Spectator on facebook

Spectator on facebook

Lurid secret service report shocks nation

Parliamentary deputies listened in stunned silence to a report on the activities of the secretive Slovak Information Service (SIS) in a closed session on February 12. What they heard - a chronicle of domestic surveillance and intimidation stretching back to 1995 - resembled the plot of a Soviet espionage novel rather than the behaviour of a modern state government.
The report, which was not officially released to the public, appears to confirm a broad range of rumors and allegations levied against the SIS since 1995. Acting as the private agent of former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, the SIS is alleged to have discredited the country's former president by kidnapping his son, as well as to have physically attacked and intimidated journalists. It kept politicians of all parties, intellectuals and political opponents under surveillance, according to MP's reports of the session.


The burned-out shell of investigative reporter Peter Tóth's car is one of the strongest reminders of Mečiar-era intimidation of journalists. Tóth's name was one of many that surfaced in a report on SIS activities.
photo: TASR

Parliamentary deputies listened in stunned silence to a report on the activities of the secretive Slovak Information Service (SIS) in a closed session on February 12. What they heard - a chronicle of domestic surveillance and intimidation stretching back to 1995 - resembled the plot of a Soviet espionage novel rather than the behaviour of a modern state government.

The report, which was not officially released to the public, appears to confirm a broad range of rumors and allegations levied against the SIS since 1995. Acting as the private agent of former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, the SIS is alleged to have discredited the country's former president by kidnapping his son, as well as to have physically attacked and intimidated journalists. It kept politicians of all parties, intellectuals and political opponents under surveillance, according to MP's reports of the session.

The SIS also participated in a campaign to blemish the reputations of the heads of the Slovak Catholic church in 1995 by claiming the sale of a church-owned work of art violated state law, reports said.

The agency's broad ranging activities included information campaigns within Slovakia to orient citizens towards Russia instead of the west. One campaign attempted to stir up anti-Hungarian sentiment by telling people Hungary was a privileged NATO candidate of the United States, Czech daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported.

Furthermore, the agency ventured outside Slovakia to try to stir up anti-Romany and anti-NATO feelings in the Czech Republic in an attempt to make the country look unacceptable for EU and NATO entry, the Czech daily said.

The main target of the allegations is Ivan Lexa, director of the SIS under Mečiar and currently a deputy for Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). The report's accusations come on the heels of a request by the Slovak Police earlier this month to have parliament strip Lexa of his immunity and allow him to be prosecuted for his alleged role in the 1995 Kovač Jr. kidnapping.


Former secret service director Ivan Lexa has called the Mitro report a "fairytale worthy of Hans Christian Anderssen."
photo: TASR

Lexa was present at the reading of the report and defended the actions of his agency before parliament. He later talked to The Slovak Spectator.

"It's a totally untrue, unprofessional and politically influenced report released by the current SIS director. It's a fairytale worthy of Hans Christian Andersen," Lexa said. "It's an absolute lie."

Media frenzy

Although the agency's new director, Vladimír Mitro, gave his presentation behind closed doors because it contained classified information, a race immediately began between Slovak newspapers and television to gain and broadcast details of the report.

Some coalition deputies cooperated with media, though they were harshly criticised by the opposition for revealing confidential data. Citing the public's right to know, Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda said four days after the report was read that the government will appeal to have the document declassified.

The speaker of parliament, Jozef Migaš, said parliament does not have the power to declassify the report. According to Migaš, only Mitro can decide whether to make the SIS report public.

For his part, Lexa said the secret nature of the report was a sign that it was spurious. He also blamed Migaš for leaking the report to the press.

"The fact that parliament did not release a statement on the report, even though [Vladimír] Palko [a current deputy for the ruling coalition Christian Democrats and former head of the Czechoslovak secret service] proposed it, proves that the majority of the deputies realize that [the report] was full of lies," he said.

Curiously, some opposition deputies supported the idea that the report be officially published, saying that citizens would only agree that there was nothing shocking in it.

"The report disappointed me, because it's just a compilation of newspaper articles and media presentations of the coalition politicians that I was already familiar with. I see no reason why the report should not be published," said Oĺga Keltošová, a HZDS party deputy.

More allegations

Between February 12 and 14, the private TV station Markíza revealed parts of the report which related to the station's illegal invasion by armed bodyguards of the bosses of the Gamatex company in September, 1998. Markíza director Pavol Rusko said that the report proved that the SIS was behind the act.

The daily Sme reported that it possessed materials proving that the SIS beat up the paper's investigative reporter Peter Tóth in 1995 and then burned his car in November 1997 to intimidate him. Sme also reported that agents secretly watched Czech TV Nova reporter Eugen Korda and damaged his car early in 1998.

To discredit Bishop Rudolf Baláž and Cardinal Ján Sokol in 1995, the SIS allegedly sent an agent under a fake name to purchase an antique triptych which was the property of the Office of the Bishop in Banská Bystrica. Though it was legal to sell the painting, the SIS went to the police with the $200,000 work and claimed that the church had illegally sold a national treasure.

In the Czech Republic, SIS operatives used operation code names "Neutron" and "Dežo" to describe their activities, through which they hoped to make the country look unacceptable for NATO and EU membership, the Czech daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported.

"The aim of the Neutron operation was to initiate a polemic about the country's NATO accession among the Czech public. The aim of the Dežo operation was to initiate a neo-fascist campaign, racist moods and a sharpening of the Romany issue among Czech citizens to prevent the country from being accepted into Euro-Atlantic structures," the paper read.

Czech officials such as former Interior Minister Jan Ruml and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, also confirmed for Mladá Fronta Dnes that they had information about the SIS activities in the Czech Republic.

Jan Šubert, spokesman of the Czech Security Information Service (BIS), told The Slovak Spectator on February 17 that "during Prime Minister Mečiar's government, official contacts with the SIS were practically frozen. It was due to the tactics and the climate in which the SIS was working."

"It's not true," responded Lexa. "I understand that the BIS spokesman reacted in this way, because it's usual in the intelligence community that the range [of mutual cooperation] is not published in detail. Obviously, it's not exactly as he puts it, because the contacts simply were there at the highest level, the expert level and even the international level."

Taking action

The reading of the "Black Book" of the SIS came 11 days after the first SIS arrests for alleged wrongdoing under Lexa's leadership. On February 1, 1999, Interior Ministry Investigation Section Director Jaroslav Ivor announced that the police had taken two former senior SIS officers, Jaroslav S. and Robert B. into custody, on charges that they coordinated the Kováč Jr. kidnapping and the religious paintings affair.

Ján Langoš, a deputy for the ruling SDK party, claimed that Slovakia should apologize to its neigbouring countries for the SIS's activities in the past. "The government should clearly declare that it won't continue in this self-destructive foreign policy," he said.

Lexa, for his part, maintained that the report was a political gambit of Interior Minister Ladislav Pitter and "was written by a small team of officials currently working with [the SIS], part of whom came from the apparatus of the Christian Democratic Movement."

"We [the SIS] were assessed as highly professional, highly effective in cooperation and very serious and trustworthy partners within the international intelligence community. Of course, I mean, in the democratic states," he said.

Top stories

Bratislava has already forgotten the Pressburg ghost

The burnt prints of the penitential reeve’s right hand made Bratislava famous over almost all Europe. Now the story has been almost completely forgotten.

The wooden box with burnt prints.

Product quality laid on the EU table

Concerns over the different quality of same brand products are confirmed, but will anything change soon?

Will shopping in supermarkets soon become a thing of the past?

Everton beats Ružomberok Video

But the victory was narrow.

Peter Maslo (front) and Davy Klaassen (back)

Foreigners: Events in Bratislava Video

Tips for performances and other events in the capital between July 28 and August 6, including concerts, parties, festivals, classical music, inline skating, exhibitions and more.

Folk Painting Vajnory, Stamp