Bulgarian Ministry of Interior: divide and rule

Old principles back in vogue

Nikolai Radulov, a former Permanent Secretary (senior civil servant) at the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior, claims that, twenty years after the end of communism, ‘divide and rule’ is back in vogue in Bulgaria. The country is facing a crisis of confidence and part of the solution may be a reform of police and security service training…

Dr RadulovDr RadulovThe principle "Divide and Rule" was in vogue in the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior during the 1980'S. State Security (BSS), represented by the central government, was elite, whereas serving in the Militia was considered a second-hand job. This separation was imposed by the Communist Party (BCP) which closely observed any transfer between the Militia and the BSS and imposed an impermeable obstacle in front of anybody who wanted to work his way up in the system. The appointment of  Heads of Division was governed by the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) and no one could move up without special approval. An agent's evaluation was not based on his competence, but on his commitment to the party and his origins and connections.


The distinction was taught to young agents from their first professional training onwards, so that when they were sent on the position chosen for them, the separation would appear natural and merited. On my first assignment in 1st Regional Division, I was surprised to discover that the criminologists and regional inspectors were people with qualities at least as impressive as those of their BSS colleagues. Amongst them, there were historians, economists, mathematicians and physicists and most of them spoke several languages.  
Later, when as an agent in the training division my experience with MI structures became more consistent, I realised that my former colleagues from the division were at least as well educated and competent as the agents from the central divisions. Of course, the similarities ended when it came to family and personal connections; those were the ones that mattered when defining the level of position and the function.

Looking back now, I can say that this method of assignment in the system mostly resulted in low work efficiency and in a low occupational rate in the central divisions, compared to the others.

The consequences of this structure were, amongst others, an atmosphere of constant pressure and mutual stalking. It was an obstacle to efficient operations but, in those times, efficiency was the last priority on the list. The head divisions worked together with their corresponding divisions in the KGB and in the  Russian MI (Министерство Внутренных дел: MVD);  KGB advisers had a real presence in the government system. The main objective was to use the MI as a scarecrow for people who thought differently and at the same time, as a social pressure releaser. It was not an accident that, for any price rise, when the stores changed their prices, there was an obligatory MI presence. It gave the false impression that the MI made the prices go up.

The beginning of the political transition, of course, also affected the MI’s internal structure regulations. There was a fair recognition of the artificial differentiation between agents with similar responsibilities but unequal rewards; the work categories were equalised. The pressure applied to the BSS even resulted in a voluntary transfer of some counter-intelligence agents in the police operative services (The Central Service for Fighting Organised Crime - CSFOK  in the 90’s was built on the base of counter-intelligence agents).

There has been a discussion about creating a united intelligence community ever since the beginning of the transition. Unfortunately, at that time, even the bravest minds couldn't grasp  the idea of creating something structurally different from the Committee for State Security (Комитет за Държавна Сигурност or CSS). Successful structures, such as the CSFOK, afterwards transformed into the national service and currently the Main Directorate  for Fighting Organised Crime (HDFOC or Главна Дирекция за Борба с Организираната Престъпност), had a structure corresponding to the ones of the western partners. This made collaboration easier but provoked  constant criticism from the nostalgically oriented leaders.
The scandal concerning the Special Intelligence Budget in 2008 gave a comfortable excuse for destroying the service, despite the fact that it was caused not by the service itself, but by corrupt agents in key positions and by their political leaders, who were finally forced to resign.

A comfortable moment to return to the resistance model came with the creation of the State Agency for National Security (ДАНС or SANS) in 2008, widely promoted as the Bulgarian FBI. At the same time, the National Service for Fighting Organised Crime (NSFOC or НСБОП) was destroyed under the pretence of fighting corruption. This was an attempt to construct the new service from the same mould as the FBI, which mostly works on criminal activity. It would mean that the divisions of crime and investigations should take the leading position in SANS. According to the American services, a terrorist act is considered as a criminal act.
Instead there was the creation of a conglomeration of services with informational functions, unable to act on the basis of legal criminology. In less than a year, this resulted in huge publicly demonstrated failures. The first version of the SANS law itself left space for serious subjectivism, maximum rights and minimum obligations. Altogether the methods of the previous 6-7 years were preserved. They consisted in presenting any act of restoring old practices and approaches as modernisation or a result of the EU or the USA’s requirements. The experts in the area are still wondering if this is premeditated or it is simply a result of incompetence.

In consequence, there was another conflict in the security sector; SANS pretended to be a  superior institution investigating the MI. This inevitably resulted in worsening crime. There was once again a difference in the compensation of agents from the two institutions in another attempt to oppose the structures. This approach became immediately visible in the high number of blunders, from the coffee invitations to criminal organisations’ representatives to the famous senseless operation against the so-called Galevi Brothers. Ridiculous stories were told by senior government officials who claimed that the SANS problems were related to the huge expectations toward the agency, which were impossible to meet because of its new structure. 
In fact, given the way the agency was structured, no one expected anything other than what has happened. There were no high expectations, just a lot of unmerited publicity. The difference with the 1980’s is that today this type of structure cannot have an entirely secret existence and a lack of control from society and the media. The agency’s desire to free itself from control is clear to everybody, including to the corresponding EU divisions.

With the change of government in 2009, the set of rules in the game of “security” has changed as well. The new leaders decided that a 180 degree turn  would be perceived as a radical change towards better functioning. HDFOC took a lead position in the crime-fighting system and its director was legally constituted a Deputy General Secretary of MI. This post was taken by someone who not long ago was suspected of patronising drug traffic (the Kuiovich case) and was removed from duty. In the MI corridors a rumor circulates that the leader in question has family connections to one of the vice premiers. SANS was entrusted to the hands of a team whose members were known to be former employers of the so called “Russian sector”. The only thing that could be stated for sure about that organisation is that it is one of the first to be invited to the Russian Embassy’s receptions.

The result was immediate: big operations with huge media coverage and arrests of people declared wanted criminals and released in consequence by the court, for lack of evidence. In over 70 spectacular arrests, only 5 or 6 remained in custody. It became clear that the current crime-fighting team is only considered in a limited perspective: to act as a PR campaign to boost poll ratings.

What is amazing about this is that it is actually happening. Whilst there is growing domestic crime, growing human and drug traffic (according to the US State Department report from foreign observers in the field), and a lack of investigation of any of the key players in the so called “financial oligarchies”, the rating of the Bulgarian MI secretary has surpassed even that of the Prime Minister.

In conclusion, the professionals in the country, as well as foreign observers, consider this pseudo-activity in the security area as a decoy for the EU and the USA. It looks as though the objective is to create the perfect conditions for the easy and unpunished functioning of the “grey economy” and the criminal world. In the last years they seem successfully to have integrated governmental and community structures, as well as the high authorities of the governing parties.

Dr Nikolai Radulov is the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Bulgaria.

 

 

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