Tihomir Bezlov, chief expert with the Center for the Study of Democracy, in an interview with FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Mr. Bezlov, how would you comment on the statement of the Prosecutor’s Office that there is no crime in the recorded conversation between former minister of agriculture and food Miroslav Naydenov, former prime minister Boyko Borisov and former Sofia City Prosecutor Nikolay Kokinov?
Tihomir Bezlov: At the very beginning it was clear that there is no crime, because the recording is illegal, except if the person who made it becomes a witness. It is very complicated for them to admit committing a crime and so on. It is a rather complicated case and in our conditions it is very hard to declare it a crime.
FOCUS: The check has found no leak of classified information, although the wiretapped conversation makes it clear that the former prime minister Borisov tells someone in advance the findings of the investigation the Prosecutor’s Office carried out about the Interior Ministry’s illegal wiretapping. Is not this a crime?
Tihomir Bezlov: Yes, but you have to prove it. In addition, you can find out what the findings are in any way and someone may send you an e-mail, saying “this is it.” This game is endless.
FOCUS: The person who planted the recording device has not been identified yet. What directions is the investigation developing in, according to you?
Tihomir Bezlov: If we dare sum up, in the 1990s secret files were in fashion. Those who knew them and held them could do much for themselves and their friends. However, as the time went by, the files grew more and more useless. The time of the special intelligence means came during the big privatization campaign (1999-2001) and a huge market emerged. There were even “stable prices” – for example, BGN 200 for a cassette. They were rarely used for political goals, I do not know why. The first big scandal involved the former prosecutor general Nikola Filchev. After that, photos from yachts, discs, flash memory devices and so on popped up. I do not mean ordinary recordings with GSM and conversations accidently recorded by the media. It was never announced who and why released any of the recordings. I do not remember something like that. If you compare the current scandals with the most recent foreign ones (now with the National Security Agency and the surveillance of the telephone records and Internet communication or previously – with the documents that leaked through Wikileaks), the sources in the foreign ones are always known. In Bulgaria they are not. The difference is that everything in Bulgaria takes place behind the scenes.
FOCUS: On Wednesday Tsvetan Tsvetanov, former interior minister and current deputy chairman of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, was questioned regarding his failure to control the staff at the Specialized Director for Operative and Technical Operations, who applied special intelligence means. Does not this contradict the previous decision?
Tihomir Bezlov: Following this logic, all interior ministers after 1990 should probably be in the same situation. Tsvetanov hardly changed anything in the rules. Perhaps, as far as the control issue is concerned, every minister could be charged. It seems to me this is on old discussion about where the boundaries of control lie, where the political responsibility lies, where liability is. I do not remember a minister having been held liable in the past 23 years.
FOCUS: Are intelligence means misused in Bulgaria?
Tihomir Bezlov: Yes, special intelligence means are misused and it is not politicians, but corporations, banks and rich people who are especially active. In Bulgaria at least several networks for collecting such information are active. They usually use former and current police officers.
FOCUS: Should the Special Intelligence Mean Act be amended?
Tihomir Bezlov: A lot of foreign experts claim that many Bulgarian laws are good, but the problem is their enforcement, the control and systematic attitude. The removal of the Specialized Directorate for Operative and Technical Operations from the Interior Ministry does not solve the problem. The problem is how to control effectively the operation of the new body. You cannot get control by drafting a long law and even longer rules and regulations how to enforce it. The main problem is how to make up a real, not abstract mechanism that will work in our conditions. For example, I do not know how it will follow some of the police officers most experienced in surveillance; how you can make people who were recruiting agents all their life agents and they will be able to tell us something about their misuse.