NBU inquiry reveals severe shortcomings in security vetting procedure

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The Czech Republic's security apparatus has at times looked very rickety indeed. The latest revelations, about the country's security vetting agency, the National Security Office or NBU, will have come as no surprise. An internal inquiry into malpractice at the NBU unveiled severe shortcomings which could have jeopardised the country's national security.

Tomas Kadlec, photo: CTK
One of the NBU's chief tasks is vetting people in the state administration who come into contact with secret or sensitive data. In particular, the NBU is interested in what such people did before 1989. The Czech Republic introduced a screening law after 1989, to prevent former agents of the Communist-era secret police, the StB, from taking up senior civil service posts, and the NBU was supposed to police that law. According to the internal inquiry, this the NBU has quite conspicuously failed to do.

The inquiry was set up to examine allegations of mismanagement at the NBU under the leadership of former director Tomas Kadlec between 1999 and 2002. The inquiry was completed last year, and the report given to Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek in September. In March the findings were handed to the parliamentary watchdog which monitors the NBU. Only now has the inquiry been made public, thanks to an anti-corruption NGO with the wonderful name of the Pink Panther, which has leaked a copy to the Czech News Agency.

The Inquiry claims the NBU's entire methodology during Tomas Kadlec's time as director was full of holes, especially when it came to rooting out former StB officers and their informants. For example, in several cases the NBU discovered that an StB file on a particular person had been shredded. The NBU took that as sufficient evidence that the person in question had not collaborated with the StB and granted security clearance on that basis alone. In other instances, the NBU interviewed people about alleged collaboration and decided that simply because they had remained calm and spoke openly to NBU officers, that was evidence of non-collaboration. The inquiry details many more examples of severe shortcomings in the NBU's vetting process.

The problem is because the NBU was - at least according to this internal inquiry- so incapable of vetting other people, it was also incapable of vetting itself. And that, say organisations like the Pink Panther, allowed for corruption on a potentially vast scale. In other words it was quite easy for former StB officers to obtain a clean security vetting certificate if they knew the right people.

Tomas Kadlec resigned in 2003, allegedly over a power struggle between the NBU and the country's civilian counter-intelligence service, the BIS. It was recently alleged in the media that two million crowns was paid to Mr Kadlec by people close to Radovan Krejcir, millionaire businessman who fled the country after being charged with massive fraud. So some say implications for what went on at the NBU when Mr Kadlec was in office don't bear thinking about.