Belgium, Intelligence and Security Agencies
Officially upholding a declared policy of neutrality, Belgium maintains a small number of defense, intelligence, and military forces. Belgium has three national languages, French, German, and Dutch, all of which are equally recognized for official government use. The nation's central geographic location, varied linguistic structure, and policy of neutrality have aided the growth of Brussels as an international city and financial center. The Belgian capital also serves as the capital of the European Union (EU). With this added international responsibility, the Belgian government restructured many of its intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the early 1990s. National agencies work closely with other EU member nations to provide security in the international capital.
Belgium maintains both military and civilian intelligence forces. The nation's armed forces have various small, strategic intelligence units, but the Permanent Committee for the Control of Intelligence Services coordinates wide-scale military intelligence operations. The central committee, a branch of the Ministry of Defense and the General Intelligence Service, governs various operational divisions responsible for intelligence and security. The committee also coordinates joint operations with military and civilian security services.
The Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Defense manages external intelligence operations. Charged with protecting Belgian national interests at home and abroad, the Intelligence Division cooperates with military intelligence to gather, process, analyze, and act upon information. Mainly focusing on information from and about foreign states, the Intelligence Division maintains a small operational division.
A second operational division in the Belgian intelligence community is the Security Division. Charged with the protection of military security and classified information regarding foreign agreements, the Security Division conducts surveillance of military property and operations. The Security Division also screens government and military officials for various security clearances, granting access to classified materials.
The Security Intelligence Division, the third operational division of Belgian intelligence under the Ministry of Defense, is the nation's primary counterintelligence and counterespionage force. The division protects military operations and Belgian interests by seeking information relating to terrorism, sabotage, and espionage. The Security Intelligence Division sometimes works with other Belgian and European Union intelligence agencies to ensure the safety of EU officials, diplomats, and attaches in the capital and abroad.
Belgium maintains a smaller civilian intelligence force. The Ministry of Justice controls the Federal Intelligence and Security Agency, whose prime mission is the maintenance of state security. In the 1990s, the agency overhauled government information and computer systems to ensure the security of classified material. The agency works closely with law enforcement, and focuses on internal intelligence information.
As terrorist threats against European targets have increased, the Belgian intelligence community has increased efforts to protect EU government interests in Brussels. Belgium also pledged its support to an international anti-terrorism coalition.