Posted on 22nd Dec 2011 @ 10:33 AM
In Slovakia, the Defense Ministry Counterintelligence section was revealed to be the group responsible for the wiretapping of several journalists’ telephone calls. As a result of this great scandal, the Defense Minister has joined many others in the unemployment line. And as the wiretapping scandal has unfolded, another surprise has come forth: this has been going on for a lot longer than anyone expected, and not just one person is responsible. Evidently, one of the journalists who were being monitored under the latest minister was also being wiretapped when the Defense Ministry was controlled by a nominee of the opposing political party in 2007. According to the leaked documents that exposed the wiretapping, this cover operation included wiretapping the head of a TV news channel and two of the Defense Ministry’s senior employees.
“The whole story of wiretapping which is being uncovered today was also going on under previous governments,” said Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, who on November 22 asked President Ivan Gašparovič to dismiss Galko. “It is high time to reach an agreement and an initiative over control mechanisms for the intelligence services.”
Radičová in her response also said it is now obvious that the “intelligence services have been doing everything possible – except what they were originally intended to do and what is their main role”, according to the SITA newswire.
The Pravda and Nový Čas dailies reported on November 21 that three reporters from Pravda’s domestic politics department – head Patrícia Poprocká and reporters Peter Kováč and Vanda Vavrová – as well as the head of TV news channel TA3, Michal Gučík, had been wiretapped by the VOS. The alleged wiretapping ended after the fall of the government in October, according to Pravda.
The now former Defense Minister’s party has continued to lend him their support through this political scandal. He claims that the wiretaps were performed legally and were intended to uncover any suspected criminal activity which may have involved the targets of the wiretaps. The former Defense Minister’s party is suggesting that several aspects of the scandal are actually political attacks on the party itself rather than an expose.
Radičová responded to these claims by saying that wiretapping journalists, regardless if it is performed legally or illegally, does not fall under the umbrella of the democracy upon which her government is based.
In Slovakia, military intelligence activities are performed by two organizations operating under the Defense Ministry: the Military Intelligence Service (VSS) and the Military Defense Intelligence (VOS), which conducts counterintelligence.
In order for an intelligence agent to use a covert intelligence device, such as a wiretap or hidden camera, he must first get a signature of approval from the head of the VOS, Pavol Brychta. The signature was given, and the wiretapping, which was reportedly intended to monitor the so-called “contact base” of the three journalists, was approved by a judge. Brychta confirmed these details to the parliamentary committee for the oversight of military intelligence on November 22, according to SITA.
Brychta told the committee that the journalists in question had participated in the leaking of sensitive information from the Ministry of Defense, according to Peter Žiga, Military Personnel who chairs the committee.
After the scandal broke, the former Defense Minister said he would not relieve Brychta of his office, citing his military experience and dedication as a reason to keep him on board.