MPs to hear from BIS spymaster over President Zeman’s wiretapping claims

Miloš Zeman

The parliamentary committee that oversees the BIS counterintelligence service is due to meet on Thursday to address an astounding claim: President Miloš Zeman says the secret service’s director “wiretapped” people close to him without cause and “eavesdropped” on the head of state himself.

President Zeman has long been a vocal critic of acting BIS chief Michal Koudelka, whom he has now six times refused to promote to the customary rank of general, and effectively blocked from being reappointed.

In particular, the president has objected to the service’s warnings about the intelligence activities of his Chinese and Russian allies here.

But in a televised interview on Sunday, Zeman went further, telling the tabloid Blesk that Koudelka not only allegedly ordered the wiretapping of his economic adviser, as was reported earlier, but also of others in president’s inner circle – and without cause:

“Some years ago, a senior officer of the BIS informed me that Mr. Koudelka had ordered the interception of my immediate surroundings, and therefore also of me, because the interceptions were via mobile phones. I don’t have a mobile phone, so when I talk to them, I’m eavesdropped on.”

Martin Nejedlý | Photo: SPOZ party

The investigative news server Neovlivní.cz early quoted unnamed independent sources as saying that the BIS had in fact monitored Zeman’s economic adviser, Martin Nejedlý, over concerns his business dealings with Russian nationals represented a potential “national security threat”.

Zeman told Blesk that the spy chief had personally ordered the wiretaps without just cause, and that when he brought it to the attention of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, he promised to bring it to a halt.

“But it was not true, because I learned from deep within the BIS that the wiretaps were continuing. I wondered if we had committed some crime and it not then Mr. Koudelka should apologize. He did not apologize.

“So, I approached the prime minister to recall him. The head of the secret service cannot eavesdrop on practically any citizen he likes without grounds or evidence. That’s just one reason I believe Mr. Koudelka is not the man for the job.”

Meanwhile, Babiš denies he discussed wiretapping with Zeman, adding that in any case he has no authority to start let alone stop it: such surveillance must be authorised by a judge or public prosecutor.

Michal Koudelka | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

But in a move seen as allowing Babiš to stay in the president’s good graces until parliamentary elections this autumn, his government in early August delayed either extending Koudelka’s term or appointing a new BIS head.

Zeman says he will not release more information ahead of October’s elections if Koudelka is recalled. Until such time, Robert Králíček, deputy chairman of the parliamentary BIS oversight committee, said he sees no point in even meeting.

“The president has provided no information whatsoever to the committee. I see no reason at the moment to address charges that, in my view, were made on no real basis.”

Committee chairman Pavel Bělobrádek, however, says the president’s “accusations are serious” and so must be formally addressed, adding that the BIS director will no doubt shed light on the issue at Thursday’s closed session.