Demissionary minister Bijleveld apologises to citizens and politicians whose defence has wrongly collected data. “This should not have happened like this,” she said in the House of Representatives.
Research conducted by NRC at the end of last year showed that the Land Information Maneuvre Centre (LIMC) of Defence, without the knowledge of the Minister, collected information about citizens and organisations that could pose a threat to the approach of the coronacrisis. Bijleveld shut down this part of the operation in November.
The minister found little understanding with the MPs for violating the rules by defence.
“ Defence has flown off the corner at 200 kilometers per hour,” says D66-MP Belhaj. She finds it incomprehensible that dozens of people have been engaged in this operation for months before the Minister intervened. “This wasnt a little training.”
The VVD believes that defense should not write and distribute reports on civilians “on their own”. “This is not about a combat zone or war zone at all, but about collecting data from civilians at home,” says Van Wijngaarden.
Minister Bijlevelds own party, the CDA, also speaks of scandalous errors.
Jensen and yellow vests
The military immersed themselves in the behaviour of social groups such as Virus Truth, the yellow vests and the website of former talkshowhost Robert Jensen. Distributionpoints of the paper edition of De Other Knewspaper and fires in 5G transmitters were also mapped.
PVV MP Fritsma: “And it was also about my party leader, for example. I expect a small word of apology from the Minister. She doesnt have to call everyone by name because well be here for a while.”
None of the parties in the House of Representatives doubt the good intentions of defence and staff in their operations in the coronacrisis. But gathering information about citizens without a legal or democratic basis really can not, they say.
“ In certain cases, it may be quite justified to keep an eye on people. That is why special services are available and there is legislation and supervision,” says FVD MP Van Meijeren. “But here only people were spying on with a different opinion than government propaganda.”
Bijleveld fights that it was about spying. The Minister asked for understanding that the defence is used to gathering information about threats that could jeopardize operations. She calls that “image building.” “In this case, for example, it was about debunking false information about the coronapandemic,” she said. “But it shouldnt have been like this.”
MP Leijten and D66-MP Belhaj consider that Bijleveld did not send enough information to the Chamber about how the decision on this operation took place. They fear that if this does not become clear, it may happen again next time.
“ The army has been deployed as if its own people were the enemy, but who is the enemy here?” , said Leijten.
The Chamber submitted several motions in which it was stated that this should never happen again. Bijleveld agrees with that. There must also be an independent investigation into the state of affairs. An investigation of the defense itself is already under way.