Additional measures against terrorism
An early warning system is to be introduced to inform government agencies, businesses and the public about the increased risk of terrorist attacks. A list is also to be drawn up of ‘soft targets’ (railway stations,etc.) and extra capacity will be released to allow more intensive tracking, monitoring and disruption of the activities of persons who have been designated internationally as potential terrorists. These are among the measures adopted by the Cabinet following the terrorist attack in Madrid, in addition to the existing action plan on security and combating terrorism. This was stated today by the Minister of Justice, Piet Hein Donner, and the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Johan Remkes, in a letter to the Lower House.
Since 11 September 2001 the Cabinet has been working to prevent terrorism in the Netherlands. Heavy investments have been made in increasing the capacity of the intelligence and security services, and a large body of legislation has been developed aimed at preventing terrorist attacks and enabling terrorists to be prosecuted. Recruiting for jihad has been made a criminal offence, (the activities of) terrorist organisations can be outlawed and a bill is being prepared to enable information supplied by the General Intelligence and Security Service AIVD to be used in criminal prosecutions. The monitoring and security system has also been overhauled, enabling adequate measures to be taken in the event of specific threats. Dozens of measures laid down in the action plan on security and combating terrorism have so far been implemented.
The Madrid attacks raised the question of whether additional measures are needed. The possibility cannot be ruled out that, like Spain, the Netherlands will be selected as a target by terrorist organisations. A number of measures were taken immediately after the Madrid attacks. The Spanish Embassy has been given protection and transport companies and transport infrastructure managers have been alerted by the government. The AIVD and the National Police Services (KLPD) anti-terrorism unit have travelled to Madrid to exchange specific information. The possibility of a link between the Netherlands and the attacks in Madrid is not ruled out, although there are as yet no firm indications of this. The agencies concerned, including the Public Prosecutions Department, have been asked to check all the information in their possession for possible links with terrorist activities.
A number of more structural measures are also being taken aimed at raising awareness, intensifying information exchange and disrupting/combating terrorist activities. Prioritisation, cooperation and increasing the capacity of the AIVD and investigation agencies is releasing extra capacity to enable ‘an eye to be kept on’ persons who have been internationally designated as (potential) terrorists. The activities of these individuals will be disrupted and of course they will be arrested if they are actually found to be making preparations for terrorist activity.
A security coordinator has been appointed at European level to encourage the exchange of information between the different agencies. This entails the exchange of personal information such as fingerprints, DNA and visa data. The Dutch government has also pressed for the setting up of an accessible system for lost and stolen passports, with links to the databases of international investigation agencies.
An early warning system is also being developed in the Netherlands, designed to warn government agencies, businesses and the public on the extent of any increased threat of terrorist attacks at very short notice using a system of recognisable codes. Depending on the level of alert announced, those concerned will know what degree of alertness is called for. This system will raise awareness levels and allow adequate measures to be taken at short notice. The government will also inform the public where necessary about the increased risks and involve them in preventing attacks. For example, the public could be encouraged to report unusual incidents to the police. The Cabinet will also draw up a list of ‘soft targets’, including the measures to be taken where a threat exists. These are potential targets which because of their character (large numbers of people, effect on society) could be at increased risk.
The government cannot guarantee that the Netherlands will be spared terrorist attacks. What it can do is give assurances that it is continuously vigilant and is taking steps to minimise the risk of an attack.