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Vetting chief focus of discrediting campaign

THE NATIONAL Security Office (NBÚ) said that various former communist secret service (ŠtB) agents currently employed in Slovak security bodies have been plotting to discredit NBÚ chief Ján Mojžiš.
The NBÚ is a national vetting authority that carries out reliability tests on state employees who will have access to NATO's classified information after Slovakia joins the alliance, scheduled to take place in 2004.
On February 2, head of the NBÚ press office Juraj Puchý told journalists that the planned discrediting campaign had been based on the illegal use of information gathered through phone tapping. He would not specify the details of the case, although he did say the allegations were untrue.


JURAJ Puchý linked the discrediting campaign with the Rusko phone-tapping affair.
photo: TASR

THE NATIONAL Security Office (NBÚ) said that various former communist secret service (ŠtB) agents currently employed in Slovak security bodies have been plotting to discredit NBÚ chief Ján Mojžiš.

The NBÚ is a national vetting authority that carries out reliability tests on state employees who will have access to NATO's classified information after Slovakia joins the alliance, scheduled to take place in 2004.

On February 2, head of the NBÚ press office Juraj Puchý told journalists that the planned discrediting campaign had been based on the illegal use of information gathered through phone tapping. He would not specify the details of the case, although he did say the allegations were untrue.

"This false information was supposed to start off a discrediting campaign that would throw the abilities of the NBÚ chief in doubt, after which his recall could follow," Puchý said.

Mojžiš filed a motion with the Attorney General's Office to have the allegations investigated on January 30.

According to Puchý, the case had a common denominator with a recent affair concerning allegations that the mobile phone of Pavol Rusko, head of the ruling coalition's New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party had been illegally tapped, either by the Slovak Information Service (SIS) or the Interior Ministry. That case is also being investigated.

"[The common denominator] is the misuse of phone tapping to discredit officials, criminalisation, and blackmail, which are typical methods of the communist ŠtB," Puchý said.

Puchý added that the NBÚ had information that "there are former ŠtB members working in the SIS in positions from which they can influence some circumstances".

Puchý was not available to clarify the allegations for The Slovak Spectator on February 4, but his deputy, Miroslav Brvnišťan, said that although the NBÚ had "some inkling" who could have been behind the campaign, the office would not make public any more details.

SIS spokesman Vladimír Šimko, however, denied that the secret service was behind the alleged plot.

"I absolutely deny that the SIS is behind the discrediting campaign. It is well known that Mr Mojžiš worked in the SIS in the past and has very good relations here, on both personal and professional levels."

Šimko did admit, however, that about 10 per cent of SIS employees worked for the ŠtB in the past, mainly in technical departments. Many of these people were hired because the country lacked experts who had the necessary skills but not the ŠtB past.

"The majority of these people are in their 50s now and their number is falling steadily," he told The Slovak Spectator.

According to SIS statistics, 182 SIS employees left the service along with former SIS chief Ivan Lexa in November 1998, when current SIS director Vladimír Mitro took over. Under Lexa's leadership, the SIS was suspected of communist-era practices, including involvement in the kidnapping of the then president's son.

"The majority of those [who left the SIS with Lexa] worked for the ŠtB in the past," Šimko said.

After that first wave of departures, firing in the SIS continued, and since November 1998 as much as 36 per cent of SIS personnel have been replaced, Šimko said.

But despite this effort to clear Slovakia's security bodies of employees who used to be involved in the ŠtB, Puchý said there was still a number of such people in various security posts.

Because Slovakia is slated to join NATO in spring 2004, the country has pledged to bar compromised individuals from posts that would give them access to classified NATO information in the future. The NBÚ is the authority charged with carrying out the vettings.

Brvnišťan from the NBÚ said that as of February 4, 2,192 officials have been scrutinised by his office, and 19 were rejected from access to sensitive information, a ruling that usually costs the individuals their jobs.

According to Puchý, ŠtB agents who have not yet undergone the reliability checks could fear they will face a similar fate, giving them a motive to plot the discrediting campaign against Mojžiš.

"It is highly probable that a significant number of former ŠtB agents will not be entitled by the NBÚ to access classified NATO information," Puchý said.

Mojžiš has become a respected figure among NATO members, who have expressed their trust in his leadership of the NBÚ.

"If the discrediting campaign turned out the way whoever plotted it wanted and Mojžiš was replaced, Slovakia would have a lot of explaining to do [to NATO officials] and would lose credibility among NATO partners," said Ivo Samson, analyst with the Slovak Foreign Policy Association think tank.

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