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MP ADVOCATES SMARTER INTELLIGENCE BODY

New spy centre wanted

SLOVAK officials are considering the creation of a special centre that would analyse the information collected by the state's individual intelligence services.
For several months independent MP Ladislav Polka, who is a member of the special parliamentary committees for the supervision of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) and National Security Office (NBÚ), has been calling for the creation of such a centre and has even talked to Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda about the project.

SLOVAK officials are considering the creation of a special centre that would analyse the information collected by the state's individual intelligence services.

For several months independent MP Ladislav Polka, who is a member of the special parliamentary committees for the supervision of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) and National Security Office (NBÚ), has been calling for the creation of such a centre and has even talked to Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda about the project.

According to Polka, Dzurinda was willing to discuss the idea and was even prepared to take concrete steps towards its realisation if a strong proposal that adequately defined the new centre's role and tasks was prepared.

The new centre would analyse data collected by the state's independent information agencies such as the SIS, the military intelligence services VSS and VOS, and possibly even the criminal and customs intelligence services.

Polka considers the current method of control of information agencies amateurish.

According to Polka, who has been promoting the idea of the new centre since the spring of 2004, the centre is necessary because such a body could play a vital role in fighting threats to national security such as terrorism.

A politically responsible official, "especially from the executive power, from government", would coordinate the centre.

"The existing [intelligence] units may be playing their intelligence games, or may be just collecting data. However, the added value of all information is in its analysis," Polka said.

According to Interior Minister Vladimír Palko, terrorist attacks were not an immediate threat to Slovakia. However, he added that the country should not start believing that it is not an interesting target for terrorists.

"I absolutely condemn theories that say that we are not an interesting country for terrorists. Thank God nothing has happened here but when something happens it will be too late," said Polka.

Other officials have also said that they would support the creation of such a centre.

Aurel Ugor, the head of the NBÚ, said recently that it was only a matter of time before the issue of creating a centre for managing all the intelligence agencies was raised in Slovakia.

According to Ugor, the ideal centre would be one comprised of experts and independent of existing political structures.

Robert Kaliňák, head of the parliamentary defence and security committee, also supported the idea that intelligence gathering should be coordinated.

He believes that a minister without portfolio should coordinate the activities of the Slovak intelligence agencies.

"It should not be the head of the SIS, nor the head of military intelligence. There has to be a political post [and the person holding it] will be forced by the political parties to perfectly coordinate the activities of intelligence agencies," Kaliňák told the state-run news agency TASR on August 8.

"Never before was there a time such as today when we need well-functioning secret services, [and] agencies that are able to cooperate smoothly. This institute could secure that cooperation," Kaliňák added.

When he spoke about the need for such a centre back in April of this year, Polka said that under communism many Arab students attended local universities. As a consequence people who may be active in terrorist groups today could have been trained in the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

"These people know the Slovak environment and have many contacts here," Polka said at the end of April.

"In Slovakia we often tend to underestimate the meaning of the fact that terrorism is the biggest threat because it is cynical and difficult to control," he said.

Slovakia's centre should be an institution similar to the one currently being suggested in the US, following a report on the failure of its information services to predict or head off the September 11 terrorist attacks.

However, no final decision has been made in the US yet and, according to the Washington Post, several Pentagon officials are reported to have warned against the creation of a powerful national intelligence director.

In Slovakia, meanwhile, Vladimír Šimko, the spokesman for the SIS, said that, "it is hard to make a statement about the centre [as proposed by MP Polka]."

"Politicians must take a stand and we will respect that decision. However, we think that a thorough and factual expert discussion should take place on the issue prior to a decision being made," Šimko said to The Slovak Spectator on August 11.

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