On November 18th 2013, two Dutch MP’s asked questions to Dutch administration about the capacity of the antennas on U.S. embassy in The Hague — and whether the antennas are used to spy on communication in the vicinity of that embassy, notably including the `Binnenhof‘, which is the center of Dutch politics. Below is my translation of the Dutch govt’s answers (.pdf, in Dutch) that were published on December 9th 2013.
Questions from members Van Raak (SP) and Segers (ChristenUnie) to the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior about the capacity of the antennas on the roof of the U.S. embassy in The Hague (submitted November 18th 2013)1. Have you taken note of the Radio 1 program ‘Met het oog op morgen’ having addressed the topic of the capacity of the antennas on the roof of the U.S. embassy?
2. Have you taken note of the fact that these antennas allow interception of data traffic in the wider area of the embassy, hence including the Binnenhof and the Ministry of General Affairs, and can be intercepted and decoded, so that this information can be made legible and audible?
I cannot confirm the facts mentioned in the question. As I said earlier in response to spoken questions from Mr. Van Raak (SP) of October 29th, it is technically possible to intercept telephone traffic in the vicinity of a building. The fact that this is technically possible, does not mean it actually happens. Antennas are commonly placed on an embassies for their own communication.
3. Is the interception, decoding and examination of data traffic by an embassy in the Netherlands legal?
The conducting of intelligence operations by foreign powers in the Netherlands is not acceptable, unless formal approval is requested in accordance with the applicable procedures. It is possible that other countries believe that there is a good reason to gather intelligence in the Netherlands. In such a case, the country needs to address a request to the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (via the AIVD) or the Minister of Defense (via the MIVD). The request will then be evaluated within the framework of Dutch law. The government considers any activity outside that legal framework to be unacceptable. The two services carry out a structural investigation of espionage by foreign powers in the Netherlands. Also see Parliamentary Paper 30997 No. 63.
4. Are your prepared to ask the U.S. Ambassador whether the antennas on the roof of the embassy are used for the purposes stated above? If not, why not? If so, would you please inform us about the outcome of that conversation?
The Ministry of the Interior will contact the U.S. embassy. I will inform you about the outcomes. I will have to take any confidentially of this information into account.
5. Do you have any reason to believe that, like the U.S. embassies elsewhere in the world, the U.S. embassy in The Hague has eavesdropped on telephone conversations and intercepted data traffic?
At present, there is no reason to assume that the U.S. does not comply with the aforementioned agreements. As stated in the answer to question 3, the conducting of intelligence operations by foreign powers in the Netherlands is only allowed after prior approval by the Minister of the Interior or the Minister of Defense. This was recently put forward again during regular contacts with the U.S. embassy.