This is not the first time that I’ve written about László Földi, one of the handful of national security “experts” who serve the Orbán government. In October 2015 I devoted about four paragraphs to his background and some of his strongly held beliefs about the world which, I believe, have mighty little to do with reality. The media, however, offers plenty of opportunity for this soft-spoken former intelligence officer from the secret service apparatus of the Kádár regime to spread his outlandish views, not just on the refugee question but also on Hungary’s security in general. In Földi’s view the world is full of spies, internal as well as foreign, who are trying to undermine the present government of the country.
Only recently I commented on those features of the first Orbán government (1998-2002) that show a suspicious resemblance to the present practices of Fidesz. One of these was the fattening up of enterprises run by people who in the past were useful players in Viktor Orbán’s power game. László Földi is one of these people.
With the help of Péter Boross, minister of interior in the Antall government, some high officials of Kádár’s intelligence team, including Földi, continued to work for the first democratically elected government. In the old regime he was in charge of intelligence against the United States, but he didn’t seem to have any difficulty adjusting to the new political environment, although his background indicates an attachment to Marxist-Leninist ideas. His father studied philosophy in the Soviet Union, and he himself was an enthusiastic KISZ member and later party secretary in the ministry of interior’s intelligence department. Despite this background, he seems to have developed a strong working relationship with the Fidesz leadership, and after 1994 he was most likely involved in intelligence gathering not against foreign foes but against some members of the Horn government. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the information gathering was for Fidesz’s benefit. At least the first Orbán government’s generous support for Földi’s fledgling security business called “Defend” during the 1998-2002 period would indicate that much.
Today Földi, officially at least, has no connection with the government, but it is hard to imagine that he is not consulted by the present leaders of the intelligence and anti-terrorist community. Lately, he made several remarks that would point to a working relationship between him and TEK, the anti-terrorist center.
In the last few days a number of very critical articles have appeared about TEK’s amateurish activities, which are more or less restricted to commando operations instead of intelligence gathering. Of the 1,200 employees of TEK, only 120 are involved in intelligence work. We also know that their technological preparedness is woefully inadequate.
Reading some of Földi’s earlier pronouncements on intelligence gathering, he seemed to be of the school that considered technological gizmos of little use and that preferred old-fashioned personal spying. But now that Orbán announced that TEK will be equipped with the latest and the best equipment, Földi suddenly discovered the benefits of technology. In his most recent remarks he has been emphasizing the introduction of modern electronic equipment.
His ideas on the current refugee crisis are simple enough. Europe is at war and “Europe must be defended.” Angela Merkel is unfit for the job because she is a woman, and “no woman has ever won a war,” a comment that prompted guffawing in the media community over the ignorance of the former history major at Ho Chi Minh Teachers’ College in Eger. This simplistic view gets garbled when Földi tries to explain the nature of this war. For example, I find it difficult to decipher the following sentence: “ISIS was created by military leaders who because of NATO became unemployed and who haven’t given up the fight, only moved the military operations to Europe.” Any suggestions about its meaning?
With the passage of time Földi’s pronouncements have become more and more extreme. On March 1 on state television’s M1 he advocated an “order to shoot” because the simple sight of weaponry is not enough of a deterrent. One has to use the weapons. If the European leaders would admit that what’s going on is war, then “one could announce that the human traffickers are saboteurs who are attacking the defense of the hinterland.” So, you can shoot them on sight.
Or, here is Földi’s interpretation of the deficiencies of democracy. A few days ago he announced that there is something very wrong with Europe, especially in a war situation with ISIS where the rules of war as we know them are not applicable. Europe is at a severe disadvantage when “the criminal is not arrested as long as there is no proof. Moreover, they almost have as many rights as other people.” Elsewhere he insisted that all members of the families of the terrorists should immediately be evicted regardless of their involvement in any crime.
The refugees are not the only enemies Földi sees. He has been convinced for some time that domestic dissatisfaction is fueled by foreign enemies of the Orbán government. Already in November 2014 he was convinced that the impressive internet demonstration was not organized on Facebook by civic activists but that “it was a well-organized and well-financed operation.” He added that those “who for financial gain serve foreign interests” are traitors.
Földi’s latest is an op/ed piece in the March 23 issue of Magyar Idők, which is devoted to his theories about domestic spies at work in Hungary. The article is very confused, but it looks as if Földi discovered that recently Hungary was put on a list of countries that are important to certain interest groups. “The attacking army” works like people who are engaged in “business intelligence.” Since he immediately moves on to propaganda coming from Hollywood, I assume he sees the United States behind these civilian spies. What he considers spying is so broadly interpreted that, for example, the articles and comments that appear in Hungarian Spectrum could be considered to be civilian spying. After all, we gather information on the basis of which we draw certain conclusions, and that according to Földi is civilian espionage. The information thus obtained can then be used to apply political pressure. In Földi’s opinion, Hungary was put on this list because its government was capable of defending its own interests against the will of great powers. As a result “every (!) inhabitant of the country in the crosshairs becomes a victim.”
György Bolgár wanted to learn more about Földi’s “unique” vision of the world after Viktor Orbán’s successes against the “great powers.” Unfortunately, he didn’t have the opportunity to be enlightened by the national security expert. After he asked a few questions about Földi’s solution to the refugee crisis, Földi began to get agitated. When Földi insisted that Angela Merkel had sent agents to Turkey to invite the refugees to escape to Germany, Bolgár asked for proof. At this point he simply hung up the telephone. He is not accustomed to being challenged. Journalists in the government-friendly media listen admiringly to all the nonsense he spouts. And so Földi and some of the other experts continue to spread their disinformation. The ignorant public is misled by charlatans masquerading as experts.