Spies keep spying, surveillance keeps surveying

16.04.2021 Off By Editor
Spies keep spying, surveillance keeps surveying

The Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) has published its annual report. If this were not the case, the public would not know at all that in Latvia there are a lot of foreign agents operating in our territory to the detriment of the Latvian state, the European Union and NATO.

First of all, about the strategic goals of the Constitution Protection Bureau. They remain unchanged – maintaining the system for protection of classified information, obtaining intelligence and counterintelligence information, as well as representing Latvia’s security interests in international organizations and working groups. In the introductory words of the report, SAB director Jānis Maizītis admits that 2020 was especially difficult due to the pandemic. Both because it has been much harder to work due to the risk of the disease itself, and because new types of danger have emerged. Hybrid threats and cybersecurity risks are on the rise.

Threats to Latvia’s national security, posed by the development of the situation in the international security environment, Russia’s military activities near Latvia’s borders, as well as malicious cyber activities. This year, the eastern neighbors will conduct large-scale military maneuvers. The Russia-Belarus exercise “Zapad 2021” planned for the autumn will be the most dangerous event of the four years of events planned on our side of the NATO border. In fact, it has already started a long time ago. Accordingly, a significant part of the SAB report is devoted to the political situation in these countries and the activities of these countries in the context of Latvia’s interests.

Russia and Belarus keep spying

Both the Russian intelligence and security services and the State Security Committee of Belarus are aggressively implementing their activities in Latvia. (The SAB amicably stays quiet on the activities of the allied services.) The Bureau forecasts that Belarusian activities in Latvia will increase this year, lobbying for the interests of the Belarusian regime and gathering intelligence about those Belarusians who have moved to Latvia due to repressions. It is not for nothing that in September last year, the Ambassador of Belarus to Latvia, Vasily Markovich, as well as other diplomats of this country, were recalled from office. The KGB of Belarus played a significant role in these events, collecting information on the views of individuals and reporting them to management.

As for Russia’s intelligence and security services, they continue to work against NATO and the EU, as well as their member states, in line with Kremlin’s policies. So against Latvia as well. The SAB informs that Russia has deployed a wide network of agents in the cover of its diplomatic missions and 20 to 40% of the total number of diplomats at the Russian Embassy in Latvia are engaged in intelligence gathering.

“Russian special services have an extremely wide range of intelligence interests in their work against the West, covering most areas – domestic and foreign policy, decision-making process and opportunities to influence it, as well as economic espionage.

The top priorities include security policy, defence capabilities and the military sector of NATO and its Member States. This also applies for Latvia.”

Which is the real failed state?

In its report, the SAB elaborates in great detail on what is happening in Russia, and to a large extent this public report is a propaganda message for Russia itself – what Latvia thinks about Putin and his regime. And it doesn’t think it’s going too well. Putin is 68 years old, the regime feels threatened, budget spending must be limited due to the pandemic, which in turn will slow down the country’s economic development in the future. Taxes will be raised. But Putin has practically won the 2024 presidential election already, with constitutional amendments resetting the presidential terms, expanding the president’s influence and further restricting democracy. ”

The relatively high support for Putin and the regime’s policies among Russian people was achieved through continued propaganda and targeted restrictions on political competition, including the assassination of opponents.” In short, if the Russian special services spread the narrative that Latvia is a failed state, then the Latvian special services act almost identically. In Russia, things are getting worse and worse.

The war on monuments has also been noticed

The SAB has also found that Russia has declared itself a history policeman and harshly rejects any interpretation of history that does not correspond to the postulate of Vladimir Putin’s regime. For the regime, history is a tool of domestic and foreign policy, which it uses both to justify aggressive foreign policy and to consolidate society. Neatkarīgā has also written several times about Russia’s extensive monument wars and the glorification of historical artifacts left by Soviet occupation.

Whether they are soldiers’ graves or weapons placed on pedestals. This component of hybrid warfare is important to both sides and to all the services involved in the war. Apparently, because it can be used to spread various provocations, riots and, most dangerously, to deal with the consequences of these provocations.

Permits and interceptions

In the SAB report you can also read about other areas of activity of the special service and see some quite interesting statistics:

In 2020, SAB issued 833 security clearances for the access to national classified information, 1657 security clearances for the access to NATO classified information, and 1656 security clearances for the access to EU classified information. The access to national classified information was denied in three cases, whereas the access to NATO and EU classified information was denied in six cases.

Permits are also required when building facilities or supplying goods and services to critical institutions. This applies to businesses. As of January 2021, there are 87 valid Facility Security Clearances (FSCs) for access to national classified information, six for access to NATO and one for access to EU classified information. In 2020, SAB has issued 21 FSCs and made changes to two previously issued FSCs, seven applicants were refused the FSC, and one company had their previously issued FSC revoked.

The Constitution Protection Bureau is also the main institution that ensures the interception of telephone conversations with the help of a special device. The conversations are intercepted by many and from many. The data obtained as a result of telephone control are transferred to the subject of operational activities, who is the initiator of the interception of the specific telephone conversations and has received the sanction of a Justice of the Supreme Court. In recent years, an average of around 1,000 targets are being listened to all the time. The most active listeners are the State Police, the State Security Service and the Defence Intelligence and Security Service.

The full report of the Constitutional Protection Bureau for 2020 can be read here.


Journalist of the NRA,

Imants Vīksne