Conspiracy theories about ‘an evil elite’ that ‘holds power’ in the Netherlands, pose a serious long-term threat to security in the Netherlands. The AIVD concludes this in its annual report for 2022. According to the intelligence service, more than a hundred thousand people in the Netherlands believe in such theories.
According to conspiracy theories, all kinds of agencies and persons play a malicious role. Ministers, journalists, judges and scientists would be part of an elite that wants to oppress, enslave or even kill the population. The so-called elite would invent events such as the nitrogen crisis in order to exercise far-reaching control over citizens.
The AIVD calls this body of ideas “anti-institutional extremism” for the first time. The service warns that this could pose a “serious threat” to the Netherlands in the long term, because the ideas are constantly being revived. The intelligence service speaks of the “most popular extremist narrative” currently circulating in society.
The AIVD labels anti-institutional extremism as dangerous for two reasons. According to the service, on the one hand, there is a risk that people who believe in the theories will eventually commit violence and justify it. As an example, the intelligence service cites plans for an attack on Prime Minister Rutte, for which people were arrested last year. On the other hand, such plots can cause a loss of trust in, for example, the police, the judiciary, the government administration and the media in society.
The AIVD is also concerned about the increasing threat from extreme right-wing groups. NOS Stories delved into that world:
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“The AIVD sees that boosters give their own twist to events in the news, and thus continue to repeat the narrative,” the report states. “Initially, they focused mainly on the corona measures. After most of them were abolished, the number of supporters fell temporarily. The climate crisis, nitrogen and the war in Ukraine are now being discussed more.”
The service warns that supporters of conspiracy theories want to set up a parallel society, with its own currency and its own law. Because new themes are constantly being added, the AIVD fears that this will also remain a problem in the long term.
The AIVD does not cite any examples, but rather Forum for Democracy leader Thierry Baudet suggested the plan for its own ‘Forumland’, with its own currency and schools. “We identify trends and phenomena in society, but will never refer to political parties,” said a spokesman for the intelligence service when asked.
Greater threat of jihadist terrorism
The 2022 report also focuses on jihadism. According to the AIVD, this is still the most important terrorist threat against the Netherlands. The AIVD warns in particular against networks of the terrorist group Islamic State that are controlled from Afghanistan. Networks in Syria play a less important role nowadays.
Especially in the second half of 2022, the AIVD saw an increase in intelligence about possible attacks by IS. The service therefore considers the threat of IS-driven attacks in Europe to be higher than in 2021. Al Qaeda and groups such as Al Shabaab in Somalia pose a lesser threat in Europe. Despite the Taliban’s takeover of power in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda does not seem to be well organized there for the time being.
This year, too, the service points to threats from Russia. Last year, for example, seventeen Russian intelligence officers were expelled and a Russian spy was prevented from working at the International Criminal Court. Since the invasion of Ukraine last February, Russia has also been using digital espionage to gain insight into Ukrainian military decisions, for example.
Furthermore, Russia keeps an eye on (former) Russian citizens here and intimidates them. China and Iran are also guilty of this, according to the report.
‘Summary of threats’
In a broader sense, the AIVD refers to an “sum of threats”. The intelligence service has established that certain threats reinforce each other in the Netherlands. For example, right-wing extremism emerged earlier in response to attacks by the terrorist group IS. Hardening on the right can in turn lead to hardening among left-wing extremists.
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