the disadvantage of operational processes and of the IT, Legal Affairs and other support departments. This is at the expense of the services’ development and innovative strength. Besides operational effectiveness, the future resilience of the intelligence and security services is also coming under pressure.
Why did we audit the effectiveness of the AIVD and MIVD?
At the request of the Minister of Defence (who was also responsible for the AIVD at the time of the request), in 2020 the Court of Audit investigated the possible impact on the intelligence and security services’ operational effectiveness of the implementation of the Intelligence and Security Services Act 2017 (WIV 2017). The Minister of Defence made the request in response to an observation by the Review Committee on the Intelligence and Security Services (CTIVD), which intensively monitored the implementation of the WIV 2017 for two years as from 1 May 2018.
What methods did we used in this audit?
We carried out our audit on-site at both the AIVD and MIVD. The audit commenced in mid-June 2020. We requested and analysed a large number of documents on-site (most of which were classified as secret). The documents concerned the WIV 2017 and how it was prepared and implemented and included relevant management and operational information. In addition, we held more than 60 interviews with directors, managers and staff at the intelligence and security services. The interviews provided an insight into the impact of the WIV 2017 on the intelligence services’ input, throughput and output. To verify the outcomes of the interviews, we consulted a representative selection of operational teams. These team sessions provided an in-depth picture of the operational practice, the administrative burden accompanying the WIV 2017 and other WIV-related problems at the intelligence and security services, such as the state of IT.
The audit was published on Thursday 22 April 2021.