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.

AWACSGeilenkirchen 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.

Geilenkirchen demonstratorsNot 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.

10 thoughts on “Terror-in-Law

  1. This doesn’t have to have a terrorist connection, does it? Lady goes on vacation, meets local boy hoping for a ticket to rich country, and marries him. Either she knows his motive and her ethics are suspect, or she doesn’t and she’s too stupid to be trusted with secrets. Either way she’s out the door for good.

  2. Either these marriages are extremly dubious, or these gals never heard of internet dating services. There has to be SOME German/Dutch men left to date. Sheesh!

  3. What are the security rules for the jobs? When I worked with a Top Security clearance years ago there were positions that were unavailable based on one or more of the following criteria:

    1) Marriage to a foreigner.
    2) Marriage to a non-NATO foreigner.
    3) Marriage to a non-ally foreigner.
    4) US nationality required.
    5) Native-born US nationality required.

  4. This has always been a bit of a sore point with certain Dutch and understandable so The Airfield if you check it out with Google earth is quiet a few miles from Gillenkirken and the runway goes right up too the boarder and the flight path goes right over Brunsum which is just over the boarder in Holland. Brunsum is the headquarters of NATO north I can’t think of the correct abbreviation now. It is a very sensitive area. The Airfield and the NATO compound cannot be more than one mile apart. Because the airfield is the main AWAC base in Europe security is exceedingly tight and as the American pay the lions share of the costs, he who calls the piper calls the tune. About 4 years ago an American Airforce Transport plane crashed in the woods at the end of the runway. If it had crashed a mile earlier there could have been a disaster. Shortly afterwards the American cut down the woods up too the boarder and demanded that the Dutch cut down I think about 100 acreas on their side of the boarder. There was much protestation and the environmentalists camped in the wood. The Dutch riot police had to remove them by force before they could cut down the trees. There was much protestation but it was done. When I say that security is tight I mean tight, up until about 4 years ago the Airfield held an open day every 2 years. It was just a static display on one of the aprons before one of the hangers, each of the different countries who had personnel there used to put on a display, you could buy bud and eat American hamburgers in the American tent or drink Carlberg and a Danish snack in the Danish tent there used to be a small fun fair for the kids. I went several time with my son, it was a fun day out. When I say security was tight to get to this area you had to leave your car at the main gate and you were transported by bus and you could not go outside the designated area, the Hangers were empty and all the good stuff was always parked on the opposite side of the Airfield. They always had a few aircraft you could go round and they would let you sit in the pilot seat, great for kids but there was always about 6 discretely armed soldiers around all the planes. When I say security was tight then it is much tighter now the open day has been stopped. I know for certain that security has been stepped up as I know several people who work on the base, these women can do what they like they can take it to the highest court in the land but out they go and out they will stay. I wouldn’t worry too much about this incident. What the Americans say goes and they can whine all they like

  5. @ Spacle
    “There has to be SOME German/Dutch men left to date”

    One would hope thought that those would not be interested in women as stupid as these. If they’re dumb enough to marry a foreigner they’ve only met days before it makes you wonder how they ever obtained their security clearances.

    The fact that being sacked caused one to file for divorce makes the situation even more suspect. One reason could be that she lost her usefulness to the Tunesian loverboy. The fact that the deputy base commnader cannot see why these dombo’s can no longer function in such an environment makes him incompetent as well, in my views, as he does not seem to appreciate what security is about. If I were his boss, he’d be out as well.

    There’s not too much info on this in Dutch press, but it definitely stinks.

  6. There has to be SOME German/Dutch men left to date.

    That requires some…testicular fortitude.

    Now this seems to be extremely…dumb. If they had already infiltrated this air base, then marrying these guys blew their cover. If they thought they’d be able to retain access after the marriage, I’d like to have some of what they where smoking!

  7. There has to be SOME German/Dutch men left to date.

    Rather there is/are some tunisian(s) boyfriend(s) that helped through blank marriage bring to Europe some relatives.
    One thing is sure they are to stupid to be put near secret stuff.

  8. Why would anyone go to Tunisia for a holiday to start with unless they were planning something bad? This whole thing is entirely suspect, and there should be no appeal at all.

  9. From the article:

    “…the two Tunisian men were classified as “extremely high risk”…

    I’d classify 1.2 billion people the same way.

    For the same reason.

    Anti-democratic intent.

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