In recent years, at least ten municipalities have under cover have research carried out into mosques in their city. Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Zoetermeer, among others, sent researchers from a private agency to Islamic organizations to retrieve sensitive information there without making themselves known.
Also read the background story: Undercover to the mosque: secret investigation into Islamic organizations
The findings ended up in a secret report stating – by name – what the administrators, imams and teachers involved studied, whose family they have, with whom they have quarrels, their religious beliefs and how often they have contact with the Moroccan authorities, for example. . According to experts, this method is prohibited.
The investigations are paid for by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), under the responsibility of outgoing minister Ferd Grapperhaus. The NCTV put municipalities in touch with the company that conducted the undercover investigation. The secret reports that the company prepared for the municipalities were often forwarded by the municipalities to the counter-terrorism officer. He says he has received at least ten so-called ‘force field analyses’.
The company conducting the studies is Nuance door Training and Advice (NTA) in Deventer, the government’s main consultancy for radicalization issues. The researchers pose as random ‘visitors’ in Islamic organizations: they pray, listen to sermons and conversations.
In its own words, NTA adheres to the applicable laws and regulations and acts on behalf of its clients. Privacy experts think otherwise. According to Bart Custers, professor of law and data sciences at Leiden University, municipalities are breaking the law with the research method. Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law Ymre Schuurmans also calls the practices “unlawful”.
Municipalities that commissioned the undercover investigation are Rotterdam, Delft, Almere, Eindhoven, Huizen, Leidschendam-Voorburg, Zoetermeer, Veenendaal, Helmond and Ede. Thirty-nine municipalities in North Holland initially commissioned such a study, but discontinued it prematurely because doubts arose about the method. Utrecht considered doing it, but found that the municipality is not authorized to do so.
Undercover page 22-24
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on 16 October 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of October 16, 2021