A domestic approach to improved security

  • 2004-01-08
A recipient of the Order of the British Empire, Janis Kazocins retired with the rank of brigadier general in the British army in 2002. He currently heads the Constitution Protection Bureau, Latvia's secret service. Kazocins spoke with Aaron Eglitis in December about the role of the CPB and what it is doing to prepare for accession to NATO this year.Many of our readers are unfamiliar with your organization. Could you explain the responsibilities of the Constitution Protection Bureau?

The Constitution Protection Bureau is one of three national security services [in Latvia] - the other two being the security police and the military counter-intelligence service. Mine has the broadest set of responsibilities. They are varied: at the one end we are responsible for security vetting for Latvia's citizens at the national level. We are the national security authority for NATO purposes. We are [also] responsible for information security. At the same time we are also an intelligence and counter-intelligence agency. By law our responsibilities include monitoring other intelligence services, which may be operating in Latvia, and also the collection of information the government may require outside Latvia as well.

How did you come about to head an organization like the CPB?
It came about as a surprise to me as well, because it never occurred to me that this might be a suitable role. When I left the British army in August [2002] and came back to live permanently in Latvia, fairly soon I found that I was drawn into government, and [I] worked for about six months as an adviser to the prime minister on anticorruption matters. During that period the vacancy came up, and one or two people suggested that I might be a suitable candidate. Momentum quickly built up.
The director of the CPB is selected by the National Security Council, the council chaired by the president, and confirmed by the Parliament. I was very pleased when the majority of parliamentarians entrusted this very important job to me.

In the past, NATO security reports pointed out deficiencies in Latvia's security as well as that of Bulgaria and Slovenia, how has the situation improved since then?
The NATO report did indeed point out some weaknesses in security matters. It was very important for Latvia to resolve these before NATO accession. What this involves is largely three things: One, and the most important, is to improve our counter-intelligence capability. That means prove and demonstrate that we are capable of guarding NATO secrets. That way no one might think Latvia is the weak link in the NATO security chain.
Secondly, [there] is the granting of access to NATO secrets to Latvian personnel. I can report that the number of people who will be given access to NATO secret information will be very small and won't be more than 500. It means that those that will have access to NATO secrets can be properly vetted.
The third point is that we did not have a very effective way of preparing our civil servants, politicians and military personnel who may have to have access to Latvia's and NATO's secrets, of [determining] what the threat to them might be, and what to look out for. This is now developing, and all in all I can say that the NATO office of security is quite satisfied with the progress that we have made.

Given the economy in Latvia, the low wages and the current situation in Lithuania, do you see people from East European countries as more susceptible to foreign influence?
I think that where you have an economy where prices are reasonably high but average wages are low, then inevitably those officials who have to make decisions on behalf of the state are subject to more temptation and possible external influence than in countries where wages are better. Whether that automatically means that this influence comes from other countries or whether that can be domestic is an open question, I wouldn't say that other countries are in a better position because corruption is something that has to be tackled within the country itself.

Do you find your job more challenging considering the large number of noncitizens, some of whom may not feel particular loyal to the state?
I wouldn't say for that particular reason. It's a very challenging job particularly on the security aspects because NATO quite rightly requires high standards to be adopted. There is the historical baggage of 50 years of Soviet rule. To say automatically that someone who comes from a Russian speaking background is naturally less loyal to the state of Latvia is not justified. Each case has to be looked at separately. I know from experience that a vast majority of the Russian speaking population share Latvia's values. And those who have been able to vote voted in large numbers for accession to the European Union.
In summary I don't see this as a special problem.

How do you see NATO expansion affecting Latvian-Russian relations?
I think this can only lead to an improvement in Latvian-Russian relations. Up to now Latvia has been in a slightly strange position in that it still has some quite substantial ties to Russia, particularly with a large number of Russian speakers both citizens and noncitizens. At the same time most Latvians, including a large part of these Russian speakers as well, feel a close affinity with Western Europe and feel that that is the part of Europe where they naturally belong, as was the case in the first period of independence. I think Latvia's and the other Baltic states' accession to NATO and the EU will finally put a full stop to these debates and will confirm Latvia's place firmly in Western Europe - and for that reason will give Latvia the confidence to improve relations with Russia without feeling that that in some way might compromise Latvia's own security.

Do you have access to the KGB archives?
The archives held by the Totalitarian Research Center are part of our organization, and we do use them as part of our vetting process. Since we are going to be in NATO, how are ex-KGB personnel, some of whom have filtered into government, dealt with as regards security clearances? I think it is very reasonable for NATO to require that people who have worked for the KGB directly or indirectly, which of course were NATO's enemy, should not have access to NATO secrets. Therefore no member of the three national security services can be an ex-member of the KGB or worked as an agent of the KGB. That is quite normal. As I said we will be restricting access to NATO secrets to a relatively small number of people and quite clearly these will not include people who have worked for the KGB.