Are Intelligence services supervising themselves?

PUBLISHED AT: Thursday, 28 August 2014, 22:57

Leakage from the classified report of the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) regarding the supervision over the intelligence services does not leave any room for doubts – civil control over their activity is a pure fiction. The Prime Minister, who is theoretically obliged to supervise the intelligence services, is deprived of key instruments required for such control – as is apparent from the content of report described by the TVN24 portal.

The auditors of the NIK underline that Prime Minister has neither complete knowledge regarding the internal procedures applicable in the particular services nor full knowledge regarding the correctness of operational and reconnaissance actions performed by these services in specific cases.

The general picture that emerges from the NIK control is quite alarming. It turns out that the intelligence services seem to be yet another strategic area of the country’s functioning that basically drifts, i.e. remains without control and without any clearly specified objectives. Let me add that this state is not a result of some extraordinary circumstances, but it is a consequence of the legal status that has been in force for years. Unfortunately, it should be stated here that the responsibility for this state rests first and foremost with the politicians, who were unable to develop a model of effective civil control over the intelligence services. Today it is clearly evidentthat even the Collegium for Secret Services, the head of which is the President of the Council of Ministers, is a largely ineffective formation, as there is no real opportunity to check whether and to what extent the services implement its directives (sic!). A good example illustrating the current situation is the Act on the Operational and Reconnaissance Activities that has been waiting to be examined since 2008. I agree that this issue is exceptionally difficult, but nothing justifies the six years of delay!

Thus, the conclusion is that the Prime Minister not only has no idea what is going on in the intelligence services, but also has some significant problem with the current task assignment regarding these services. Or let me put it in other words: he may assign the tasks, but he lacks the opportunity to check how and whether they were performed. Another thing is that so far such situation has not been viewed as a major problem, because Donald Tusk has always considered the functioning of the services as a necessary evil, which has been repeatedly expressed in his speeches.

Looking back in time, one may conclude that such model was alarming, but in the present era of challenges related to the regional situation such model appears to be dramatic without any special exaggeration.

A good example of comment to the NIK report may be the situation that is widely discussed by media and which is related to the irregularities in the management of the operational fund of the Intelligence Service Agency. Let us recall – during the control, it turned out that instead of cash there were pieces of cut newspapers imitating money stocked in a safe and the resources were de facto used privately by some officers. From my perspective, the key problem is not the fact that the resources were used illegally, but the fact that the operational fund, instead of „working”, remained largely „intact”.

It is hard not to be struck by the impression that, within the last seven years we have mainly observed the process of drifting of the intelligence services without any clearly specified objectives. There was a lack of preventive actions and lack of success. There is a common opinion that there is „a total relaxation” in the area of economic security and also within the functioning of counter-intelligence. The question whether we can afford to maintain that state seems to be pointless, as the answer is obvious. Now it is a matter of political will, which in our circumstances tends to be crucial for implementing any kind of changes.

Maciej Sankowski

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