Dutch Police and Intelligence Co-operation On Crypto And Interception Issues


Secret project since 1995 between police and intelligence services. Intelligence agencies are also behind negotiations on cybercrime treaty Council of Europe

Since 1995 Dutch police forces and the intelligence agencies are working closely together on the breaking of crypto codes. That year the secret project 'co-operation on the operational approach towards cryptographic issues' started. Later, the co-operation was expanded to the interception of communications. This is revealed in documents obtained under the Dutch Freedom of Information Act.

The decision to create the formal co-operation was taken by the Ministerial Committee on the Intelligence and Security Agencies (MICIV). This Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, decides on the general policy and co-ordination of Dutch Intelligence agencies. In the Cabinet meeting of 6 July 1995, a special budget was approved for the project.

In the beginning, the co-operation concentrated on cryptographic issues. In September 1996 it was decided to expand the project to "intensive co-operation in the field of interception". For that reason, a 'national interception centre' was established. In 1997 the project was renamed on the request of the Ministry of Justice into the 'project operational crypto and interception' (OCI-project).

The target of the co-operation between the police and Intelligence is "to contribute to the investigation of crime and increase the state security". The operational co-operation on the breaking of crypto codes and interception issues is the cornerstone of the OCI-project. Police and Intelligence are jointly researching the problems of interception and cryptography and the possible answers. For that, the agencies are searching the assistance of specialised companies and the academic world. Experts of the police and Intelligence are exchanging skills and knowledge. According to the terms of reference of the OCI-project, it has to "actively solve problems and promote coherence, harmony, co-operation and combination."

Most of the requested documents on the OCI-project however were refused under the Freedom of Information Act, for instance a report on the co-operation in the field of interception, the complications which occurred and achieved operational results in the breaking of codes. Also the access to lists of decisions, recommendations and letters of ministries were withold. As reason for this refusal, the Ministry of Justice wrote: "it cannot be ruled out that criminals will be tuning in their activities on the governmental policy when the information you requested is made public."

In the steering group that supervises the co-operation members of the departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, de Dutch security service BDV, the police, the military intelligence agency MID, the Military police, the Economical inspection agency, the fiscal intelligence and investigation squad, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the Council of Police Commissioners, the Department of Traffic and Waterways and the advisor of the national co-ordinator of the intelligence agencies are represented.

The real work is done in two working groups, the 'working group operational approach to crypto issues', and the 'project group interception'. In these working groups members of the security service BVD, the military intelligence MID, the police and the Forensic Institute are working together. The Forensic Institute is the leading authority in the Netherlands in the breaking of cryptography. The general management of the OCI-project is in the hands of an external consultant from KPMG Management Consulting.

'Central information point for the investigation of telecommunication'

The 'national interception centre' mentioned in the beginning of this article is now renamed in 'Central information point for the investigation of telecommunication'. The project leaders of the information point were also external consultants, from CMG Division Management Consultancy.

The information point is a sort of interface. Intelligence agencies and the police can ask the information point for information on telephone subscriptions, corresponding names and addresses and so on in the context of interception orders. The information point has direct access to the registers of the telecom providers and checks where the information is stored. When it finds it, the information is given to the authorities. The entirely process is automated and responds to requests in a few minutes. The telecom providers are obliged to up-date their registers every 24 hours. The law that set the rules for the information point stipulates that the telecom providers will never know which authority asked for the information, nor why the information is asked. For the time being, the Internet providers don't have to fit those requirements.

In other documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, a representative of the Ministry of Justice announced that in the future the information point will probably also get the task of transporting automatically the traffic information that is stored in the registers of the telecom providers. Dutch authorities are preparing legislation that will oblige telecom providers to store the location data of mobile users. Maybe the information point will in the future also serve as the transition point for all kinds of information on subscribers for general investigative purposes.

Dutch police has repeatedly asked for co-operation with intelligence, the academic world and the business world on cryptographic issues. The OCI-project seems to be the concrete result of these pleas. The operations of police and intelligence, which used to be strictly separated, overlap more and more in the last years. Dutch intelligence was given the authority to investigate organised crime, as in many other European countries has accured.

One of the targets of the OCI-project, the cracking of crypto codes, must be understood in the context of the new Bill on the powers of the Dutch intelligence agencies, that soon will be discussed by parliament. According to the Bill, Dutch Intelligence is authorised to store all the encrypted messages they intercept (at random or in a concrete investigation) as long as is necessary to break them.

The operational co-operation between police forces and Intelligence and the influence on the policy level seems to be far developed in the field of interception, encryption and Internet. According to the annual report of Dutch Intelligence, the Ministerial Committee on the Intelligence and Security Agencies has repeatedly discussed the negotiations on the cyber crime treaty of the Council of Europe. This treaty is officially restricted to the cooperation in criminal matters, but now it appears that Intelligence is influencing behind the screens the outcome of the negotiations. According to a spokesman of the BVD the agency has a legitimate interest in the negotiations, because cybercrime can take forms which makes it relevant to the work of the intelligence community, for instance when terrorist groups are using cybercrime tools.

Dutch law enforcement is speeding up their efforts to crack down so called cybercrime. In Driebergen, the national police service KLPD, which houses among other things the so called high tech squad 'section secret', specialised in breaking and entering, placing bugging devices and location devices, the largest interception centre of Europe was recently opened. This centre is runned by the high tech squad and is specialised in intercepting the normal and mobile networks, as well as 'special communication networks' as the Internet. It can carry out 1000 interception orders simultaneously and is equipped with high tech stuff.

A special working group of the Office of the National Prosecutor, installed in September 1997, is looking at encryption, the development of new technical and digital investigative methods, and the need of new regulations. All the documents regarding the working group are kept secret on the grounds of internal security.

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