Defense dept. accused of wiretapping soldiers’ calls with legal counsel

The Dutch Bar Association is concerned about the fact that the Ministry of Defense is recording calls between soldiers and their lawyers and that Defense departments other than the security agencies may be listening to the conversations.

"There are more and more signs that confidential conversations between lawyers and their clients are being bugged on a large scale. This is serious, especially now that it turns out that bodies other than the MIVD and AIVD would be listening in on confidential conversations", the Association said to the Volkskrant.

According to the newspaper, all conversations over secure lines are recorded and logged by default. Here the unit that transmits the calls is the one to record and register them. Eventual replays of the conversations happens for operational security and are not done by the MIVD, the military intelligence and security service. The content of these calls may be used if it there is "urgent concern for safety". According to Defense, this is completely separate from the wiretapping done by the intelligence services for national security, as the content can not be used in criminal proceedings.

The Association is calling for a judicial review before conversations between lawyers and their clients can be wiretapped. "This is basically the same discussion as with the wiretapping by the AIVD and MIVD, and here it goes even further because everything is being recorded by default and afterwards it is determined whether it is necessary for safety.", the Association said to the newspaper.

A spokesperson for Defense said to the Volkskrant that the Ministry is being responsible with the communication and recognizes the importance of lawyers and clients being able to speak confidentially. According to Defense, it is possible in most missions to have such conversations through a separate system which calls are not being recorded.

In July the court in The Hague ruled that intelligence agencies must stop eavesdropping on conversations between lawyers and their clients. The cabinet has filed an appeal to this ruling.