Party leaders investigated over nat'l security leaks
The Public Prosecutor laid an important decision about the committee that oversees the intelligence and security services at the feet of the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, on Wednesday night. The Prosecutor has indications that one or more party leaders in the Kamer leaked information from this strictly confidential committee, and the Kamer now has to decide what to do about it, NOS reports.
This case revolves around the question of whether a member of the Committee for the Intelligence and Security Services gave the press information about what was discussed there. The committee consists of the leaders of most of the political parties. Everything discussed in the committee is strictly confidential. The high level of confidentiality in this committee can be illustrated by the actions of PVV leader Geert Wilders two months ago. Wilders told the media that he was "shocked" about something heard in the committee, but could not say what it was.
The information leak stems from a conversation with Home Affairs Minister Ronald Plasterk about the Dutch security services on December 12th, 2013. The conversation regarded the Dutch security services passing telephone data of 1.8 million people over to the US intelligence service NSA. Some party leaders claimed that Plasterk did not give full information about this case, others claimed he did. Either way, stories hit the press that the party leaders were well informed about the situation, and that information could really only have come from someone in the committee. Committee leader VVD-leader Halbe Zijlstra himself reported a possible leak early last year.
The Tweede Kamer now has to decide what to do with the findings of the Public Prosecutor's investigation, according to the broadcaster. Article 119 of the Constitution states that the Public Prosecutor cannot make a decision on prosecuting a Member of Parliament, that decision is reserved for the government or the Tweede Kamer itself. The case has been handed over to the presidium, which consists of the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Tweede Kamer, representing almost all the political parties. The presidium will meet at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday to discuss the matter.
The presidium now has three options standing in front of it: they can investigate further, decide to prosecute or do nothing. If they decide to investigate further this case can drag on for some time yet. Doing nothing would put the credibility of the committee at stake as it raises the question of whether anything discussed in the committee is really confidential. Deciding to prosecute will affect at least one prominent Member of Parliament. This could cause major political issues, especially if the MP involved turns out to be from the coalition of VVD and PvdA.