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“Technocrat” or far-right spymaster?

Netherlands: New prime minister is former intelligence chief Dick Schoof, who illegally spied on citizens and remains vague about democracy’s red lines

Former intelligence chief and national counter-terrorism coordinator Dick Schoof is the new designated prime minister of the Netherlands. An unelected technocrat who always works according to his own personal rules and not always according to the law. The far-right Freedom Party (PVV) frontman Geert Wilders must love him.

As exposed by NRC, in his role as National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV), Schoof had citizens monitored via fake accounts on social media from 2014 onwards, even though he knew this was not allowed. This continued even after internal warnings from legal experts in his agency. In 2015, it even emerged that the NCTV unit had stored so much sensitive data that the storage system was no longer able to cope. In spring 2018, it was again communicated within the organisation that the collection of information was not permitted. There was simply no legal basis for this. Since December 2023, however, the practice has become legal in the Netherlands.

Under Schoof’s leadership, the NCTV unit has encouraged municipalities to infiltrate mosques. According to NRC, at least 10 municipalities subsequently hired commercial contractors to conduct undercover investigations in mosques. The “investigators” attended prayers and collected all kinds of personal information about visitors and clergy. They described names, family relations, education levels, who argued with each other and what people believed. This practice was also illegal in the Netherlands.

It was interesting to observe that most of the Dutch mainstream media, which normally publishes a lot of stories defending parliamentary democracy and the so-called rule of law, yesterday did not address the fact that Schoof was not on any of the parliamentary candidate lists, nor his flaunting of the law. As an anarchist I am no advocate of the State’s “rule of law”, but it is at least remarkable that large parts of the press do not perceive it as a problem when the designated prime minister repeatedly shits on it.

“Little things” that violate international law

Schoof also influenced the investigation into the crash of the shot-down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The NCTV unit’s interference was far-reaching, influencing the design, scope and timing of the investigation’s report. In the end, it was even assured that the texts would be adapted according to its wishes. None of this has done Dick Schoof’s career any harm. In November 2018, he succeeded Rob Bertholee as Director General of the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). In March 2020, he was appointed as the new Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice and Security, the highest non-political post within the ministry.

In a March 2024 interview in the Groene Amsterdammer, Schoof was already confident about a possible PVV government. In retrospect, the interview reads like a letter of application. Schoof was asked, among other things, “where exactly is your moral pain threshold”? He answers: “I assume without question that we will not reach this threshold in the next few years. The pain threshold would be where both houses of the Dutch parliament start passing laws and changing the constitution in such a way that you can start to seriously question the survival of democracy”. Interviewer Bas Mesters doesn’t let up: “‘Little things’ that violate international law, such as the right to asylum or the renewed ban on family reunification, are not part of this category for you”? Schoof: “That I’d think about resigning because of this? No. I don’t have a sharp yardstick with which I could say ‘Now the country is no longer a democratic constitutional state. The rule of law and democracy are always subject to change. When it comes to terrorism legislation, for example, we have a different view of privacy and freedom than we did 20 years ago”.

Around half of the ministerial posts will be filled by the far-right PVV members, and their enablers from the VVD, NSC and BBB. According to their party leaders, the remaining ministerial posts should be filled with technocrats, people from outside politics. Schoof, a member of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) for over 30 years until he left in 2021, is suppoosed to be the exemplary “technocrat” in this government. But this is hard to believe, considering his loose handling of state regulations when it comes to repression and surveillance, his vagueness on the red lines of liberal democracy, and his coalition’s far-right agenda against refugees.

~ Riot Turtle

Top photo: Schoof (right) with former PVV Justice Minister Art van der Steur. Photo: Wikimedia

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