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We managed to become effective, flexible intelligence service, able to quickly react - Moldovan SIS director says

[MOLDPRES]: On 9 September, the Security and Intelligence Service marks the 25th anniversary of creation. How would you describe the service evolution?


[Balan]:  Really, in 2016, the institution I am leading celebrates a quarter of century in the service of democracy and security of Moldova. In terms of history, this period is insignificant, and not for information and security officers, who over the years, through hard work, sacrifice and perseverance managed to place the institution as main alarm and sensor of state security.


During the 25 years of activity, the role of tasks of the service experienced significant changes to cover a range of risks and security issues. We are permanently looking for and applying for the most efficient ways of anticipation and combating them, so that Moldova not to face strategic surprises.


I think we managed to become effective and flexible intelligence service, able to quickly react. We constantly improve in order to be not only an institution with rules and new procedures, but to have a pro-active attitude and a new security mentality. The institution continues to promote high ethical standards, honesty, rightness and professional excellence.


[MOLDPRES]: Mr.Balan, the service employees are discreet people. What would be the profile of an intelligence officer?


[Balan]: The intelligence officer has a rich culture, a good emotional balance, flexible to places and environments of the most diverse and difficult, able to act individually and in team.


This person can come from various backgrounds, with different professional and personal experience, helping him able to meet the challenges generated by a constantly changing security environment. The qualities must be honesty, integrity, spirit of sacrifice, responsibility and patriotism. I assure you that nobody ever will be part of SIS team, if he does not meet these criteria.


I would like to mention that the institution is made up of young people aged of 35 years. This situation generates institutional energy necessary for modernisation and continuous adaptation. Over 30 per cent of the total number of employees are women and not only to respect gender equality. Ladies of the service are valuable experts, who know to combine intelligence, creative practices and advanced technologies.


[MOLDPRES]: The word “reform” is used intensively by the state institutions. In many cases this term causes citizens mistrust and indifference. Mr. Director, what does the reform process of SIS involve in fact? What should its purpose be?


[Balan]: The SIS reform is not commonplace or was initiated only that this term is in vogue today. It has no declarative character and is not limited only to organisational changes.


During 25 years of the institution’s activity, there were many attempts of reorganisation. For various reasons, they were limited to reducing duties or importance of intelligence service.


Need for radical change was required imperatively at level of intelligence officers.


After a comprehensive assessment of the realities in the service, a decision to start an ample process of reform was taken, scheduled for 2014-2018, focusing on quality and not on quantity.


We are concerned that by modernising the service we should become more efficient and pro-active, promptly and professionally meet the needs of security of Moldova, especially, in the context of aspirations to join the European community.


I want to point out that to boost information-operational capacity of the service, we set as targets the development of sectors in analysis, integrated planning, standardisation and optimisation of legal procedures for investigations, expanding international partnerships etc. On the whole, strengthening intellectual and operational power of SIS.


I hope next 2-3 years the evolutions should be visible, the institution should be dynamic, more flexible and adaptable to challenges in the security sector.


I am sure that only by materialising these goals, the service will become more visible in state, society, with value similar to intelligence services in European regional community.


[MOLDPRES]: Who are legal beneficiaries of information of SIS?


[Balan]: According to the legislation, the service is obliged to inform presidency, parliament, government, as well as other public authorities about issues related to interests of state security.


I could come up with some figures on information documents submitted to the decision makers. Only in the first semester of 2016, more than 700 information and analysis in security were sent, of which: 139 – to President, 131 – to Parliament Speaker, 308 – Prime Minister, 124 – to other executive institutions and public institutions.


At the same time, SIS specialised subunits carried out 3,064 requests for data, of which 334 notices on verification of candidates and holders of public office.


As a result, more candidates and holders of public office have been identified as bearers of risk factor. Among them are judges, prosecutors etc.


About 465 evidentiary materials on illegalities of damage to the national economy, as well as undermining internal stability were submitted to the law enforcement institutions, fiscal and control bodies. 83 criminal cases were initiated on the matter.


These data are not simply figures. They hide activities and enormous efforts of the intelligence officers made with limited resources both at financial and legal levels.


[MOLDPRES]: Your proposal on deployment of intelligence officers to different public authorities caused a negative reaction on behalf of more state institutions. What is the purpose of this initiative?


[Balan]: This proposal came up as a result of finding that more dangers and threats to national security derive from many vulnerabilities persisting in the public institutions. I refer to those operating in the economic and budgetary, energy, social and healthcare fields, financial-banking system and foreign policy. The public authorities regard their areas of competence strictly without commenting the impact of a decision on the national security. The service also avails of data on all the fields, but in most cases, they cannot be disclosed or while investigating the cases of competence, third persons cannot be involved in.


The purpose of the initiative was and remains to be prevention of the actions that might jeopardize state security, public and personal security. We have no hidden purposes of surveillance and intimidation of staff of the public institutions.


Also, the officers are meant to back heads of institutions in exercising control on ensuring preservation and prevention of leakage of information that represents a state secret and preventing and counteracting corruption elements in institutions within the competence, of course.


 The institution of detached officers is a legal practice and widely used by special services from the countries with a consolidated democracy.


Unfortunately, there are institutions that oppose the initiative of the service to detach intelligence officers or provide them positions with no access to information and any possibilities of reacting.


I am sure that if the service had detached officers, as for example within the National Bank of Moldova, it would react promptly in the context of financial and banking crisis.


Although I signalled the interests of foreign special services towards the ministry’s central apparatus and our diplomatic missions, requesting to accept detaching SIS officers within the Foreign and European Integration Ministry (MAEIE), the former heads postponed to achieve it. I am confident that the current heads will be more receptive realizing that detachment of intelligence officers to the public authorities provides possibilities to react promptly at national security level, as well as at the institutional policies one.


[MOLDPRES]: What are the main challenges to Moldova’s security?


[Balan]: Lately Moldova faced extremely difficult challenges. Unfortunately, not only the state was subjected to risks and vulnerabilities of security, but also citizen. Among the most relevant threats, I would remark the financial-banking crisis, consequences of subversive climate caused by the separatist regime in the Transnistrian region, subversive actions of foreign special services, corruption and smuggling.


A major risk to the state security is coming from the asymmetrical threats. Particularly, I draw attention to the insecurity situation in the region. I refer to the conflict in the eastern Ukraine. Among challenges influencing the national security framework we can mention organized crime, including the cross border one, illegal drug trafficking networks, human and arms trafficking, illegal migration, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The risks related to energy security, cyber crime and transnational terrorist dangers overlapped the existing threats.  


[MOLDPRES]: Might our country be the target of a terrorist attack?


[Balan]: Any intelligence service realizes that the threats to security are not limited to national borders and criminality has become international. The latest tragic events occurred in the world prove us that actually, no country can be ensured against terrorist actions.


Assessments and forecasts on key areas of the national security indicate that the international terrorist organisations have increased interest in Moldova. In this context, the service is carrying out complex activities in order not to admit use of national territory by members of extremist-terrorist structures. I am referring to boosting the cooperation relations and interaction with partner intelligence services both in East and West, exchanging data and operative information on people and entities which might be tangent to terrorist actions, risk analysis on security situation in the region, potential destabilizing factors and others.


[MOLDPRES]: You talked about cooperation. How is this done in practice as being a secret service?


[Balan]: I would say we are still an intelligence service and not a secret one. An indispensable element for materialising Moldova’s major interests is and will be quality information. Namely information, transformed into knowledge and understanding and offered to legal decision makers, contributes to adopting timely decisions to prevent and counteract the negative evolutions to the state.


At the national level, the service interacts and is supported by authorities such as: Prosecutor General’s Office, Interior Ministry, Defence Ministry, Foreign and European Integration Ministry, Justice Ministry and others.


In collaboration with them, the SIS is monitoring the risk environment for state security. I am referring to the specific measures at the state border, goals of strategic importance and crowd, migrant flows in the conflict areas, activation of terrorist entities, boosting actions for recruiting new members and spreading radical ideologies via internet.


To meet these challenges, the institution adjusts to the demands of national and regional security environment, at the same time, strengthening the international cooperation, as no intelligence service can manage by itself the current security threats.


At international level, today the service has communication and cooperation relations with over 50 intelligence services from other states, generating the exchange of information and analysis in bilateral format, as wella s common operations. Also, the intelligence officers participate in different formulas of multilateral cooperation to take over experience in intelligence sector.


In my opinion, an intelligence service cannot exist without three important elements, namely, human resource, information and cooperation based on confidence.


[MOLDPRES]: What are the biggest regrets of SIS director?


[Balan]: It is natural and humanly to have regrets, maybe there are much more than I wanted. I regret everything that I failed to do in the goals set at the beginning of mandate.


One of failures is the current regulatory framework, which does not allow the service to be combative and fully national and regional security provider. As an example can be approval of the law on special activity of investigation, a hard blow for the service in carrying out skills. The most effective measures of investigation, typical for a secret service, can be carried out only in a criminal case, after an offense was committed. It is worth mentioning that under this law, the service was excluded from the list of enforcement bodies on money transmission control or other extorted material values. Only specialised subdivisions of the Interior Ministry and National Anti-Corruption Centre have this right. Otherwise, monitoring or controlling financial transactions and access to financial information is carried out only within a criminal case.


Presently, the service has duties to prevent, anticipate and counteract offenses by non-criminal measures, which made us to propose setting up security mandate, allowing carrying out special measures of investigation outside the criminal case. The security mandate will be issued in case of existence of information on planning or committing acts presenting danger for state security. Among them I would mention – espionage, treason, actions aimed at overthrowing violently legal authorities, terrorist actions and others.


In this context, a proposal was submitted as regards adopting a distinct normative framework. I am referring to the laws which since 2013 are in the parliament and are not adopted so far.


Repeatedly I pointed out the need to adopt the laws that would make the entity be a stronger institution.


I assure you that SIS does its job, identifies threats, finds solutions and brings information to the attention of legal beneficiaries.


Another issue I care about is reaction to information provided by SIS. I am sure that in many cases if it would act promptly to the information issued by the institution, today we would have a more stable security environment. I am referring to the financial-banking sector, foreign economic relations, territorial integrity, social stability and corruption phenomenon. The same situation is in terms of integrity and fight against corruption. Intelligence officers, according to the legislation, provide notices on integrity of public dignity people and in judicial system, because of advisory character, the authorities neglect them.


Moreover, our notices are contested in the courts. In no European country you will find cases when the notices by special services, even if they are advisory, should not be taken for execution, or contested in court.


I am concerned about staff fluctuation, professional people, trained both in the country and abroad, with 5-7 years experience in the field, when already give yield. They go to the private sector to have an attractive social package and be paid better, and they have no restrictions that are imposed on an intelligence officer.


Other regret is inadequate funding. I am not speaking only about remuneration that is required to be increased. I aim at low allocating financial resources necessary for provision the service with advanced equipment and software. All developed countries are guided by principle saying that a strong state cannot exist without a strong security. Decision makers have to realize that the service must be an endowed entity, able to manage risks and meet threats, in order to generate security at national and regional level. National consensus is necessary for it more than ever.


[MOLDPRES]: Mr. Director, what would be your message to colleagues on the eve of professional day?


[Balan]: I am optimistic and I think that the intelligence service has a promising future, preserving the role of main alarm and sensor of Moldova’s security. I am glad to see that the service is a constantly changing institution, adaptable to evolutions of security environment. It is appreciated both at national level and by foreign partners in intelligence area. Achievements we have managed to record represent result of a team activity, with well trained people, respected for competences and skills to prevent and counteract any challenge that might put the state in danger.


I would like to be continuity. It is important to keep good things that were accomplished, regardless of circumstances. I always had a special respect for my predecessors, veterans of our institution, who devoted their career and entire life to ensuring security of the state.


I appreciate the contribution of former, as well as current intelligence officers. Thanks for the work, enthusiasm and dedication to defend national interests. I express gratitude to family members for understanding and support, I wish everyone to have personal and professional success, health, happiness and prosperity.