Merger of Foreign Intelligence & State Security Services Raises Questions

Opposition parties, former governmental officials and experts have criticized the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, for making the decision to unite the Foreign Intelligence and State Security Services (SSS).

The experts assure that this decision will be very harmful to the state intelligence and security systems, claiming it represents a similar structure as that seen in the KGB in Soviet times.

The Foreign Intelligence Service was separated from the State Security Service in 2005 and became an independent organ in order to better eliminate foreign threats, however, on November 14, 2017 it was decided by Kvirikashvili that from January 2018, the two structures will be reunited.

Former Defense Minister Dimitry Shashkin sees high risks in the concentration of power in the hands of SSS Head, Vakhtang Gomelauri, who will lead the united agencies. He believes the new body will be a real “monster.”

“When you give so much power to one person, this means this will be the most powerful man in the country,” Shashkin told Rustavi 2.

Opposition party the United National Movement (UNM) believes that the unification of the two structures will become a tool of the government to persecute their political opponents abroad.

UNM member Khatia Dekanoidze says the new service will be identical to the KGB and will be used against the opponents of the Georgian Dream (GD) government living abroad.

“The SSS is persecuting GD opponents in the country. Now, after uniting with the Foreign Intelligence Service, the SSS will have access to the opponents abroad too,” she stressed.

Secretary General of the Free Democrats, Tamar Gegenadze, says the changes were the result of distributing power among the various wings of the GD.

She claims the head of the Intelligence Service, Davit Sujashvili, was the member of ex-PM Irakli Gharibashvili’s team and by uniting the agency with the SSS, he was distanced from the GD.

“Through this decision, the PM totally destroyed the defense and the security systems in the country,” Gagnidze said.

Experts claim Georgia should follow the Western model, where the two services are strictly separated from each-other.

Founder of the Georgian Strategic Center, Tornike Sharashenidze, recalls the example of the United States, saying the FBI deals with the challenges within the state, while the CIA works on elimination of foreign threats.

“Intelligence is a very scrupulous sphere. It needs space, money and time. Its subordination to the State security service will not be a good step,” he stated.

Thea Morrison

16 November 2017 19:14