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SECRET-SERVICE BOSS SAYS COMMUNIST-ERA AGENTS ARE 'THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL'

SIS to crack down on foreign spies, mafia

THE ACTIVITIES of foreign intelligence services, organised crime, terrorism, and illegal weapons trading are among the greatest security threats Slovakia faces today, according to the country's secret service.
In a closed session on June 19, head of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) Ladislav Pittner presented to parliament the agency's annual report, non-confidential parts of which have been released on the SIS web site.
Pittner took over as SIS boss at the beginning of April. His predecessor, Vladimír Mitro, stepped-down on March 11 following allegations that the agency had taken an active part in a wire-tapping scandal involving Pavol Rusko, deputy speaker of parliament and head of the coalition New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party.

THE ACTIVITIES of foreign intelligence services, organised crime, terrorism, and illegal weapons trading are among the greatest security threats Slovakia faces today, according to the country's secret service.

In a closed session on June 19, head of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) Ladislav Pittner presented to parliament the agency's annual report, non-confidential parts of which have been released on the SIS web site.

Pittner took over as SIS boss at the beginning of April. His predecessor, Vladimír Mitro, stepped-down on March 11 following allegations that the agency had taken an active part in a wire-tapping scandal involving Pavol Rusko, deputy speaker of parliament and head of the coalition New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party.

The report touched only briefly on this case.

"The final verdict of the [wire-tapping] investigation is not yet known. The SIS has provided, and will continue to provide, maximum collaboration, in order for this case to be objectively solved and definitely concluded," the report said on the matter.

In a separate address to the parliamentary SIS committee, Pittner reportedly blamed the high number of former collaborators of the State Security (ŠtB) - the communist-era secret service - still working at the SIS for key problems in the service.

According to insiders quoted by the SITA news agency, Pittner said former ŠtB members were "the root of all evil" at the SIS, and should be replaced by the end of the year.

Pittner's published report states that these members currently amount to 12 percent of all SIS staff.

The SIS has already launched a recruitment campaign to get new blood into the agency. On June 23 the organisation's web site announced job openings in the fields of IT, law, political science, economics, and electronics.

The service is also looking for "well-built" men with high-school education, and female high-school graduates interested in administrative work, according to the web site. No professional experience is required from applicants, and fresh graduates are encouraged to apply.

Among the security threats successful candidates may have to deal with is the presence of foreign intelligence operatives.

"In 2002, the SIS recorded an increase in the activities of intelligence services from the countries of the former USSR," the SIS report states.

It goes on to say that a diplomat from one of these countries had been expelled from Slovakia for "activities incompatible with diplomatic status".

Other SIS documents indicate that Slovakia is not the only country of the region of interest to intelligence bodies from the former Soviet bloc.

"Numerous representatives of Czech intelligence and security services have expressed serious concerns about the growing influence of Russian intelligence activities and Russian organised crime," reads the agency's "Intelligence Services in 2002" report.

Organised crime of many types is a major concern for Slovakia.

"The fight against organised crime was made difficult by the fact that a group of 'influential and successful businessmen' formed within its structures, who on the outside distanced themselves from obviously criminal figures," said the SIS report.

"With the aid of illegally gained means, they strengthened their positions in social and business circles. They pragmatically abused these relationships, especially to corrupt those state officials who granted lucrative state orders," it continues.

On corruption in the judicial system, the SIS was even more specific: "Organised criminal groups have exerted increasing influence over the decision-making of courts and prosecutors," the report states, adding that the low number of cases known to the public does not reflect the extent of the problem.

Although Slovak terrorist groups appear to be nonexistent, and the country is an unlikely target, there are worries that Slovakia may become a transit country or a logistical base for foreign terrorist groups preparing to strike against other countries.

One of three men linked to a possible cyanide attack on the London Underground arrested in November 2002 in the UK was reported to have planned his terror attack in Slovakia. The man in question, Rabah Kadre, arrived in Slovakia in November 2001 and was closely watched by Slovak police for about a year.

Additionally, in June 2001 three members of the Real Irish Republican Army were arrested in the Slovak spa town of Piešťany, where they were negotiating a deal on the purchase of weapons with MI5 agents, who were acting as agents of the Iraqi secret service.

Real arms trading is also of major interest to the SIS. Among other facts, the report states that the SIS monitored Slovak companies that were in contact with Victor Bout, an international arms dealer of Tajik origin known for supplying weapons to embargoed countries.

In the past, the SIS itself has been accused of involvement in illegal arms dealing. In its December 2002 issue, the British magazine Jane's Intelligence Review wrote that the SIS organised weapons deals, worked closely with the Russian secret service, and used "dirty tricks" such as blackmailing politicians and journalists.

Mitro, then head of the SIS, denied all such charges. The recent report did not touch on any of these issues. However, it did acknowledge that the service does not have a good reputation with the public.


Selected SIS statistics for 2002

SIS budget Sk991,000 (€24,000)
Cases in which SIS used wire-tapping 611
Number of monitored Slovak dailies 24
Number of monitored Slovak weeklies 32
Received amount of information per day 450 megabytes
Stored amount of information per day 80 megabytes
Number of translations from foreign media 3,051

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