In a separate, but well-coordinated action, the Prosecutor's Office has practically decapitated the Defence Ministry's Military Intelligence Service (MIS). On July 8, the prosecution announced it has charged the acting head of the MIS Plamen Angelov and his predecessor Svetoslav Daskalov with providing NATO and EU officials with unauthorised access to classified information.
According to the press service of the Prosecutor's Office, the investigation was launched after an inspection by the State Agency for National Security (DANS) found evidence that between April 1, 2016, and May 1, 2019 permission was granted to 504 individuals to access secret and top-secret information in violation of the law. The authorizations were issued by an information security officer at MIS, rather than by the head of the service, the prosecution claimed.
Of course, there was no unauthorized access, since the permissions were given by specially trained officers following a strict protocol.
As usual, tabloid media immediately launched a damning campaign against Mr Angelov and Mr Daskalov and Parliament quickly passed a bill allowing civilian personnel to head the agency. Coincidentally perhaps, the only civilian who was likely to take the job was the recently installed deputy director of MIS, Yanko Zlatanov, a former DANS official.
The change is worrying, as MIS is one of the few well-respected Bulgarian national security agencies. Such a highly-publicized operation, combined with controversial and formalistic indictments against its directors, can only further erode its NATO and EU allies' trust in the country's intelligence service.
There is suspicion that the operation was well coordinated with MP Delyan Peevski, who unsuccessfully tried to become chairman of DANS in 2013. Back then mass protests against the media mogul forced the government to withdraw his candidacy but his loyal cadres infiltrated the agency anyway. MIS was immune to a certain extent to his influence because it is staffed with military officers. MIS' operations in the Balkans might have been of particular interest to Mr Peevski who was accused in 2015 by the Turkish authorities of cigarette smuggling and was barred from entering the country.