Sunday, January 16, 2011

Notes On The Darzhavna Sigurnost

I once worked with a refined and very gracious man, a gentlemen's gentlemen in every sense of the word. He had retired from the C.I.A. before taking a position in the organization where we had become acquainted. Not given to the negative, he was an evangelist for the power of positive thinking. He had a great sense of humor, which he could inject into an otherwise grim business meeting.

I had occasion to ask him about the Darzhavna Sigurnost during the Cold War. He described them as murderous gangsters, and related the story of an individual he had sought to extract from Bulgaria. He eventually found his man, at least the lower torso; the other half of the body having been burned up in a furnace.

Once Moscow’s most obedient ally, Bulgaria operated one of the most notorious spy networks in the Cold War era. The Darzhavna Sigurnost was implicated in plots ranging from a failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II to the killing of an exiled dissident in London with a poison-tipped umbrella.

Under current Bulgarian law, no one can be punished or face any legal consequences if they are named as former informants or spies. Previous attempts to bar them from holding public positions (including in law enforcement) have consistently been overruled by the constitutional court.

The Komitet za darzhavna sigurnost's 6th Directorate were the political police, and they were succeeded by the "Head Service for Combating Organized Crime". It had the following departments:
1st Department – worked among the intelligentsia and controlling the unions of artists
2nd Department – worked in the universities and among the students
3rd Department – responsible for the clergy, the Jews, Armenians and Russian White emigrants
4th Department – specialized in pro-Turkish and pro-Macedonian nationalism
5th Department – worked among the political rivals, such as the agrarians and social democrats
6th Department – observed pro-Maoist and anti-party activity
7th Department – information analysis and anonymous activity

The publication by Bulgaria's parliament in mid-December of the names of ambassadors and top diplomats in capitals ranging from Berlin, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Moscow and Rome to Beijing and Tokyo who all worked as agents or collaborators for the Darzhavna Sigurnost "has dealt a humiliating blow to Bulgaria's foreign service".

88 former Darzhavna Sigurnost agents "were still currently employed by the foreign ministry, including 33 ambassadors, eight interim ambassadors and four consuls-general. They included the Bulgarian envoys to 13 of the other 26 European Union capitals, plus Sofia's representatives to the United Nations in Geneva and New York, as well as all of its missions in the neighbouring Balkan countries". One former collaborator includes the country's current president Georgy Parvanov.

"In the second half of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, known terrorists were granted a safe haven in Bulgaria – the terrorist group led by Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal, the Abu Nidal group, and members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

During the same period, Bulgaria was visited by activists of known terrorist organizations, including the German Red Army Faction – also known as the Baader Meinhoff Gang – Turkey’s right- and left-wing extremists from the Grey Wolves and Dev Sol, as well as the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation, or Armenia ASALA. These visits can be associated with the first acts of international terrorism on Bulgarian soil, such as hijacking of airplanes and assassinations of foreign diplomats."

In 2008, the New York Times cited an unnamed senior Western European diplomat as saying, "You could bet that anything we shared with Bulgaria inside NATO went straight to Moscow. The old Communist nomenklatura and secret services is still around in Romania and Bulgaria."

Western law enforcement officials, computer security specialists, and journalists need to bear in mind the character of who they are dealing with when they interact with Bulgaria's diplomatic service and law enforcement organizations.

James McQuaid
16 January 2011