Former secret police agents in Havel's office

Last year security checks revealed there were a number of former agents of the communist-era secret police in senior posts in the civil service, even though the law bars them from these positions. The former agents managed to retain their jobs thanks to negative screening certificates they received from the Interior Ministry during the 1990's. As Pavla Horakova reports, two of the former agents came into close daily contact with President Havel, himself harassed for years by the communist secret police.

In accordance with the 1991 law all senior civil servants must undergo security screening to prove they did not collaborate with the communist secret police. But back in the early 1990's, more than a hundred former secret police agents were given the all clear in screening tests carried out by the Interior Ministry. Are we talking about a criminal act, simple negligence or perhaps something else - a question I put to Vaclav Zak, the editor-in-chief of the political bi-monthly Listy.

"Well, I think it was caused by a bad law. It was clear if the law were really observed it would destroy the intelligence services, the military and civil intelligence service. So there was an unwritten exception and, let's say, twenty or thirty empty screening certificates were given to these institutions so that they could cover several dozen people who otherwise would not pass normal screening. And it was discovered, let's say, ten years after the change on the post of the Interior Minister. But I think that the former minister knew about it."

It transpired now that at least two former agents of the communist military counter-intelligence worked in the immediate surroundings of President Havel for many years. Milan Liska and Jaroslav Indruch were two high-ranking officers of the Prague Castle Guard, a special military unit responsible for the security of the President. They both left the Guard last summer but the reason was not disclosed until now. I asked Vaclav Zak how it was possible that the President's office employed such people.

"I really do not know how this was possible. At the beginning when Vaclav Havel came to office there was very little administrative competence at the castle. The friends of the president had no experience with the civil service, so they could make mistakes. I don't think it was a deliberate act, I think it was a simple mistake."

The President's office will not comment on the matter. But whether the agents got their jobs by mistake or by intention, it would seem that the people from President Havel's office who hired them have some explaining to do.