Geilenkirchen is a modest German town in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, hard on the western border with the Netherlands. Just outside of Geilenkirchen is a NATO airbase named after the town.
Geilenkirchen Air Base is home to NATO’s E-3A AWACS aircraft and their support systems . The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) is designed to carry out airborne detection and surveillance of enemy missiles and aircraft from a great distance. Seventeen E3-A AWACS aircraft are based at Geilenkirchen.
Not surprisingly, Geilenkirchen, like so many other NATO installations in Germany, has repeatedly been the focus of European anti-war demonstrators. In 2003 German Indymedia reported that about 500 demonstrators attempted to blockade the airbase, demanding the removal of all NATO AWACS aircraft.
Needless to say, security is a major concern at the Geilenkirchen base. AWACS technology and deployment are sensitive topics, and various foreign powers would have a strong interest in finding out some of the details about what goes on inside E-3A WAWACS aircraft.
This is undoubtedly what is behind the recent uproar over the two Dutch employees at Geilenkirchen who went on holiday in Tunisia and came home with Tunisian husbands. Here’s how AKI tells the story:
Europe: Dutch women lose NATO jobs after marrying Muslims
The Hague, 29 August(AKI) — Two Dutch women, have lost their jobs at a NATO base in Geilenkirchen over their mysterious marriage to Muslim men which took place during a holiday in Tunisia, the NIS Dutch news service reports.
One of the women was the personal assistant of Colonel Jelle Zijlstra, deputy commandant of the base.
Both women — who were identified only by their first names Patricia and Gerda — had a level of security clearance that would have allowed them to access possible NATO secrets, the NIS report said.
Following their weddings in Tunisia to local men who they met on while on holiday to the North African country in 2007, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) withdrew the women’s NATO security clearance.
According to a report by the Dutch daily De Telegraaf, the two Tunisian men were classified as “extremely high-risk”.
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Although it is not clear why the men — whose names were not published — are classified as high risk, their marriage was described as “suspicious” by officials at the Geilenkirchen base, home to 17 AWACS surveillance planes — used against aerial terrorist threats.
However, Zijlstra appeared to defend the women.
“These ladies have worked for us loyally for years, so why should I not give them moral support? I am not aware of any wrongful actions”, he was quoted as saying.
According to the NIS report, one of the women has filed for divorce from her Tunisian husband and has demanded her NATO job back, suing the Dutch state for lifting her security clearance. Her case will be heard in court on September 10.
Well, naturally, she is suing. Who wouldn’t? The possession of a top-secret security clearance is, after all, one of the basic human rights guaranteed by the EU constitution.
NIS News has some additional information:
The two women’s lawyer, H. van der Meijden, said that “as far as I know, the boys the two ladies fell in love with have no links with terrorist groups.”
Don’t you love that “as far as I know” qualifier? It leaves a lot of wiggle room…
This is an intriguing story, leaving us with a number of questions:
- How did Dutch intelligence get onto these two “boys” so quickly?
- How did the two women meet their future husbands?
- Were they recruited for their mission in the Netherlands before their holiday in Tunisia?
- If so, what network was involved?
I have no answers for any of these questions. If any of our Dutch readers know more about this affair, please feel free to hold forth in the comments.
Hat tip: insubria.