They are spectacular images: the deep blue sea, the shafts of light from the sinking sun, the dark silhouettes of the mountains on the Somali coast, the six pirates on the prow of the wooden boat, holding their arms in the air. A rubber dinghy is moored at the back of the boat. A marine hoists himself on board. Then the rest of the boarding team follows: khaki overalls, black helmets, weapons at the ready.
By Steven Derix and Huib Modderkolk
The video footage was shot from the HMS Rotterdam. On August 13, 2012, the Royal Navy amphibian transport ship played the leading role in the release of a Pakistani cargo boat off the coast of the northern region of Puntland. But there are two stories behind the liberation of the Pakistani dhow.
The first is that of the successful alliance between international sea powers. Their successes have been widely written about in the media. Ben Bekkering, commodore of the HMS Rotterdam, even appeared on television show Pauw & Witteman to talk about the operation.
The second story is a state secret. It is a story of the exchange of information and technology between the Netherlands and the United States.
Alliances between security services are usually kept secret. But thousands of NSA documents are now in the hands of a select group of journalists, thanks to former NSA worker Edward Snowden. They show that the NSA is the central organisation in an international exchange of tapped telephone and internet traffic.
The Netherlands is also a part of this. In September, the German weekly Der Spiegel published an NSA document about the Netherlands. The graph, entitled ‘Netherlands – 30 days’, appeared to show that the NSA had listened in to 1.8 million Dutch telephone calls.
But last month, the cabinet showed that the reality was different. The 1.8 million telephone calls, wrote home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk and defence minister Jeanine Hennis, were not intercepted by the Americans, but by the Dutch and then shared with the NSA. It was not American, but Dutch espionage.
Two new documents give further details. The Netherlands, it transpires, intercepts vast amounts of Somali telephone traffic and shares it with the NSA. The Dutch use the information to combat piracy. But the Americans may possibly use the information for something else as well: taking out terrorism suspects by attacking them with armed drones.
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