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International Journal of Intelligence and

CounterIntelligence

ISSN: 0885-0607 (Print) 1521-0561 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ujic20

The Czech Experience With Intelligence Reforms,


19932010

Stphane Lefebvre

To cite this article: Stphane Lefebvre (2011) The Czech Experience With Intelligence Reforms,
19932010, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 24:4, 692-710, DOI:
10.1080/08850607.2011.598785

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/08850607.2011.598785

Published online: 14 Sep 2011.

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International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 24: 692710, 2011
Copyright # Crown Copyright
ISSN: 0885-0607 print=1521-0561 online
DOI: 10.1080/08850607.2011.598785
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STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

The Czech Experience With Intelligence


Reforms, 19932010

Upon assuming its new statehood on 1 January 1993, the Czech Republic
embarked on a journey to transform itself into an ordinary European
society and nation, its Constitution making clear that it would be a
law-abiding and democratic state founded on respect for the rights and
freedoms of its citizens.1 To reach the journeys final destination of fully
returning to Europe by joining its supranational and intergovernmental
institutions, the government gave precedence to political, social, and
economic transformations over security matters. 2 No serious public
debates informed the decisions that had to be made on the shape, form,
and functions of the countrys postCold War intelligence apparatus. The
new elites were poorly equipped to deal with securityand particularly
intelligencematters because of both their serious lack of expertise and the
more compelling competing priorities requiring their attention.
Fundamental questions were thus not answered, and very few asked: Did
the country really need an intelligence community (IC)? For what purpose?
Of what size? How powerful should it be? And under whose control? The
public, for its part, was distrustful and concerned that the intelligence
services could again be turned against them.3

Stephane Lefebvre was Section HeadStrategic Analysis at the Centre for


Operational Research and Analysis (CORA), Defence Research and
Development Canada (DRDC), Ottawa when this article was written. He
has written extensively on intelligence and security issues. The views
expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official
position of the government of Canada or any of its departments and agencies.

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RESTRUCTURING THE IC
Czechoslovakias monolithic Cold War Statn bezpecnost (StBState
Security)4 was broken up, and certain renamed legacy services emerged
prior to the proper legislation being enactedwith a reduced span of
control and responsibility. Effectiveness was an afterthought: the lines of
accountability and control were confusing, and rivalries among services
common.5 A new leadership was put in place that had no links with the
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former StB, but they were dilettantes with good intentions.6 StB officers
sacked after the Prague Spring of 1968 were recalled and used to help
devise new intelligence policies, which were then interpreted and
implemented by the old guard of post-1968 StB officers.7 These veterans
were kept on in continually decreasing numbers until a new professional
class of intelligence officers took their place. Otherwise, the country could
not have had any credible protection.8 The new Czech Republic kept the
impetus of overcoming the legacy of Communism and remained wary of
giving too much power to any single intelligence service. Eventually, it
purged most of the StB officers, and received training assistance from the
United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany for
the new recruits. But former dissidents were not usually a good match for
intelligence work, and in its first ten years the Czech intelligence
community suffered some spectacular failures, registered a few
considerable successes and had its fair share of scandals, particularly in the
mid-90s.9
Lustrationthe removal of former Communists and StB collaborators
from important government positions, including intelligencewas unevenly
applied, resulting in political witchhunts and, too often, the suspension of
the presumption of innocence. Several former StB officials and
collaborators kept their employment within the intelligence community up
to the late 1990s and beyond, either under the protection of the authorities
(e.g., through the issuance of negative certificates) or by fraudulent or
deceptive means. The progressive declassification of StB files, and the
publication of the names of those who collaborated with or who were
agents of the StB, further diminishes the possibility that ex-StB members
or agents are still being employed in important positions within the
intelligence community. But, as Vaclav Havel has noted, nearly two
decades after the end of Communism, a policeman [...] is still
unconsciously seen as an enemy of the citizen.10

Areas of Concern
Fortunately, the inexperience and lack of knowledge of intelligence matters
exhibited by the new governing elites did not have dire consequences. The
security of the state was believed to be assured by international guarantees,

AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 24, NUMBER 4


694 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

and by association with the rest of Europe. While no direct military threat to
the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Czech Republic developed, the
intelligence services, in their annual reports prior to the terrorist attacks of 11
September 2001 (9=11), saw a residual threat expressing itself in diverse
activitiesranging from the illicit trade in arms and narcotics, to terrorism,
militant nationalism, illegal migration, the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction, and serious economic crimes. The threat from espionage was
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also highlighted in these reports, as Russia and a few other states quickly
became very interested in the policy orientations of the new Republic, its
control of economic assets, and its arms industry. To this day, the threat of
espionage from Russia, in particular, has not been seen as abating, with a
large presence of foreign intelligence officers and agents allegedly operating
under diplomatic status and under nontraditional cover.
Terrorism is decidedly a concern of the intelligence services but not a major
threat. The Czech Republic is a small state, and its military involvement in
Iraq and Afghanistan is not well known outside its borders. The number
of Muslim extremists on its territory is estimated to be extremely small to
nonexistent amidst a Muslim community of about 20,000 people that is
considered moderate. The intelligence services remain vigilant to all
potential sources of terrorism, conscious that their country belongs to the
West, is an ally of the United States, and offers local and foreign targets
of interest. Prior to the attacks of 9=11, the only specific and serious threat
to the Czech Republic had originated in Saddam Husseins Iraq. It
concerned an attack, which was successfully diverted, by Iraqi intelligence
operatives on the Prague building of the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty=Radio
Free Europe. Statements by the Czech Interior Minister alleging that
Mohammed Atta, one of the 9=11 hijackers, had met with an Iraqi
intelligence official in Prague prior to 9=11 were categorically rejected by
the U.S. 9=11 Commission.11
Despite the events on 9=11, and the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and
London in July 2005, only a minuscule number of Czechs consider terrorism a
serious problem(two percent in spring 2005; three percent in fall 2005; and
one percent in spring 2006)at least for their country. But the Czechs seem to
recognize that terrorism is a threat to the wider European region and the
world, and as such have expressed their support to the European Unions
(EU) giving priority to the fight against terrorism (twenty-four percent in
fall 2005). This level of support may be explained by other reasonsfor
instance by the Czechs lack of confidence in the ability of their national
institutions (thirty-four percent in spring 2006) to adequately respond to the
problem, or perhaps their inadequate knowledge of the nature of the
terrorist problem and of what would be required to tackle it efficiently.12
Certainly more preoccupying for the general public are the activities of
neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists, and of organized crime syndicates.

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THE MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT AND INTELLIGENCE


Despite a general disinterest and a low level of understanding of
intelligence,13 Czech politicians nonetheless recognized that at some point
they would have to deal with security and intelligence matters. This was
necessary, not only to provide a sense of legitimacy to the intelligence
servicesoften perceived with contempt and revulsion by the public14but
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more importantly to ensure that past excesses would never be repeated,


and the rights and freedom of citizens respected. Within two years of the
breakup of the federated state, the intelligence services of the new Czech
Republic were operating within a legislative framework that provided for
executive accountability, parliamentary oversight, and legal compliance.
This framework eventually rested on three key pieces of legislation. 15
Umbrella legislation was passed in July 1994 (Act No. 153=1994 on the
Intelligence Services of the Czech Republic) giving legal status to the
intelligence services then in existence. The umbrella Act required the
intelligence services to perform their respective functions in a manner that
protects the constitution, vital economic interests, and the security and
defense of the Republic. It specified the services competencies, the
appointment of their directors, and their taskings and coordination, and
was supplemented by Act No. 154=1994 on the Bezpecnostn informacn
sluzba (BISSecurity Information Service), and Act No. 289=2005 on the
Vojenske zpravodajst (VZMilitary Intelligence). The Urad pro zahranicn
styky a informace (UZSIOffice for Foreign Relations and Information),
never subject to an Act of its own, finds its legal legitimacy in the umbrella
Act.16
The eighteen-month delay in providing an initial legal footing to all the
intelligence services was due largely to internal debates over the number of
services needed. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus (19921997) supported BIS
Director Stanislav Devaty (19931996), who had suggested merging the
BIS with UZSI, a move that was opposed by Interior Minister Jan Ruml
(19921997) and Foreign Affairs Minister Josef Zeleniec (19931997), who
had insisted that foreign services had to operate under a different legal
framework than the security intelligence services. Ruml and Zeleniec won
the debate. The umbrella Act thus codified the existing intelligence
structure instead of creating a new one, keeping the UZSI subordinated to
the Interior Ministry, and the BIS to the entire government.
Although Klaus involved himself in a debate on the number of intelligence
services needed, he and his immediate successors, Josef Tosovsky (January
June 1998) and Milos Zeman (19982002), were widely believed to have little
interest in intelligence matters. According to Klauss UZSI Director, Oldrich
Cerny (19931998), Klaus had an instinctive aversion to military and
intelligence issues, 17 and would have quipped that he did not need

AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 24, NUMBER 4


696 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

intelligence service[s]. CNN is enough for me.18 Michal Stikar, who worked
for the Narodn bezpecnostn urad (NBUNational Security Office) and the
Urad dokumentace a vysetrovan zlocinu komunismu (UDVOffice for the
Documentation and the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism),
characterized the interest of Czech prime ministers in intelligence as follows:

Milos Zeman dared to touch them from time to time only to observe
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(quite pertinently, to be sure) that they are nonsense. Vladimr Spidla,


in turn, was so fascinated by the behind-the-scenes microworld of
intelligence that he studied them at night. [Stanislav] Gross and [Jir]
Paroubek, too, showed certain degrees of fascinationone was nave,
and the other purposeful. The latest prime minister to date, Mirek
Topolanek, obviously has no time for such trifles.19

To his credit, Tosovsky picked Tomas Kadlec from the BIS to be his advisor
on intelligence matters for the duration of his caretaker administration.
Kadlec was seen by many politicians as an experienced and competent
official, although he had been among those who had criticized Devatys
leadership. When he became prime minister, Milos Zeman retained Kadlec
as his advisor on intelligence matters, but within a few weeks appointed
him NBU Director. As prime minister (20022004), Vladimr Spidla
immersed himself in the intelligence world like no other prime ministers.
He coordinated the activities of the BIS, as he had done as deputy prime
minister in Zemans government, but also coordinated the work of the
Bezpecnostn rada status (BRSNational Security Council) Vybor pro
zpravodajskou cinnost (VZCCommittee on Intelligence Activities), as
mandated by the BRS statute of August 2001. The premierships of
Stanislav Gross (20042005), Jir Paroubek (20052006), and Jan Fischer
(20092010) kept intelligence matters on the agenda, but they did not
a l w a y s u n d e r s t a n d t h e m w e l l . In c o m p a r i s o n t o hi s i m m e d i a t e
predecessors, Mirek Topolanek (20062009) was uninterested. For
instance, he did not meet once with UZSI Director Karel Randak between
winning the June 2006 elections and April 2007.

ORGANIZING THE COMMUNITY


Priority setting and coordination of intelligence activities have proven
difficult to get right. Until the BRS was established in 1998, the Council
for the Coordination of the Intelligence Services, set up by a resolution of
the Czech and Slovak Federal Republics in 1992, was meant to formulate
tasks for the services and assess their performance.20 Absent a chairperson,
Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus assumed the role and convened the Councils
first meeting in March 1993. He famously opened its proceedings by
saying: If I could I would dissolve you all but I probably would not get

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away with it. So, whats on the agenda?21 From 1993 to 1997, the Council
met on average once or twice a year without coordinating or approving
anything, and proposals to reform the Council failed to reach consensus.
Pavel Bratinka, a Minister without Portfolio, was appointed to head the
Council in July 1996, with the task of getting the Council restarted and
clarifying its powers through legislation. The Council held its first meeting
under Bratinkas leadership that September, and its second meeting a
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month later. During the first session, non-intelligence service members


reached the conclusion that the Council had no powers, while during
the second session intelligence service members opposed any changes
affecting the Councils authority. After public disclosures that the
intelligence services were rarely, if ever, given proper assignments by the
government, the Council drafted a set of tasks which the government
approved in October 1997.22
After the 1998 elections, Jaroslav Basta, who previously chaired the
Permanent Commission for the Control of the BIS, became a Minister
without Portfolio with jurisdiction over the Council. An avid critic of the
BIS, he quickly unveiled a reform plan that would subordinate the BIS to
the Interior Ministry, disband the UZSI, and merge the Vojenska
zpravodajska sluzba (VZSMilitary Intelligence Service) and the Vojenske
obranne zpravodajst (VOZMilitary Defense Intelligence), but that failed
to attain consensus. In November 1998, he announced that a
comprehensive audit of the intelligence services activities would soon be
conducted. According to former UZSI Director Petr Zeman (19982001),
the audit was not done well because the questionnaire on which it was
based was inappropriate for the task: in his opinion, it was poorly
structured, and could not capture the distinguishing features of each
service. In the spring of 2000, the audit had become an exercise in damage
limitation for each of the services, which were by then protesting and
opposing its use. The results came out in early 2001, but for Zeman it was
just a waste of time. 23 In March 2000, Basta was replaced by Karel
Brezina, the chief of the Office of the Government. But Brezina did not
take over all Bastas intelligence responsibilities, as Prime Minister Zeman
indicated that he might assume these responsibilities himself. Zeman
confirmed, however, that the work done by Basta on changes to
intelligence-related laws would be passed on to Brezina. In April 2000,
Zeman asked his Labor and Social Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime
Minister, Vladimr Spidla, to coordinate the BIS.

Coordinating Activities
The same month, President Vaclav Havel suggested that the BSR take over
the coordination of the intelligence services, given that it had responsibilities

AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 24, NUMBER 4


698 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

for the coordination of activities relating to the security of the Czech


Republic. 24 Prime Minister Zeman was reported to be thinking along
similar lines, suggesting that the Council be replaced with an intelligence
activity committee (the VZC) within the BSR that would be chaired by the
Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign and Security Policy. The new
committee would manage, coordinate, and control the activities of the
intelligence services, and ensure that they cooperate and exchange
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information. At the 25 April 2000 meeting of the BRS, the Council finally
ended its business, and on 3 May the government accepted the BRSs
recommendation to create the VZC, whose meetings are chaired by the
Prime Minister.
In preparation for the 2002 Prague NATO Summit, representatives of the
Police, the intelligence services, and of the Interior and Foreign Affairs
ministries began meeting to coordinate their activities and exchange
intelligence on terrorism, illegal immigration, and organized crime. The
ad hoc group met again when the tension around the impending United
States invasion of Iraq arose in early 2003, and on the day of the July
2005 terrorist bombing attacks in London. A week prior to the London
event, the Prague government had wisely decided to give a more
permanent footing to this interagency grouping, now known as the
Spolecne zpravodajske skupiny (SZSJoint Intelligence Group), as a
permanent VZC working body. That month, the government also
authorized the development of a new classified communication system that
would link, inter alia, the Government Office, the Defense, Foreign
Affairs, and Interior ministries, the NBU, BIS, and UZSI.
On the 2006 anniversary of 9=11, newly elected Prime Minister Topolanek
made the fight against terrorism a priority of his right-of-center
government, and aimed at improving coordination among the intelligence
services. He believed that pooling all terrorism-related intelligence in a
single place for its assessment and dissemination was a good idea,
although it had been broached by his left-of-center predecessor in the
form of a proposal for a counterterrorism center. Such a center,
promoted by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan (20042006) and UZSI
(which Bublan headed 20012004), would have had some 3050 officials
from the ranks of the police and intelligence services to conduct all-source
intelligence analysis and coordinate cooperation with foreign services. The
Police supported the idea, but wanted to take the lead in setting up the
center. But the new Interior Minister, Ivan Langer (20062009), was not
convinced that the government should move so quickly, and was
sceptical about the idea of a separate police unit.25 In any event, plans
for a counterrorism center were not implemented that year. On 13
September, Topolaneks cabinet tasked the BIS Director to act as
coordinator of the fight against terrorism, and in so doing to collect,

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analyze, and disseminate the terrorism intelligence gathered by the other


intelligence services and the Police. Bublan was clearly disappointed,
noting that it likely wouldnt work because Now they will start
disputing over who has and who does not have certain powers and who
should provide information to whom.26 Within twenty months, Langer
reversed his position following visa negotiations with the United States,
and announced that, finally, a counterterrorism center would be
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established within Police structures. Set within the walls of the


headquarters of the Utvar pro odhalovan organizovaneho zlocinu
(UOOZOffice for Uncovering Organized Crime), it started its
operations on 30 March 2009, staffed entirely with Police officials and
with a mandate to cooperate with Czech intelligence services and similar
centers in Europe.
While issues of coordination and effectiveness in the fight against terrorism
were gradually sorted out with some degree of satisfaction, proposals that
surfaced in the aftermath of 9=11 to increase the powers of the intelligence
services went nowherelargely because of concerns that they would
unnecessarily infringe on peoples rights to privacy, and of a lack of
serious political will. These proposals revolved essentially around allowing
intelligence services (primarily the BIS) to obtain from telecommunications
companies various kinds of information on mobile phone users, to shut
down mobile networks, to place wiretaps without court authorization
in some circumstances (e.g., on individuals involved in the planning of
an imminent terrorist attack), and to directly access any governmental or
non-governmental databases (such as those maintained, for example, by
banks, airlines, social security and health services, the Industry and Trade
Ministry, and the Finance Ministry).

Combining Forces
Sporadically after 9=11, the debate on the number of intelligence services the
Czech Republic should have, and in what configuration, would reignite. In
2006, Topolanek would use the issue as an excuse to remove from his
leadership position UZSIs Director, Karel Randak (20042006). 27
Randaks dismissal coincided with the governments announcement that it
had tasked the BRS to report by 31 October on a detailed proposal on the
future organization of the intelligence services. The government was
already eyeing a merger of the UZSI with the BIS, and prematurely
appointed BIS Director Jir Lang (2003) to head the joint service yet to
be created. (Randak remained employed with UZSI and served as Langs
advisor until he left public service on 31 March 2007).28
The VZC, however, did not report until May 2007, when it concluded
t h a t t h e U Z S I a n d t h e B I S s h o u l d n o t m e r g e . I n s t e a d , i t s

AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 24, NUMBER 4


700 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

recommendations were aligned with Langer, favoring a merger of the UZSI


with the VZs foreign intelligence component, and a merger of the BIS with
the VZs counterintelligence component. In the course of 2007, the VZC
worked on a draft bill to effect these changes. In March 2008, the BRS
endorsed the VZCs draft bill. The new services would be responsible to
government, with the Prime Minister taking the role of intelligence
coordinator. The bill also included many of the proposals of past left-of-
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center governments to increase the powers of intelligence agencies, despite


the fact that Topolanek had always opposed them while his right-of-
center party was in opposition. When Topolanek presented his
governments proposed amendments to the Act on Intelligence Services to
the Chamber of Deputies Defense and Security Committee in April, he
was roundly criticized, even by members of his own party, for presenting
the amendments without having ever discussed them with deputies in the
eighteen months taken to prepare them. The Committee thus adjourned
without endorsing the governments proposal, although it called for
further studies offering a range of options instead of a single one, and set
up an expert working group composed of deputies and intelligence
officials to that effect.
Jan Fischers interim government (20092010), which succeeded
Topolanek in May 2009, lacked enthusiasm to reform the intelligence
system, despite statements by his Deputy Prime Minister and Defense
Minister, Martin Bartak, that the country should have only two
intelligence agenciesone civilian and one militaryand that a decision in
2011 on this would be welcome.29

STRUCTURAL COMPONENTS
Narodn Bezpecnostn urad (NBUNational Security Office)
The NBU, though not classified as one of the Czech Republics intelligence
agencies, is intrinsically linked to intelligence. Created by the Act on the
Protection of Classified Information which took effect in 1998, the NBU
is responsible for granting access to classified information to government
officials after they have been successfully vetted on the basis of
information provided by the intelligence agencies and other criteria, as
stipulated in the Act, and for acting as the national technical authority
for the protection of classified information. The NBUs Director has the
final decision on the granting of a security clearance certificate to
government employees, with the exception of the intelligence services and
the Interior Ministry, which can grant certificates to their own employees.
In 2001, the Constitutional Court ruled that not allowing individuals to
contest the NBUs decisions was unconstitutional, and an infringement of
the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom. The government

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therefore amended the Act by introducing a judicial review process. While


the courts cannot grant a security clearance, they can order the
reassessment of an applicant.
Throughout the first decade of its existence, the NBU was mired by
internecine and interagency conflicts which resulted in accusations of
improprieties and a high turnover in personnel. Conflicts between the
NBU and the BIS were particularly trenchant.30 The first NBU Director,
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Pavel Kolar, kept his job for only a few weeks. With the opposition
winning the 1998 elections, he was quickly dismissed and replaced by
Tomas Kadlec. Kadlec faced a lot of criticism over the time required to
screen security clearance applicants (2,500 applicants out of 18,000 were
cleared during the NBUs first year). The government realized that the
high number of applicants exceeded capacity, and had a severe financial
impact on the NBU and the intelligence services.31 To rectify the situation,
the government decided to amend the law to allow the intelligence services
and the Interior Ministry to screen their own employees and to draft a
regulation reducing the scope of people needing a security clearance.
In May 2003, the lingering disputes between the NBU and the BIS led
Kadlec and BIS Director Jir Ruzek to tender their resignations to Prime
Minister Spidla. Kadlecs Deputy and successor, Jan Mares, conducted an
internal audit on the certificates issued between 1999 and 2002, finding
that the NBU was too lenient in granting certificates to former StB
collaborators or agents in cases where their files were assumed to have
been destroyed. The audit further noted that file management was lax,
with signatures, dates, and decision rationales often missing. And, in some
cases, applicants were evaluated by an intelligence service having
insufficient information to do a proper assessment (e.g., the UZSI instead
of the BIS). Kadlec, who headed the NBU during the period covered by
the audit, told reporters that he had at times been under pressure by
politicians to grant certificates. Mares, too, found himself in trouble. He
resigned in February 2006 after being heard on a wiretap discussing access
to the Presidential Office with Judge Jir Berka, who had been indicted for
corruption in connection with fraudulent bankruptcies. Mares had also
been slow in firing a protege who had been connected to an alleged
underworld figure.
Police officer Petr Hostek replaced Mares shortly before the June 2006
parliamentary elections. Hostek wanted to stabilize the NBU, and keep it
out of the news media. Understanding that his appointment so close to the
elections would make it a temporary one, he tendered his resignation to
Prime Minister Topolanek in September. He was eventually replaced by
BIS Deputy Director Dusan Navratil, a former NBU Deputy Director.
Navratil has kept a low profile, not granting his first media interview until
twenty months after taking office.

AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 24, NUMBER 4


702 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

Bezpecnostn Informacn Sluzba (BISSecurity Information


Service)
The BIS is required to provide government with intelligence on:

. intentions and activities threatening to the democratic system, the sovereignty,


and the territorial integrity of the Czech Republic;
foreign intelligence services;
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.
. threats to the protection of classified information;
. threats to the security or important economic interests of the Czech Republic; and
. organized crime and terrorism.

BIS intelligence officers have no law enforcement or prosecutorial powers.


They gather intelligence through court-authorized electronic means (such as
the interception of postal deliveries and telecommunications, when no other
methods would succeed and the the violation of rights would not be beyond
what is strictly necessary); physical surveillance; and the use of persons
acting for its benefits (agents, informers). The BIS can also use cover
instruments and documentation. The BIS is not accountable to a single
minister, but instead to the entire cabinet. In addition to classified annual
reports to the government (an unclassified version is made available to the
public), the BIS provides specific reports to the President and members of
the government, relevant state institutions, the Police, UZSI, and the VZ. It
also provides advice, when requested, on citizenship, permanent residence,
refugee matters, and diplomatic visa applicants, as well as on license
requests for the export of military equipment and dual-use products.
In its early years, the BIS was often engulfed in controversies that
negatively affected its work environment. In November 1996, Sylva
Sauerova, one of Director Stanislav Devatys deputies, resigned her
position and wrote the Interior Ministry that Devaty had consistently
failed to effectively manage and supervise his service, and that he had
improperly disclosed classified information. Devaty denied having
committed any of the alleged wrongdoings, and noted that Sauerova had
resigned two months after he had decided to reassign her, a move she
allegedly did not appreciate. However, in light of the controversy, and
unproven allegations by another political party in the governing coalition
that his service had illegally followed politicians,32 Devaty decided to resign.
He was purposefully succeeded by a director having had no involvement in
intelligence, was not member of a political party, but who was acceptable to
the coalition in power. Soon after his appointment, Karel Vulterin33 (1997
1999) set up an internal commission with the mission to prepare a blueprint
for a restructuring of the BIS. Vulterin also vowed to make the BIS more
transparent to the public; he appointed the first BIS spokesperson, and led
the way for the release of the first BIS public report on its activities.

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Within a year of his appointment, however, members of the Permanent


Commission for the Control of the BIS criticized the changes he had made
as cosmetic, especially with respect to transparency, or inadequatefor
example, in appointing deputies who were not a good fit for intelligence
workand in not firing troublemakers. Off the record, cabinet ministers
reached similar conclusions, but in light of upcoming elections saw no
point in dismissing Vulterin immediately. While Vulterin was retained by
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Milos Zemans government, he and the BIS continued to be heavily


criticized by Minister Jaroslav Basta.
Widespread government dissatisfaction with the BIS, and allegations that
Vulterin may have acted illegally (i.e., by failing to inform government of a
threat and of recruiting an Iraqi operative), led to his sacking in January
1999. A few days before his dismissal, the name and residence of a
British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) officer listed as a counsellor at
the British Embassy were leaked to the media. The assumption was that
the information was leaked by BIS officers, allegedly because the British
official would have sent a letter to Minister Basta informing him of the
case. On 1 July, Colonel Jir Ruzek, the head of the VOZ, became the
new BIS Director. He had no party affiliation, but contrary to Vulterin,
had acquired a lot of experience from working within the
post-Communist intelligence community. Speaking to the media after his
appointment, Ruzek stated that his first priorities would be to stabilize
the BIS and improve the security clearance process. Within a year, Prime
Minister Zeman would attribute improvements in BIS reports to Ruzeks
leadership.
While Ruzek became a favorite of Prime Minister Vladimr Spidla, with
whom he met regularly, he made enemies of Spidlas Interior and Defense
ministers, not only because of the BIS-NBU disputes, but also because of
alleged BIS activities that would have encroached on the ministers private
lives. Following his joint resignation with Kadlec, his deputy, Colonel Jir
Lang,34 another veteran intelligence officer, took over, first in an acting
capacity and, as of June 2003, on a permanent basis to this day.

Urad Pro Zahranicn Styky a Informace (UZSIOffice for Foreign


Relations and Information)
The UZSI collects foreign intelligence related to the protection of the Czech
Republics foreign policy and economic interests, foreign terrorist activities,
and threats to NATO interests worldwide. Often accused of
overwhelmingly relying on open sources, the UZSI also gathers intelligence
through human sources and technical means. It monitors publicly available
international communications from the Czech Republic (though it is not
authorized to install and exploit wiretaps), and exchanges intelligence with

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704 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

allied intelligence services.35 Its small size and budget do not allow the UZSI
to have or place a high number of human sources abroad. Because the BIS is
generally seen as the premier Czech intelligence service, the UZSI is often
afflicted by a lack of political=government direction and interest for its
intelligence operations and products.
UZSIs Director is appointed and dismissed by the Interior Minister upon
government approval. He is therefore directly accountable to the Minister,
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but the UZSI remains an independent state entity receiving only certain
services from the Ministry. This means that the Minister cannot task the
UZSI himself, as only the government as a whole can. The UZSIs budget,
however, is a part of the Ministrys budget. The Foreign Ministry is the
UZSIs primary customer and recipient of its reports and analyses. Given
the UZSIs particular reporting construct, its relationship with the Foreign
Ministry took about a half-decade to cement.36
The UZSIs early leadership was criticized for its lack of relevant
experience. Its first Director, Oldrich Cerny (19931998), and one of his
key deputies, Rudolf Ruzicka, were men of letters closely associated with
President Havel. Although Cernys tenure was relatively quiet, in 1997 he
faced two crises (the loss of a laptop containing service information and
allegations of financial improprieties by his staff) that forced him to
tender his resignation, which was turned down by Interior Minister
Ruml. 37 A few weeks after the July 1998 elections, Cerny resigned.
Zemans new government appointed the head of the BIS School, Petr
Zeman (19982001), to succeed him. In early 2001, he resigned for health
reasons, and was replaced by another BIS veteran, Frantisek Bublan
(20012004). Bublans tenure proved to be uncontroversial. After he was
named Interior Minister-designate in mid-2004 by the new Prime
Minister, Stanislav Gross, he emphasized the need for the various
intelligence services to improve their sharing of intelligence. Although the
services were believed to closely cooperate, too often, he noted, the
sharing of relevant intelligence happened after an event had occurred. As
incoming Interior Minister, Bublan expressed his intention of
interconnecting the intelligence databases maintained by each service. He
was succeeded as UZSI Director by his operations deputy and yet
another BIS veteran, Karel Randak. In May 2007, after the Lang
interregnum (20062007), Ivo Schwarz, UZSIs Deputy Director since
2003, was appointed Director.

Vojenske Zpravodajst (VZMilitary Intelligence)


The new Czech state restructured its military intelligence apparatus through
Act No. 153=1994, which formally amalgamated the Vojenske obranne
zpravodajst (VOZMilitary Defense Intelligence), set up by the 1992 Act

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THE CZECH EXPERIENCE WITH INTELLIGENCE 705

on Military Counterintelligence, and the Vojenska zpravodajska sluzba


(VZSMilitary Intelligence Service), which had replaced the Zpravodajska
sluzba generalnho stabu (ZSGSIntelligence Service of the General Staff),
into a new service, the VZ. The thenVZ Director was appointed and
subsequently dismissed by the Defense Minister upon advice from the
Chief of the General Staff. Although the VZ Director was atop two
distinct components, the VOZ and the VZS, each largely carried out its
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activities independentlythe VOZ with a direct reporting line to the


Minister of Defense, and the VZS with a direct reporting line to the Chief
of the General Staffa situation which persisted until 2003.
The VOZ took responsibility for gathering information about foreign
military intelligence services and threats directed at defense information,
personnel, and installations. The VZS took responsibility for gathering
information on foreign intentions and activities that could represent a
military threat to the Czech Republic, and for performing the
intelligence function within the General Staff and formations of the
Armed Forces. It therefore has responsibility for military reconnaissance
and electronic warfare at the strategic level, and for military and air
attaches at Czech embassies abroad. In the absence of direct military
threats to the Czech Republics territory, the VZS has been gathering
intelligence on threats to Czech military components deployed on United
Nations (UN), NATO, or European Union missions, and paying careful
attention to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,
international terrorism, information warfare, and foreign defense
economic issues.
The VOZ and the VZS have often been mired in scandals of all kinds,
involving not-always-proven allegations about the sheltering of former
Communist intelligence staff, the compromise and leaks of classified
information, abuse of office, attempted murder, and corruption. As a
result, both components have experienced staffing and morale problems,
and frequent changes in leadership.
By 2004, the government clearly had to correct the ambiguities that had
resulted from the operations of one intelligence service being performed
among three relatively distinct entities. Act No. 289=2005 on the VZ was
the chosen instrument to affect meaningful changes once and for all. The
Act effectively eliminated the legal existence of both the VOZ and the
VZS, merging them into a single service with a single director to be
appointed by the Defense Minister with the agreement of government.
The VZ Director is now directly accountable to the Minister with respect
to the performance of his duties. The Act also modified the power of
military intelligence to conduct wiretaps by subjecting them to a court
order. It also authorized the employment of civilians in the performance of
military intelligence duties.

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706 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

OVERSIGHT
The Czech intelligence services do not operate independently from any
vertical or horizontal accountability. They are vertically accountable to the
executive level of government, and their activities and powers subject to
Acts of Parliament. While vertical accountability is regularly asserted, it is
a necessary but insufficient condition to ensure that intelligence services
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function within accepted democratic norms. Horizontal accountability to


the legislative and judicial branches of government and the general public
is equally essential. 38 Act No. 153=1994 provided for parliamentary
supervision, as defined by specific legislation. The Permanent Commission
for the Control of the BIS (set up in 1994) and the one for the VOZ (set
up in 1997) were subsequently established. But the VOZ ceased its
activities when Act No. 289=2005 established a Permanent Commission for
the Control of the VZ. A permanent commission was never established for
the UZSI, but one was established for the NBU when the new law on the
protection of classified information took effect in January 2006. Questions
on the UZSIs activities can, however, be addressed to the Interior
Minister in the Chamber of Deputies. The UZSI is also responsive to the
interests of the Chamber of Deputies Defense and Security Committee
and Foreign Affairs Committee in its activities.
Pursuant to their respective enabling legislation, the Permanent
Commissions are entitled to receive specific information from their respective
directors, for example their draft budgets, written terms of reference for
government taskings, and copies of internal regulations. The Commissions,
in turn, can request reports on the activities of their service, reports on their
use of intelligence methods once an operation is closed, and information on
the number and focus of ongoing cases. If a Commission has grounds to
believe that activities may restrict or infringe the rights and freedoms of
Czech citizens, the Commission may request the Director to provide an
explanation. If it discovers that an employee has broken the law, it must
inform the BIS Director and the Supreme State Prosecutor. Deputies are
legally bound to preserve the secrecy of what they have heard or received,
unless relieved of that obligation by a resolution of the Chamber of Deputies.
In addition to the Chamber of Deputies Permanent Commissions, its
Defense and Security Committee also plays a role, as it must be consulted
prior to the appointment of service directors by the government.
Intelligence activities can be examined by the courts when a violation of
the law is justifiably suspected. Trials that involve the use of classified
information are not open to the public, and held in camera. Defense
lawyers must obtain a security clearance from the NBU in order to be
present at the trial of their client if it involves classified information.
Rights enumerated in the Charter of Rights and Freedom may be limited

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THE CZECH EXPERIENCE WITH INTELLIGENCE 707

only in cases when a more important reason and inevitable circumstances


arise. Judicial review through the Constitutional Court is permissible, and
subsequent recourse to the European Court of Human Rights is available
if necessary.
While horizontal accountability appears to be effective, discussions on
other models (British, Canadian, etc.) often recur, and Deputies regularly
express dissatisfaction about their powers to probe ongoing intelligence
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activities. Expertise and experience in dealing with difficult and sensitive


situations, especially those scandalized by the media, are still in short
supply, but the situation will improve as the intelligence system and all
those involved in it mature professionally.

DISCORD CONTINUES
Throughout most of its existence, the Czech intelligence community has been
subjected to half-hearted, poorly thought out attempts at reform,
coordination, and cooperation which have compounded the animosity that
developed early on among the various intelligence services, in particular
between the BIS and the UZSI. Despite the creation of the VZC, the
institutionalization of the SZS, and the establishment of the
counterterrorism center, a lack of communication among the agencies
involved in the fight against terrorism continues to be a problem. The
situation was again explicitly recognized in a report approved by the
government in March 2010. An action plan to improve communication,
encourage research and education on national security issues, and better
inform the general public was subsequently developed. These steps are
essential for the continuing development of an effective and accountable
Czech intelligence community.

REFERENCES
1
Rick Fawn, The Czech Republic: A Nation of Velvet (Amsterdam: Harwood
Academic Publishers, 2000), pp. xixii.
2
On the strategic culture that emerged in the new Czech Republic, see Stephane
Lefebvre, The Czech Republic and National Security, 19931998: The
Emergence of a Strategic Culture, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol. 23,
No. 2, 2010, pp. 328369.
3
Petr Zeman, The Transformation of the Intelligence Services, in
Transformation: The Czech Experience (Prague: People in Need, 2006),
pp. 121122.
4
The StB played an essential role in sustaining the Czechoslovak Communist
regime, which used it to divide and conquer in a world where everything
was political. After the Warsaw Pact intervention in 1968, the Communist

AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 24, NUMBER 4


708 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

regime increased its oppression of dissidents and its effort in weeding out the
politically unreliable, measures that lasted until the very end. Vaclav Havel,
To the Castle and Back (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), pp. 4, 5455.
Quotation from p. 62.
5
Greg Hannah, Kevin A. OBrien, and Andrew Rathmell, Intelligence and
Security Legislation for Security Sector Reform, Technical Report (Santa
Monica: RAND Corporation, 2005), pp. 2830; Larry L. Watts, Intelligence
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Reform in Europes Emerging Democracies, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 48,


No. 1, 2004, p. 24.
6
Petr Zeman, The Transformation of the Intelligence Services, p. 119.
7
Ibid.
8
Ibid., p. 122.
9
Oldrich Cerny, Czechoslovak (Czech) Intelligence After the Cold War,
Conference Paper (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of
Armed Forces, October 2002), pp. 56. Quote is from p. 11.
10
Vaclav Havel, To the Castle and Back, p. 26.
11
The 9=11 Commission Report: Final Report of theNational Commission on
Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (Washington, DC: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 2004), p. 229.
12
Vera Rihackova, Counterterrorism Policies in Central Europe (Prague: Europeum
Institute for European Policy, November 2006), pp. 1719.
13
Petr Zeman, Historie a limity debat o reforme zpravodajskych sluzeb v CR aneb
umme si uz nalt cisteho vina? [History and Limits of the Debate on the Reform
of the Intelligence Services of the Czech Republic or Can I Now Pour the Pure
Wine?] (Prague: Europeum Institute for European Policy, April 2009), pp. 7, 12.
14
Petr Zeman, Intelligence Services of the Czech Republic: Current Legal Status
and Its Development (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of
Armed Forces, January 2007), p. 1.
15
A wide range of secondary acts also apply, in whole or in part, to the
organization, staffing, and activities of the intelligence services. They include
Acts No. 186=1992 on Terms of Service Employment of Members of the Police;
No. 140=1996 on Access to the Files Originated by Activities of the Former State
Security; No. 106=1999 on Free Access to Information; No. 221=1999 on
Professional Soldiers; No. 101=2000 on Protection of Personal Data; No.
218=2002 on Service; No. 361=2003 on Terms of Service Employment of
Members of Security Corps; No. 499=2004 on Records Keeping and
Records Service; No. 127=2005 on Electronic Communications; No. 412=2005
on the Protection of Classified Information and Security Clearance (replaced
No. 148=1998). Peter Zeman, Intelligence Services of the Czech Republic,
pp. 1213.
16
In May 1991, a law on the Federaln bezpecnostn informacn sluzba (FBIS
Federal Security Information Service) was passed removing the internal
intelligence function from the Interior Ministry but keeping foreign intelligence
under it, where it remained after the split.

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17
Oldrich Cerny, Czechoslovak (Czech) Intelligence After the Cold War, p. 8. It
is also the view of Tomas Kadlec, who headed the economic section of the
Security Information Service (BIS) (19921998) and the National Security
Office (NBU) (19982003), Euro, 22 October 2007.
18
Tyden, 8 December, 1997.
19
Mlada fronta Dnes, 29 October 2007.
20
Chaired by the Prime Minister, its members included the minister of defense,
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interior and foreign ministers, the heads of intelligence services, and a


representative from the Office of the President.
21
Oldrich Cerny, Czechoslovak (Czech) Intelligence After the Cold War, p. 9. See
also Kieran Williams, The Czech Republic Since 1993, in Security Intelligence
Services in New Democracies: The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania, Kieran
Williams and Dennis Deletant, eds. (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), p. 89.
22
Pravo, 9 October 1997.
23
Petr Zeman, Historie a limity debat o reforme zpravodajskych sluzeb v CR aneb
umme si uz nalt cisteho vina?, pp. 57.
24
The BRS had been established in 1998 with the adoption of Constitutional Act
No 110=1998 on the security of the Czech Republic, with a mandate to act as
the governments principal advisory body. The nine-member BRS is chaired by
the Prime Minister.
25
Quoted by Jan Velinger on 11 September 2006, at http://www.radio.cz/en/
article/83049
26
CTK (Czech Press Agency), 15 September 2006.
27
Although generally considered impartial and unbiased, Randak was thought by
the new right-of-center government to have been too close to politicians of the
previous left-of-center government.
28
Topolaneks government had made these decisions prior to getting a vote of
confidence from the Chamber of Deputies (which it subsequently lost), and
amidst doubts as to their legal status. The Act on Intelligence Services, for
instance, does not envisage that a single person could direct both the UZSI and
the BIS because of the different appointment process and accountabilities
attached to each.
29
CTK, 2 May 2010.
30
In 2001, the BIS was of the view that the security clearance process was not being
conducted properly, including NBU staff being cleared without adequate checks.
The BIS would also have been listening to Kadlecs conversations. In June 2001,
amid BIS-NBU disputes, Kadlecs deputy for security, Martin Hejl, resigned,
noting that he was the victim of expedient and unfounded accusations. In that
dispute, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross (20002004) sided with the NBU,
and Deputy Prime Minister Vladimr Spidla with the BIS, each having a
different party affiliation.
31
Incidentally, in November 1998, the government had cut the BIS budget for 1999
by roughly twenty percent as part of a government reallocation. The opposition

AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 24, NUMBER 4


710 STEPHANE LEFEBVRE

validly argued that the cut would affect the BISs ability to conduct security
clearances investigations in a timely manner.
32
Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) leader Jan Kalvoda (in January 1994),
Christian Democratic Union-Czech Peoples Party (KDU-CSL) leader Josef
Lux (in November 1996), and Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) leader
and Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Milos Zeman (opposition; also in
November 1996) all alleged that the BIS had been monitoring politicians.
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33
Prior to his appointment, he was the head of the radioisotope laboratory at
Charles Universitys Faculty of Medicine.
34
In December 2003, information surfaced that Ruzek had ordered surveillance of
UZSIs training center but that it was quickly discovered. His motive was
apparently related to recent departures of BIS staff to UZSI and his desire to
prevent any further departure. Lang apparently was not aware of this
operation while Ruzeks deputy director, and agreed with UZSI Director
Bublan that their services should not engage in such activities against one another.
35
Pravo, 19 January 2006.
36
Petr Zeman, The Transformation of the Intelligence Services, p. 123.
37
StB members who had been purged from UZSI in 1996 were believed to be behind
these disclosures.
38
The notion of vertical and horizontal accountability is from Marina Caparini,
Controlling and Overseeing Intelligence Services in Democratic States, in
Democratic Control of Intelligence Services: Containing Rogue Elephants, Hans
Born and Marina Caparini, eds. (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 324.

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