The takeover of the Military Intelligence Service is just one more episode in the saga of Dogan-Peevsky’s circle attempting to take full control over all essential secret services.
The first move in that direction was the creation in 2008 of the State Agency for National Security, abbreviated as SANS. This agency shelters the Military Police and the Military Counter-Intelligence in order to have adequate control over the military, the Financial Intelligence to make sure it did not work against them and their Russian partner capital, including that of the political elite parked in the Gulf States, the Civil Counterintelligence to make sure there are no new cases of exposed Russian agents and consequent expulsions and the Economic Intelligence which monitors attempts by Russian capital to control whole sectors of the economy. The last of which is a 24/7/365 operation with notable ‘success’ as the secret services have remained totally passive against flagrant instances of abuse in dominant positions in the fuel sector such as the collapse in the Bulgarian energy sector due to the egregious insolence of the deputy speaker of the GosDuma that has already bought half of the coastline properties.
The same secret services which are meant to scan for risk and alert the Bulgarian government conveniently overlooked the rise of the Russian-speaking minority to the rank of the largest minority, overtaking the Turkish minority for the first time since Liberation 140 years ago.
Oppressors leave behind minorities, don’t they?
The same ‘gang’ controls the technical services, including those that grant access to secret information and who can de facto block anyone from taking any senior post in the public administration. Even if a maverick succeeds in outsmarting the electoral system and passes through the tightly controlled electoral system, there is little chance that he or she could skip the SANS control system on the way to the top.
There are 17 different intelligence agencies in the United States all of which are acting independently without the need for a central command. Each arm of the Intelligence services retains its perimeter of responsibility for national security, capable of reporting directly to the head of state and the top levels at the executive and legislative branch. This decentralization is a willful and conscious act aimed at preventing any single group of the elite from controlling the intelligence channels and filtering sensitive information in line with its own interest at the expense of the public good.
In Bulgaria, we have 13 different arms of the secret services, but most of them befall under the command and control of one single person – ein Führer, ein Reich… As a result – no information that is not politically correct can pass through to the top level of SANS beyond the ‘circle of the interested’.
Ahmed Dogan and the Sarayi circle (the common nickname for the backstage of former Communist party officials), Ministry of Interior and former state secret services officials, judges, prosecutors, investigators, bankers, politicians and businessmen, interconnected by an invisible web of interests and dependencies, enjoy a complete control over the flow of sensitive information on the territory of the country. They managed to bring most of the secrets under the SANS hat, including various units from the Ministry of Defense like the National Security Service – who monitor, investigate, approve citizenship, and authorize access to secret information – a huge and elaborate network that runs parallel and independently of the state and employing almost exclusively cadres of the High Institute for Librarianship. The only extra powers that have been added to this group is the ability to authorize eavesdropping, the diluted parliamentarian control over Bulgaria’s Big Brother and the close monitoring of the social network and even develop some trolling capabilities.
The extent of the free hand the Dogan’s group enjoys could hardly be exaggerated – worth recalling is that President Plevneliev in a recent interview confessed that he was not informed of the attempt on the life of arms manufacturer Emilian Gebrev, his son and associates, even though he was the Commander in Chief and all services were obliged by the Constitution to provide untampered info to him. It turned out that the Bulgarian intelligence services worked under the instructions of PM Borisov and the same Dogan circle. Nothing has dramatically changed since, as informal secret information distributions centers continue work unabated.
If you have not heard anything about threats to our national security recently, it is very likely that you won’t hear anytime soon. This does not mean that Bulgaria is not faced with existential threats or challenges, but the secret services go to a great length to subdue public interest in being kept abreast and are deliberately withholding critical information, that might compromise the picture of secure and benign governance. Instead of keeping the public promptly informed, secrets are not shared with the Bulgarians citizen in a publicly transparent process. They are used as commodity for tradeoffs – “leniency for leniency”, “favor for favor” – with Moscow as well as with Turkey. Bulgaria’s national security is exchanged for personal political and commercial gains.
Ahmed Dogan and Delyan Peevsky green-lighted censorship of sensitive public information on counterintelligence operation behind the backs of the President and the Parliament.
So far the only missing parts in the puzzle of the ultimate control of the “gang” were the secret services that operate abroad – the civil and military intelligence. We are presently witnessing a sequential step in the overall battle for control over the secret eyes and ears of the state. Prior to taking full control, these circles have tried to discredit the special agencies. The same ‘librarians’ being the product and the extension of the former State Security, accused the current directors of not being loyal enough to Euro-Atlantic values. The end goal has always been that the public loses sight of what is true and what is important.
President Radev remains strangely silent which is unusual given his proclivity to go out and speak if events affect Russian interests. This is not the case. The Prime Minister is also mute, probably cautious to acknowledge that foreign and military intelligence have always managed to defy his grip of control. The decision of the Prosecutor General to go public with an on-going investigation by the Chief Military Prosecutor, cognizant of the sensitive nature of information, is one more proof that there will be a backlash. Mr. Tstatsarov could hardly fail to grasp that such acts will be interpreted as deliberate and premeditated
Why do they cross red lines?
First guess is sensitive and compromising information regarding overseas operations of Bulgarian legal and natural persons such as businessmen involved in smuggling of cigarettes, weapons, and immigrant channeling that belong to the inner Dogan-Peevski-Tsatsarov (DPT) is in the possession of the Bulgaria’s foreign civilian and military intelligence services. This information could have been shared with them by partner services – on operations in neighboring Turkey, in Syria, Iraq /Kurdistan/ etc. Worth recalling that Bulgaria’s Prosecutor General visited Turkey on several occasions and met with President Erdogan on a firefighting mission. The difference in rank makes his reception by the head of state of Turkey look odd and can be explained by urgent matter and personal appeals by PM Borissov to safe face or avoid major crisis that affects him personally.
It is already a public secret that Turkish special services have abundant information on smuggling channels for cigarettes, drugs, immigrants, terrorists and weapons. On some they simply cast a blind eye, for reasons of a “higher order” – political considerations at top level. These days, the Bulgarian Prime Minister sang fresh praises to the Turkish President during their encounter in Sarajevo. At the same time Brussels and the EC are contemplating sanctions on Turkey for illegal drilling off the coast of Cyprus and the US are putting the final touches on legislation meant to punish Ankara for buying Russian C-400 air-defense systems.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister is known to engage in charming crisis management only under dire need to borrow a phrase used to depict Serbian FM Dacic’s verbal assault on him. Among the few possible explanations are again compromised sensitive information regarding smuggling operations of Bulgarian companies or individuals through Turkey.
In Borisov’s mindset things look binary and simple. If perceptions are of a crisis, the response crisis mode comes in place and manual control becomes adequate and justified. When Borisov’s political or business partners commit a gaffe, his job is to cover it. If the dramaturgy requires a set up filmed operation, shot on video of actions against contraband cigarette production, one is organized and the media under his control immediately air it. Even though arrests made are always small fish, the big players are never in the limelight. The end result is always positive for his image as a fighter against smugglers. The white noise generated overwhelms the black news and provides excellent cover for the genuine operations.
Then, shortly after the TV stunt with the arrested cigarette smugglers and illegal workers, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron are shown with Borissov on screen, who is informing them of his serial success on smugglers. The sole purpose of these televised personal exchanges is to convince both leaders not to trust information coming from their special sources and intelligence services on the nature of Borissov and the Dogan-Peevsky-Tstatsarov (DPT) ring operations in Turkey and Middle East. Borisov realizes that his past will continue to haunt him, so he is desperate it keep it at bay, if not in facts, then in perceptions.
His reputation as a fighter against smugglers (a topic that is probably his favorite) erodes at a slow pace. For every time he echoes the same adage by quoting virtual figures for budgetary gains or savings, he convinces less and less people. Against the huge bravado stands no evidence of convicted smugglers. Borissov’s reputation as a ‘fighter’ provides his prime political alibi and legitimization enabling him to operate freely on the international scene. His mission on behalf of the DPT circle is strictly defined – to “wrap up” in his political packaging whatever action is needed for his circle to operate with free hand both within and out of the country.
Already since the dawn of the transition, librarians and Sarai have been trying to usurp the channels of information and business with Turkey. The first announcement in advance was “the List” of Bulgarian secret service agents which Ahmed Dogan handed to the Turkish embassy.
Ever since the leader of the Movement of Rights and Freedoms has always fought with taking control over the foreign intelligence – stepping out of his principal domain – the Homeland Security. This has also remained the ‘weak spot’ of Borissov too – he is an outsider to the military and civil intelligence – and with the Tsatsarov’s act against the military intelligence he seems totally committed to the DPT group plan.
From the point of view of the interests of the state, it is quintessential that all secret and intelligence services, both internal and external, to remain outside the control of parties and special interests, including that of the DPT circle. This rings true especially when it comes to their operations, including partnerships, in neighboring countries and the Middle East. The Movement of Rights and Freedoms and the ‘librarians’ group should be kept at a safe distance, enabling the military and civil intelligence to collect, analyze and submit sensitive information to the top level of government and state, bypassing filters set up by the DPT and “librarians circles” as well as their partner PM Borissov.
It is high time we acknowledge the simple fact that our intelligence services are an essential element of the immune system of the state and serve the nation. They are part of the international and domestic legitimacy of Bulgaria. If people such as Dogan and Peevsky want to usurp and take control of them, this should be perceived as a direct threat to Bulgarian democracy and statehood.
What it also takes is us ordinary citizens not “switching the channel” when such news hit.