“Three terrorist attacks” foiled by NSA was false information

Summary

An interview given by Belgium’s head of military intelligence in 2013 stating that three terrorist attacks in the country had been avoided by information provided by the NSA was not true

Spoke too soon

The head of military intelligence in Belgium, General Eddy Testelmans, gave out false information about three planned terrorist attacks, the I Committee has concluded in a report.

The I Committee oversees intelligence services in Belgium. In an interview with MO* magazine in 2013, Testelmans (pictured) told journalist Kristof Clerix that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had supplied Belgian military intelligence (ADIV) with enough information to thwart three attacks.

“In three cases were terrorist attacks indeed foiled on the basis of information that we may assume came directly from the Prism system,” Testelmans said. “If they had not passed that information on, we would never have known about [the planned attacks].”

Prism was the system used by the NSA to carry out widespread surveillance on targets in the US and elsewhere, as revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

The I Committee carried out an enquiry into ADIV and the statements made by Testelmans. According to a report this week in De Tijd newspaper, the committee discovered that the claims were false. “The information delivered by the NSA had not in fact avoided three attacks but had merely been useful in obtaining a better information position in one concrete Belgian terrorism case,” De Tijd quotes the report.

Testelmans confirmed the report’s content to De Tijd. “At the time of the interview, I was in possession only of information from the NSA itself, based on information they had passed along to the State Security Agency,” Testelmans told the newspaper. “It was only later, after further investigation by the Belgian intelligence services that I was informed that the NSA information ought to be seen in context and, therefore, considered less important. The information supplied to the I Committee is therefore correct.”

Clerix has reported on the MO* website: “I was aware that the I Committee was the only agency in a position to double-check the information. For that reason, I published the interview in question-answer format, so that it was clear that the statements made were wholly the responsibility of the interviewee. The truth comes to the surface in the end.”

Photo by Jasper Jacobs/BELGA