General Vladimír Mitro, the Slovak Intelligence Service's (SIS) new director, gave a rare interview to the daily newspaper Sme on November 3, the same day he was appointed to the job. Mitro promised journalist Peter Tóth that investigating crimes in which the SIS was suspected of involvement would be his greatest priority. The SIS is suspected of involvement in the 1995 kidnapping of the son of the former Slovak President, Michal Kováč, among other offences.
Sme: What were the first steps you took as SIS director?
Vladimír Mitro (VM): Those department directors who stayed with the SIS and were entrusted with the leadership of these departments [by former director Ivan Lexa] were dismissed. New directors were appointed.
Sme: Under the leadership of Ivan Lexa the SIS was probably involved in several criminal acts. Will you investigate these cases and hand the file records over to legal authorities?
VM: I will create special institutions and do everything I can to uncover all facts which would prove or disprove the particular suspicions. The facts will be passed over to executive criminal authorities. This is one of my primary goals.
Sme: Will you restructure the secret service in such a way that the intelligence service and the counter-espionage department will work independently?
VM: There is a time schedule ready for structural changes. After a few months of consolidation, organizational, technical and legislative changes will be prepared. In terms of personnel changes, some organizational changes have been made with the emphasis on higher quality and better functioning of the service.
Sme: Before the former SIS director was recalled from his office, numerous document files were destroyed. Will the SIS be able to continue to work without any problems?
VM: Information about the destroying files was confirmed. Huge amounts of files were destroyed recently. After investigation and reconstruction of various cases, we will be looking for a way to get the needed information. There is a chance that the work of the SIS could be endangered. We will take all the necessary steps to avoid that.
Sme: Will the SIS keep its budget of one billion Sk ($28.6 million)?
VM: Five years ago the government approved the number of SIS staff, which has not changed. After we have revised the budget we will know whether the resources that the SIS got for this year will also be used at the same level in the next year. When the SIS starts to function normally, we will try to apply cost saving measures.
Sme: Can you assure the public that under your leadership, critics of the ruling coalition will not be followed and monitored?
VM: The SIS will be strictly non-partisan, as it is required to be by law. Criticism is part and parcel democratic society. But only in the case that laws are violated which are under the control of the SIS will these measures be applied.
Sme: Will you report on SIS operations to Parliament?
VM: According to the law, providing an annual report to Parliament is one of the SIS director's duties. I will certainly fulfill this obligation.
This interview originally appeared in the daily Sme on November 4.