For an outsider the fight against terrorism in Belgium is a real rollercoaster and in the end you don't know who is winning or who is losing. I grew up in the 80's with the CCC and the Bende van Nijvel and WNP and fascist street violence and targeted attacks. It were fascinating but dangerous times. But it were also times in which the police and intelligence services did what they like the way they liked to do it. Sometimes it seemed we where living in a police state in which militants and activists were followed and indexed for very unclear reasons.
Aside from some sleeping jihad cells with big dreams and plans that were arrested, Belgium didn't know any big terrorist attacks since than. Some times there was some tension and sometimes there were alerts and we were asked to be vigilant but nothing compared to what happened in France in the metro stations, 9/11, 7/7 and so on.
So we have to be doing something right ? Well there are things going wrong somewhere. It is the 4th time that the DHCKP will be brought to trial. The PKK trainingcamp that was invaded by a huge police force seemed to be an international congress about women rights or something like that. And now three of the 4 suspects of Secours Rouge/CCC are liberated because there was no real evidence.
I remember that after 9/11 there was an enormous discussion about privacy versus security. Privacy and anonimity are relative, just as security and so one can't been seen without the other and can't be taken out of the context of the total picture.
If we would like to make privacy the basic principle on which all other laws are built upon, than we will never have enough security because the police and intelligence services will never have enough information to act or they will act wrongly because they have too little real hard information and are supposing too much based upon too little information. Than they make mistakes and lose credibility, which can be fatal for an intelligence agence, especially with its foreign partners (and in today's world you can't function as an intelligence service if you don't have enough trust relationships and cooperation from other intelligence services).
The other thing that makes it dangerous to put only privacy in the center of all the laws and practices is that you will have the information - or try to get it - whatever the law says. You will than act on that information because you will have the security of the society in mind - not the privacy of the few. And than you will go to court and the court will ask for your proof and you can't give it - because it will be (rightly) thrown out of court. You may have a thousand laws and auditors to try to keep your intelligence and police officers under control but the information will always flow to them and they will always try to act on it - because it is what they are trained to do (protecting us).
So I make an enormous difference between the surveillance of a whole society - which I hate and which doesn't have any operational benefits (you can never - even with today's technology- collect, interlink, translate and analyse all the information that is flowing through our digitalised societies) and the very thorough surveillance of those groups that are defined by law as being terrorist or very dangerous to the society as a whole. We should be sure that when those groups are brought to court, the police and the intelligence services can show 'all the evidence they have without any doubt'.
When I hear how Luc Beirens from the FCCU describes the process when he tries to disband cybergangs, it is to lose your patience and sympathy for the law. THis way the police services can't work with online criminal activity. They should have more powers in specific strictly defined domains that are supervised by the judicial powers and are controlled by the parliament.
The police services ask now that by law they could have access to your computer. The question is not if they may have access to your computer. There is nothing special with your computer that makes it apart or different from your phone, house, car or whatever. The question is for what and on basis of what and under the supervision of what. If it is only to do some fishing or suspicion than that would be difficult to approve. If it is because there are international sources and other information that give indications that are strong enough to give the judge the incentive to approve this kind of operation (and to make sure that only useful information is kept and all the rest is destroyed) than that is another case.
You can't say it is or security or privacy. Both are relative interdependent. We have in Belgium in comparaison to the US a relative better protected privacy environment but that is only because our security situation is for the moment better. If our security situation would worsen and bombs would effectively explose in our cities, than few would care about the privacy rights of their sympathisants and suspected sleeping cells or groups. ANd all the others that would be associated without any logical reason. We have seen this before in Belgium with the Mammouth operations after the CCC explosions that went through the leftwing organsations and sympathisers without much discrimination.
At the other side we have also a security environment because we feel that we live in a democratic society that respects the privacy and the democratic rights of its individual democratic citizens (even if they have the right to say their point of view).