Tag Archives: national security

Toward a police state? A proposed government “data grab”

It doesn’t happen too often, but a few days ago Attila Péterfalvi, president of the National Authority for Data Protection of Freedom of Information (Nemzeti Adatvédelmi és Információszabadság Hatóság/NAIH), strongly criticized the government’s latest attempt to infringe upon the privacy of both Hungarian citizens and foreign visitors.

On July 31 the ministry of interior submitted a bill for consideration which, among other things, aims at a greater scrutiny of individuals and creates a central storage facility for information gathered by state and non-state authorities. Thus, as opposed to the present practice, extracting information on individuals would be a one-step process. At the moment data gathered by the different branches of government and non-government organizations (police, traffic supervision, public transportation authorities, banks, toll road monitors, etc.) can be accessed only by first presenting reasons for their legitimate use. But, as the bill reads now, there would be no judicial oversight of the collected material. Thus, every scrap of information on individuals would be collected in one place where an individual’s whole history could easily be assembled–and all that without any judicial oversight.

In addition, the ministry of interior wants to know more about everybody who spends any time in a hotel as a guest, be that person a Hungarian citizen or a foreign tourist. Hotels would have to copy people’s I.D.s or passports. The state seems to be interested in all the details: date of arrival and anticipated date of departure, sex, birthplace, birth date, citizenship, and mother’s maiden name. All this information would have to be stored and provided upon request to the various national security services. The authorities would also require hotels to install software that would enable the transfer of data collected.

It didn’t take long for Péterfalvi to label the proposed bill “a visual surveillance system for secret information gathering.” Péterfalvi’s letter to one of the assistant undersecretaries can be found on the website of NAIH. His conclusion is that the new law would “further restrict” the individual’s right to the protection of his personal data. He suggested changing the bill to make sure that the state authority that needs the piece of information documents the reasons for its request and specifies the precise scope of the inquiry. He also wants further restrictions on surveillance around churches, polling stations, political meetings, and demonstrations. In addition, Péterfalvi wants NAIH to have the authority to verify the use of the documents requested by the state authorities.

Now that practically the whole government is on vacation, István Hollik of the Christian Democratic Party was the one to react to Péterfalvi’s opposition to the bill. Hollik was brief and noncommittal. According to him, the government will have to consider whether Péterfalvi’s proposals can be incorporated into the bill. But, he added, since the bill otherwise is fine, he sees no problem with the small changes proposed by the president of NAIH. I’m not sure whether Hollik understands that Péterfalvi’s requirements are more substantive than they may appear at first glance.

In any case, Demokratikus Koalíció isn’t satisfied with Péterfalvi’s solution to the problem. The party wants the whole bill to be withdrawn. Péter Niedermüller, co-chair of the party and member of the European Parliament, announced that if the bill, even with the amendments, is passed by the Hungarian parliament, DK will turn to the European Commission because the party believes that the law doesn’t comport with the constitution of the European Union.

Viktor Szigetvári, the president of Együtt’s board, also wants the ministry of interior to immediately withdraw the bill. In his opinion, the bill paves the way for the establishment of a police state. He called attention to the anti-democratic practices of Russia, whose president is Viktor Orbán’s role model, and therefore he suspects that Orbán’s intentions are anything but benevolent. He considers the bill another sign of Orbán’s plans for unlimited power.

MSZP, which seems to be far too preoccupied with its own problems, didn’t make any official announcement about the party’s position on the question. The only comment came from Zsolt Molnár, chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, whose status in the party is more than shaky after his recent open disagreement with László Botka, the party’s candidate for the premiership. MSZP usually takes a less categorical position than the other opposition parties, and therefore I wasn’t particularly surprised when Molnár stated that there is a need for a new law on data protection but there are several problems with this bill. He called the proposal “excessive, even if national security precautionary measures sometimes justify stricter restrictions.” As usual, MSZP is sitting on the fence.

So far, only a couple of foreign papers have reported on Péterfalvi’s reaction to the proposed bill. Euractive introduced the topic with the headline “Hungary rights chief denounced ‘data grab’ bill,” using AFP’s report from Budapest. It quoted from an interview with Péterfalvi on KlubRádió where he claimed that the bill “would give almost automatic access to personal data.”

I assume the issue will not come up until late September, when the parliament reconvenes.

August 8, 2017

Russian-Hungarian exchange of top security information

After a lot of suspense, the fate of Paks II, to be built by Rosatom and financed by the Russian government, has been settled. The European Commission threw in the towel. Admittedly, there is still a possibility that the Austrian government will take the case to the European Court of Justice as it did with Great Britain’s Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Plant. The British case is still pending, and a verdict against Hinkley Point might have some bearing on Paks II. But that is a long shot.

Although the specific points of the final agreement on Paks II are of great interest, here I would rather look at another, possibly nefarious instance of Russian-Hungarian relations: an agreement between Russia and Hungary “on the mutual protection of classified information.” News that this agreement would come into force on April 1 was announced on March 3, 2017 on the last pages of the Official Gazette. It was discovered by the staff of Magyar Nemzet. Interestingly, with the exception of very few media outlets, this agreement has been ignored.

What is even more surprising is that the agreement itself was signed in September 2016 without anyone noticing it. Bernadett Szél (LMP), for example, who is a member of the parliamentary committee on national security, had no inkling of the document’s existence. This is what happens when the opposition parties lack the resources to hire a research staff.

Of course, the agreement is not especially significant by itself because it only defines rules and regulations governing the transfer of secret information between the two countries. What is of considerable interest, however, is the extent of the working relationship between the Russian and Hungarian national security forces or, as the agreement states, “the competent authorities responsible for the implementation of [the] Agreement.” These “competent authorities” are the National Security Authority in Hungary and, in Russia, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), the successor to the KGB of Soviet times.

The agreement reveals that top secret documents change hands between Hungary and Russia which cannot be shared by a third party. How many such documents are we talking about? The agreement at one point states that “for the transfer of classified information carriers of considerable volumes of classified information, the authorized bodies shall, in accordance with the laws and other regulatory legal acts of their States, agree on the modalities of their transportation, itinerary and escorting method.” There are also detailed instructions about the destruction of certain secret documents, including the proviso that “classified information carriers marked Szigorúan titkos!/Совершенно секретно (Top secret) shall not be destroyed and shall be returned to the authorized body of the originating Party, when they are no longer deemed necessary.” All this indicates to me a close working relationship between the Russian FSB and the Hungarian NSA.

We don’t know, of course, what kinds of top secret documents are being exchanged by the Russian and Hungarian national security agencies. It is certainly not immaterial what kind of information the Hungarian partner passes on to the Russians, especially in view of Hungary’s membership in NATO and the European Union. In fact, Magyar Nemzet specifically asked the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Trade whether the Hungarian authorities gave information about the details of cooperation between Russian and Hungarian national security forces to the European Union and NATO. No answer has yet been received. Bernadett Szél told the paper that she was certain the Hungarians don’t pass any sensitive information on to the Russians and that the European Union and NATO are fully aware of all such exchanges between the two countries. I wish I were that confident that the Orbán government is playing by the book.

Tamás Szele in Huppa.hu is convinced that such an exchange of secret documents greatly favors Russia “because considering the weight and strength of the two organizations, it is hard to imagine the arrangement as one of cooperation between equal partners.” For Szele this means that “we have become unreliable diplomatic partners, surrogates of Russia with whom one cannot candidly negotiate or conclude secret agreements because everything that has been said or written will be in the Kremlin within an hour.” Let’s hope that Szele exaggerates, but as far as I know western diplomats are already worried about the trustworthiness of the Hungarian diplomatic corps. And as Attila Juhász of Political Capital, a political science think tank, said the other day, “the government seemed to have forgotten that Hungary is a member of the European Union and NATO. It replaced a friend with a foe, contemplating idly the growing use of Russian propaganda.”

Hungarian state media spread fake Russian news / Source: Budapest Beacon

There is another danger in this cozy Russian-Hungarian exchange of top secret information, which is the possibility that the Russians disseminate disinformation that may lead the Hungarian agents astray. Given our knowledge of Russian disinformation efforts in the United States and the European Union, I don’t think it is too far-fetched to assume such a possibility. The use of disinformation via the internet is one of Russia’s weapons in the destabilization of Europe.

The far-right Hungarian-language internet sites under Russian tutelage work hard to turn Hungarians against Western Europe and the United States in favor of Russia. This is bad enough. But the real problem is that the Hungarian government media outlets consistently join the chorus of pro-Russian far-right groups, which only reinforces the worst instincts of a large segment of the population. According to a recent study on the attitude of the Visegrád 4 countries toward Russia, “the Hungarian government disguises its pro-Russian stance behind a mask of pragmatism,” but there is reason to believe that the government media’s love affair with Russia is not against the wishes of the Orbán government. The Orbán government’s long-range economic and financial dependence on Russia in connection with the Paks II project further ties Hungary to Putin’s Russia, whose plans for Europe don’t bode well for Hungary either.

March 6, 2017

Are security agents recruiting informants in media outlets?

The usually well-informed 444.hu published a story that has shaken the world of the Hungarian media. It was about an unnamed journalist (G.) who in December 2015 was approached by two men identifying themselves as agents of the Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal (AH) or, in English, the Constitution Protection Office. According to the organization’s website, the primary duty of the office is the defense of the constitutional order against illegal attempts to overthrow it. These attacks may come from “extremist religious groups or organizations established on an anti-democratic ideological basis. For information gathering and observation AH can use secret service means and methods.”

G. was approached on the street on his way to his newspaper’s editorial office. The men said they wanted to talk to him about matters concerning his own “safety.” Although G. wanted to have the conversation right there, the two men insisted on going elsewhere. There he was confronted with intimate details of his and his family’s private life. He was told that the information was collected not by their own office but by “someone else with harmful intent.” They could help him but only if G. would be willing to cooperate. They kept insisting that he sign a long-term cooperative agreement to report to them. He didn’t find out what he was supposed to report to AH’s secret service men. He simply refused to sign. But he did agree to a second meeting because he was hoping to learn more about what the two agents were after. At this second meeting, somewhat more composed, G. told the AH agents that he intended to go to the police and file charges against the unnamed person who allegedly collected secret information on his private life. The men tried to get information out of G. about his contacts and sources, but G. refused to cooperate or to sign anything. And that was that. When 444.hu went to the ministry of interior responsible for the secret services, the spokesman for the ministry didn’t deny that such an encounter had taken place. He simply copied out the appropriate passages from the laws governing the functioning of the office. It was all legal, he insisted.

People familiar with the methods of the secret service during the Kádár regime recall that this kind of blackmail was a classic way to force unwilling people to cooperate with the ministry of interior’s infamous III/III department. Using so-called “sensitive material” from people’s private lives, according to experts, is still allowable today. But this information could be exploited only if “the security of Hungary were in immediate danger,” which was certainly not the case here.

By the next day journalists began to express their fears that G.’s encounter with the agents of AH might not be unique and asked themselves how many such willing or unwilling recruits are already in the editorial offices of media outlets. In the last few months quite a few suspicious stories came to light indicating that agents keep a tab on politicians and journalists. In 2014 the police confiscated a journalist’s cellphone in the hope of getting information on his sources. In May 2016 the police listened in on the telephone conversations of a journalist from Blikk. Benedek Jávor, PM member of the European Parliament, became aware that a third person was listening to his telephone conversations.

Naturally, all opposition parties protested, and the socialist chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security promised to discuss the matter next Thursday. The ministry and the head of AH will be called to report on the case. I don’t expect much from this meeting. Zsolt Molnár, the socialist chairman, usually accepts the disinformation that government agencies dump on the committee.

As I was gathering material for this post I recalled, though only in the vaguest of terms, a report about the ministry of interior’s failed attempt to make it legal to plant members of the secret service in editorial offices. Soon enough I unearthed the story. On November 4, 2015 Index discovered the offensive section in a 34-page amendment package to the law on the status of the various branches of the police. ¶38 listed the organizations that must have working relations with the national security establishment: telegraphic and postal service, energy suppliers, firms connected to the armaments industry. There is nothing surprising in this list thus far, but what made the journalists of Index stop was the mention of “content providers” (tartalomszolgáltatók). No definition of content providers was given but, according to the normal understanding of the phrase, it includes print and internet news sites as well as radio and television stations.

government-spying2

It took only a few hours for Sándor Pintér’s ministry to announce that “the Hungarian opposition was deliberately misinterpreting” the text. “It only allows what was already in force.” Members of the national security apparatus are already employed in the offices of telecommunication services. As Index pointed out, there are two problems with this denial. One is that in the law on the media “tartalomszolgáltató” is defined as “any media service provider or supplier of other media content.” The other difficulty is that if this provision “was already in force,” either it was being applied illegally or, if it was legal, why did the government want to create a new law to provide for it?

The upshot, I believe, is that Sándor Pintér indeed wanted to create a law that would allow the government to legally place agents in the offices of radio and TV stations, newspapers, and internet news providers but the opposition and the media discovered that crucial paragraph and the government had to retreat.

That was in November in 2015, and about a month later G. had his encounter with the two AH agents. I can’t help thinking that there is a connection between the failed attempt of the ministry of interior to change the law on national security and the effort of the two agents to recruit G. If that hypothesis is correct, we can be pretty certain that G. was not the only journalist approached. He had the guts to say no, although it took him almost a year to gather his courage and come forward with the story of his encounter.

It is unlikely that the upheaval will end here. G. is being encouraged to file charges. It is also possible that others will come forth with similar stories. But no matter what happens, the case will have a chilling effect on the already frightened journalists whose opportunity to ply their trade honestly and independently is shrinking in Orbán’s Hungary.

September 9, 2016

Viktor Orbán’s latest attempt to introduce “martial law” under the pretext of terrorism

Let’s start with the Hungarian regime’s latest outrage. Viktor Orbán, under the pretext of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, is trying to push through his controversial amendments to the constitution that would create a new category of emergency called “state of terror threat” (terrorveszélyhelyzet).

I wrote twice about the proposed amendments, which were uniformly rejected by the opposition parties. Once right after István Simicskó, minister of defense, called for a “five-party” discussion on security measures that would involve amendments to the constitution. At that point only bits and pieces of information were available, but even from the little that was known it sounded truly frightening. The emergency measures would have been introduced for thirty days and could have been extended without limit. Moreover, only “a threat of terrorism” would have been necessary to declare such a state of emergency.

A few days later, when all the details of the proposed amendments became available, I wrote another piece in which I listed thirty restrictions, including eviction of people from their homes, prohibition of the entry of foreigners, limitation or prohibition of contact and communication with foreigners and foreign organizations, prohibition of demonstrations, control of the internet, etc. I could go on and on. All that without parliamentary approval. These draconian measures could be announced by the government without any parliamentary oversight. No opposition party could possibly have voted for these amendments, and I was happy to see that none of them did. Not even Jobbik. It was clear to everyone that the “state of terror threat” was not so much about terror as about domestic dissatisfaction with the government. The only thing that was needed to quell anti-government protest was a so-called “terror threat.”

The terrorist attacks in Brussels came in handy for Viktor Orbán’s diabolical plans. At the time of the explosions in the Belgian capital Hungary was already under a state of emergency #3. As soon as the news of the Brussels atrocities was received in Hungary, the terror alert was upgraded to state of emergency #2.

Anyone who’s unfamiliar with Hungarian regulations might well think that under the circumstances such a move was justifiable. Those of us who know the rules, however, became suspicious that Orbán was not worried about an actual terrorist attack on Budapest but was simply raising the ante. A #2 state of emergency can currently be declared only if a “verifiable terror threat exists against the country.” And, as it turns out, the Hungarian security services have not received any such information. After many attempts, Olga Kálmán of ATV finally managed to get the truth out of György Bakondi, the government commissioner who is supposed to be an expert on emergency matters: Hungarian authorities haven’t received any verifiable terror threat. The security forces are simply wondering whether the arrest of Salah Abdeslam might trigger an attack on Budapest because Abdeslam traveled to Hungary twice to get some of his comrades out of the country back in September 2015. A rather far-fetched hypothesis.

A few hours after Bakondi’s admission about the lack of evidence of a verifiable terror threat, the security services managed to convince even the opposition members of the parliamentary commission on national security that raising the level of the state of emergency was justified. Bernadett Szél of LMP announced that the information received from the security services “was convincing.” Knowing this government, I suspect that the officers of the national security forces are just about as truthful as the other members of the government, including Viktor Orbán. Therefore, I for one don’t believe that Hungary received a credible threat, but I understand that members of the opposition are reluctant to stick their necks out.

Even before the meeting of the committee, Viktor Orbán announced that the #2 state of emergency will remain in force, and it might even be changed to #1 at the borders. Yesterday Sándor Pintér, minister of interior, said at a press conference that the #2 state of emergency would remain in effect “until it becomes clear exactly what happened in Brussels and what is expected in other countries of Europe.”

Since then Viktor Orbán decided that Hungary needs more than these terror alert levels. He instructed Pintér to return to the amendments to the constitution, which fell by the wayside “because of political quarrels.” He will try to push through this unacceptable change in the constitution, justifying it by appealing to the tragic events in Brussels.

Viktor Orbán today posed as an ardent supporter of a united Europe when he said: “The target of the explosions was not Belgium but Europe, and therefore we have to look upon this attack as if it was also against Hungary.” I wonder what he will say in a few days when the ministers of interior are told about plans for closer cooperation on security, which may involve setting up a European border guard whose members could be sent even to those member countries that do not want their assistance. This way the European borders could be better secured. I doubt that Orbán would be thrilled if that plan was approved by a “qualified majority.” As for Hungary’s preparedness for a terrorist attack he said little, but he did admit that “Hungary must obtain certain technological equipment that will make the country’s secret service equal to the best equipped ones. We will buy the latest technology, we will introduce training programs,” he promised.

MSZP came to the conclusion that Orbán’s announcement was an admission that Hungarian security forces are not up to snuff. A few hours later both Fidesz and the government condemned MSZP because, as far as they are concerned, “the opposition party in the last few months has stood by the migrants and has tried to hinder the government’s measures.” They have no right to say anything about the government’s lack of preparedness.

24.hu published a picture of the meeting Orbán held with those officials most closely involved with national security, saying that “it shows everything about Hungarian national security.”

The picture had been posted on Viktor Orbán’s Facebook page. On the picture one can see:

torzs

  • 0 computers
  • 0 smart phones
  • 2 nonfunctioning live streams
  • 9 notebooks with notations
  • 1 TV on which M1 can be seen
  • 1 monitor on which a building can be seen

A rather good description of what’s going on in Hungary. Hungary may have a fence, but it’s ill-prepared for a real terror threat. The government has been battling the refugees and inciting the people against them but has done practically nothing to develop a decent counter-terrorism task force.

Conclusion. Most likely there is no terror threat against Hungary at the moment, which is a blessing because these guys are totally incompetent. And constitutional amendments that infringe on human rights won’t help that situation.

March 23, 2016

The truth caught up with the “national security expert,” György Nógrádi

It was on October 19 that I wrote a negative post about three Hungarian national security “experts.” Although I am less familiar with Georg Spöttle, a relative newcomer, I always felt that something was not quite right with both György Nógrádi and László Földi. Well, Nógrádi has now been exposed.

I wasn’t the only one who found Nógrádi’s qualifications suspect. Two days after my post came a bombshell: an article on Nógrádi by András Dezső of Index, who earlier did a superb job unraveling the possible connection between Béla Kovács, a Jobbik member of the European Parliament, and the Russian secret service, following the trail all the way to Japan. Only a few days ago the European Parliament revoked his parliamentary immunity.

Dezső was originally planning to write a simple portrait of Nógrádi, who has become an important person in Hungarian politics of late. Sometime in June it was Nógrádi who suggested erecting a fence or wall against the inflow of migrants and, behold, nine days later preparations for a fence along the Serbian border were already underway. Since Nógrádi is such a busy man, mostly because of his media appearances, Dezső had to wait a whole week for the interview, which gave him plenty of time to ferret out as much as he could about the man.

Dezső learned from other well-respected experts that Nógrádi has no track record of research or serious publications. Instead, he is a talking head. Nógrádi told reporters that as of last month he had appeared on television 134 times and on radio 162 times. He also wrote 61 newspaper articles and participated in 56 “large”conferences. These activities, however, don’t seem weighty enough to merit all the honors Nógrádi has received, according to his curriculum vitae. So, Dezső investigated two items on Nógrádi’s list. For starters, Nógrádi claimed that he has been a member of the board of the Swedish Defense University (Försvarshögskolan) since 2001. There is only one problem. The Swedish Defense University never heard of György Nógrádi. Since then he admitted that this item on his c.v. was a mistake.

In another version of his curriculum vitae Nógrádi claimed that he is the president of the Europe Academy and, since 2011, has been vice-president of the Europe University. Both are supposed to be in Vienna. Despite hours of searching, Dezső couldn’t find such a university. When he confronted Nógrádi with this fact, the professor admitted that, although the university has been established, it is not yet functioning.

The president of this new university will be Rüdiger Stix, a former politician of the far-right Freedom Party who was accused by the Austrian paper Kurier in 2011 of buying his Ph.D. from the Miklós Zrínyi National Defense University. A Hungarian article also covered the story. Apparently about 100 Austrian military men paid 2,300 euros each for Ph.D.s from Zrínyi as well as from Corvinus. At both universities the professor who was handling the Austrian officers’ studies was György Nógrádi. I might as well mention here that Friedrich Korkisch, another Zrínyi bogus Ph.D. and a student of Nógrádi, was the co-author along with Rüdiger Stix and Nógrádi of a book published in 2012 on the first anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy: Gut gegen Böse.

Miklós Zrínyi National Defense Academy where Ph.D.s were sold to Austrian officers

Miklós Zrínyi National Defense Academy where Ph.D.s were sold to Austrian officers

Then there’s the question of the organization Hungarian sources called Európa Akadémia, which, presumably at the behest of Nógrádi, who is a member, bestowed its grand prize on István Tarlós, lord mayor of Budapest, last year, three days before the municipal election. According to MTI, the academy has been in existence since 1962. Its yearly grand prize is given to the person who has done the most for European integration. In Tarlós’s case the prize was awarded because of his efforts at guarding Budapest’s past grandeur while making it a competitive European metropolis. After some search Dezső found the organization, Europäische Akademie Wien, which appears to be either phony or inactive. At least this is what its website suggests.

Dezső was on a roll, so he decided to continue his search. Nógrádi likes to boast about his high-level international contacts. He brags about being an adviser to important politicians. Among the many he is especially proud of is being adviser to the Austrian defense minister–this by virtue of being a member of a research council that functions in association (mellett) with the ministry. According to Nógrádi, the members of the council meet regularly to survey the state of the world and affairs that have an impact on Austria. When Dezső inquired whether this advisory council functions under the ministry or the minister, Nógrádi claimed that it was in direct contact with the minister himself. Although ministers came and ministers went since 2001, each of them asked him to stay. He was the only member from a formerly socialist country. It’s just too bad that the Austrian defense minister doesn’t seem to know anything about Nógrádi.

After the appearance of this second article Nógrádi got in touch with Wolf Rauch, who is a professor of computer science at the University of Graz, and asked him to write a letter to Index, testifying that indeed Nógrádi has been a member of this body under his leadership. A rather strange position for a computer scientist.

The right-wing media is up in arms because these revelations are embarrassing to the Orbán government, whose policies Nógrádi supports to the letter. The government propaganda machine tried to come to his rescue yesterday by giving him an opportunity to explain himself and present himself in the best light. In a long interview on Híradó he talked about himself and, in his usual manner, kept bragging. This time we learned that among his many accomplishments he is an alumnus of the Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr and that he completed some kind of “NATO course.”

One has the feeling that the man has a compulsion to tell stories that are either outright lies or that have only a superficial resemblance to reality. In any case, Nógrádi seems unstoppable, although some opposition politicians have already suggested that the “national security expert” might actually be a “national security risk” who should be thoroughly vetted. It will be interesting to see whether Viktor Orbán sends him a message to lie low for a while. If the accusations continue, I’m sure this will be the outcome.

Viktor Orbán’s “national security experts” on terrorism

A change of pace. It’s time to have a little fun with those “national security experts” who diligently support the Orbán government’s propaganda campaign, which portrays asylum seekers as current or future terrorists who will be the scourge of Europe within a decade or two.

Here I will concentrate on three of these so-called experts: György Nógrádi, László Földes, and, the latest addition to this illustrious crowd, George Spöttle. It seems that the Hungarian media simply cannot get enough of these guys.

Let’s start with Nógrádi, who is the smartest and best educated of the bunch, though he has a checkered past. In 2009 researchers of the 1956 Institute identified him as one of a large group who were supposed to spread government propaganda at the time of the reburial of Imre Nagy and his fellow martyrs. The historians also discovered that in 1981 Nógrádi joined the internal security establishment. He received a cover name and was assigned an officer to whom he had to report. He denied the allegation, but his cover name, “Raguzza,” gave him away. He was known to be a lover of the former Yugoslavia, and Raguzza is the Italian name for Dubrovnik. In any case, the 1956 Institute didn’t remove his name from their list. Until recently he taught at Corvinus University, but last year he was invited to teach at the new National Civil Service University. It looks as if his past sins have been forgiven by Fidesz.

György Nógrádi

György Nógrádi

The past of László Földi is not exactly pristine either. Born in 1956, he was a devoted member of the Communist Youth Organization (KISZ) all through high school and later at the Ho Chi Minh Teacher’s College in Eger. Földi never spent any time teaching. After graduation he joined the Hungarian intelligence service (III/I), where he became the party secretary. After the regime change Földi’s career didn’t suffer until the fall of 1996, when the socialist minister in charge of the intelligence service removed him from his position. I can’t go into the very complicated story that became known as the Birch-tree Affair, but it seems that Földi wasn’t only investigating criminal activities in the Hungarian-Romanian-Ukrainian border area but also socialist politicians, and that he may have passed this information on to Fidesz. At this point Földi became a businessman. Later, during the first Orbán administration, he received a lot of government orders and became quite rich. Ever since his retirement from the intelligence service he has been one of the experts on national security matters.

László Földi

László Földi

We know only as much about the life of our third expert, Georg Spöttle, as he decided to share with us. He had to have been born around 1960, and his father was “a Hungarian from Marosvásárhely (Târgu-Mureș)” who didn’t figure in his life but as far as he knows was a diplomat. His mother, whose maiden name was Spöttle, was a German who during the war ended up in Hungary. Since his father didn’t care about him, he decided to take his mother’s name. In 2002 he claimed that he had spent about half his life in Germany, where he was drafted into the German army. Because he speaks four languages, the German military intelligence approached him with a job, which he gladly accepted. He claims that in that capacity he spent a great deal of time in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. Oh, yes, before I forget, Spöttle was once abducted by UFO’s, as the blogger of orulunkvincent.blog.hu discovered.

George Spöttle

Georg Spöttle

All three of these experts are forewarning the Hungarian public of the immense dangers that await Europeans. Let’s start with Nógrádi, who predicts that in twenty years Europe will be in the midst of civil war, ethnic tensions, and total chaos.  He was one of the first “experts” who suggested building a barbed wire fence. The reason for keeping these people out is Nógrádi’s conviction that Middle Eastern immigrants cannot be integrated into European society. How to keep the new immigrants out? Simple, sink the boats that bring them to Europe’s shores. “They say that this is inhumane. My answer: they should have been sunk a long time ago.”

Földi’s favorite theme is that Europe is at war. A war that was started by the United States and her allies and that by now has reached Europe in the form of the influx of migrants. They are foot soldiers sent by ISIS to destroy Europe. He is convinced that there is a whole intelligence network behind the refugees whose members organize the movement of the people. “This is a consciously planned, built-up system in which everybody to the last man is channeled in.” All of them receive instructions from the organizers. Földi believes that the intelligence agencies of European countries are fully aware of all this and that, if the fence is not enough, “if necessary even weapons must be used.”

Földi is busy. Every three or four days he comes up with a newly-discovered horror story. A couple of days ago he told the public that Hungary by now is absolutely full of spies, just like Vienna used to be during the Kádár period. Hungary is both politically and economically a stable country and therefore it has become a favorite place of foreign secret services. Földi claims that there are many night clubs in Budapest where groups of foreign intelligence officers can be seen because “they want to demonstrate their presence.”

And then there is Georg Spöttle. He is also convinced that the refugees are not escaping from ISIS but on the contrary are being sent by the Muslim extremists. In his opinion, the European intelligence agencies have known since spring that ISIS is planning another 9/11 in Europe, adding that 85% of the migrants are young men of military age. “Once these muscled young men grab guns, God save Europe!”

On state television Spöttle and Földi were asked to comment on certain files found on an abandoned cell phone that the “experts” of TEK had already identified as proof of the owner’s terrorist affiliation. The program dealing with these files was about ten minutes long. Besides Spöttle and Földi, another former secret service official, József Horváth from the Kádár era, was also interviewed. Horváth’s name should be familiar to those who followed the case of UD Zrt, for whom Horváth worked after he was sacked by the secret service in the socialist period. UD Zrt spied on the government on behalf of Fidesz. All three people took it for granted that an especially gruesome picture found on the phone was proof that the phone belonged to a terrorist.

Enter János Széky, a columnist for Élet és Irodalom, who charges that either the so-called experts are total dolts who know nothing about the subject they keep talking about or that MTV, with their help, is knowingly falsifying the facts. The title of Széky’s article, which appeared in parameter.sk, is “They found Ivan in Röszke,” a cryptic one. All of you who can read Hungarian should read the original, which I’ll summarize here for those who cannot.

There is one picture that the great experts found indicative of the mentality of these terrorist soldiers who are already in Europe. According to Spöttle, who helped the audience interpret the picture, on the photo there is “a dead infant with a weapon in one hand and a dagger in the other; around the child there are empty liquor bottles.” People who carry such pictures on their phones are pseudo-refugees. M1’s Híradó (News) blurred out the picture of the child.

Széky became curious and, with the help of Google Image Search, in no time found the original of the picture. On the original the child is not dead but is a well-fed baby. So, the staff of M1’s news lied; after all, they were the ones who blurred out the child’s picture. But it is just as bad if not worse that the picture has absolutely nothing to do with the Middle East. It is an old baby picture of Ivan Guzmán, the oldest child of Joquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the hunted drug lord of Mexico. In addition to this picture, Híradó also showed Arab-language videos which, according to Spöttle, were produced by ISIS for recruiting purposes. Széky found these videos on YouTube and with the help of an Arabic-speaking friend found out that, in fact, these videos condemn ISIS and claim that the group’s extremism has nothing to do with Islam. So much for the “experts” whose opinions are so useful to the Orbán government’s anti-refugee propaganda campaign.

And finally, just a brief return to László Földi, whose latest salvo is that Angela Merkel should resign because she is “entirely incapable of leading the continent.” Europe is engaged in a war and “since when did a woman win a war?” asked the former history major. Several papers pointed out that Földi should have learned in elementary school about Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher, all of whom managed quite well in times of war.

Hungarian spies are everywhere

As the minister of the prime minister’s office responsible for, among other things, Hungarian intelligence, János Lázár has very little sense of what should remain secret. I found the minutes of his speech at the meeting of the parliamentary committee on national security on June 23 shocking. He outlined several ongoing Hungarian intelligence projects, endangering not only the work of the Hungarian intelligence community but also the anonymity of its members.

So, what did we learn about Hungarian intelligence from Lázár? A lot. He began with Ukraine, a country that is in the cross hairs of the Hungarian government. It is here that the Orbán government is trying to stir up trouble. Lázár praised the work of the Hungarian military and civilian intelligence in Kiev both during and “after” the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Hungarian intelligence has also been busy in the Hungarian-inhabited parts of the Subcarpathian region of Ukraine. Reading this portion of Lázár’s speech, I gained the distinct impression that in this border region secret agents are busy feeding the Hungarian minority’s dissatisfaction. The Orbán government expects, perhaps even hopes for, a conflict between Ukrainians and Hungarians, which might give Hungary an opportunity to demand a “solution” to the problem. Only yesterday Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette) reported that this year the Hungarian government has provided 116 million forints “for the training of civilian guards,” who are supposed to defend Hungarians against Ukrainian aggression. Lázár in his speech admitted that the Ukrainian government strenuously objects to the Hungarian government’s meddling in the country’s affairs. Indeed, the Orbán government treats Ukraine like a state from whose collapse Hungary might profit.

Hungarian intelligence is equally busy, according to Lázár, in Romania. What agents are trying to determine is the exact relationship between Romania and the United States because “we know that the U.S. is very much involved in Romanian domestic politics” but “we don’t yet quite understand the nature of this relationship.” I assume there are two aspects of U.S.-Romanian relations that worry the Orbán government: (1) the two countries’ coordinated anti-Russian policies and (2) a possible anti-Hungarian understanding between the two countries.

The third neighbor, Croatia, is also a country that is antagonistic toward Hungary. There the authorities try to discredit the country through attacks on Hungarian businessmen. What Lázár has in mind is the charge of bribery against Zsolt Hernádi, CEO of MOL, in connection with Ivo Sanader’s case, which ended in an eight-year prison sentence for the former prime minister. Since Croatia’s constitutional court only today overruled the verdict, Hernádi’s troubles are postponed, at least for a while.

As Lázár put it, “of the successor states of the former kingdom” present-day Hungary has unruffled relations only with Serbia and Slovakia. If we take this comment literally, then something must also be amiss in Austrian-Hungarian and Slovenian-Hungarian relations as well.

Lázár spent quite a bit of time on Hungary’s relations with the United States. “American-Hungarian relations, which have deteriorated significantly in the past few years and which at the moment cannot be said to be good,” make the work of the Hungarian intelligence community very difficult due to its former reliance on U.S. intelligence sources. Because the friction between the United States and Hungary developed as a result of Washington’s assessment of the domestic situation in Hungary, “the Information Office [the official name of the secret service] has to pay attention to accusations which through the western media are designed to discredit Hungary.”

spies

In plain English, Hungarian intelligence officers are following the activities of those people who in one way or the other pass information on to media outlets critical of the Orbán government. Lázár proudly announced that “several campaigns have taken place in the past few years against Hungary, which have been identified.” These foreign critics “unfortunately had their domestic allies, but the intelligence community could easily detect the channels through which incorrect and false information was transmitted.” Mind you, elsewhere in the speech Lázár called attention to the law that forbids intelligence officers from conducting any business at home.

The Hungarian intelligence service plays not only defense but offense as well. Lázár finished his coverage of the antagonistic media with this sentence: “It is no secret that the Information Office must take part in the work that will change the image of Hungary in the western world.” So, intelligence officers are being used to spread pro-Orbán propaganda abroad. The first fruits of this effort was athe German DGSAP report titled “Hungary in the Media, 2010-2014: Critical Reflections on Coverage in the Press and Media,” compiled with the active help of Klaus von Dohnanyi, the former socialist mayor of Berlin.

The European Union is also a target of Hungarian intelligence. In fact, Lázár instructed the Information Office to find out as much as possible about those groups who turn to Brussels for redress of the allegedly discriminatory practices of the Hungarian government. Lázár is very proud that they managed to learn who was responsible for some of the infringement procedures against Hungary. Thanks to Lázár, we now know that there are currently 65 infringement procedures in the works. Lázár finds the lobbying activities that take place in Brussels “shocking” because “they are conducted against Hungary and the work of the Hungarian legislature.” Unfortunately, the intelligence community has to take up this burden because, until recently, Hungary was unable to successfully represent its own interests in Brussels, unlike Slovakia, Romania or Poland.

The reason for Hungary’s poor performance in Brussels was the less than satisfactory work of Hungary’s Permanent Representation to the European Union, whose “most important task is to present and assert Hungarian interests and sectoral policies in the European Union.” Not long ago responsibility for this permanent mission in Brussels was moved from the foreign ministry to the office of the prime minister, under the supervision of János Lázár himself. Lázár commented on the move. “I will just mention, but I won’t give any details, that it was not by chance that the permanent representation and the information office are both under the same structural unit, the prime minister’s office.” Does this mean that the Hungarian permanent representation is filled with spies, or at least that there is cozy relation between the two bodies?

Two of the neighbors reacted sharply to Lázár’s revelations about Hungarian intelligence activities in their countries. The Hungarian ambassador to Ukraine was called into the Ukrainian foreign ministry where deputy foreign minister Natalia Halibarenko expressed her country’s worries about Hungary’s intentions. She said that conducting intelligence activities in her country without first informing the Ukrainian intelligence service was unacceptable. Nikolai Sungurovskii, the director of an important Ukrainian think tank, the Razumkov Center, expressed his opinion that Hungarian policies toward Ukraine pose a danger and that they may lead to a massive Hungarian separatist movement with possible Hungarian involvement. In fact, according to reports, the Hungarian government is prepared for a large Hungarian exodus from Ukraine.

Romanian-Hungarian relations have been rocky for a long time, but the presence of the former Romanian member of parliament, Attila Markó, in Hungary has exacerbated the situation. He is one of the many Romanian politicians who are being accused of corruption. I can’t pass judgment on his guilt or innocence, but I can say that Romanians have been taking corruption seriously lately and the number of arrests is very high. Markó escaped to Hungary, which irritates Bucharest to no end, especially since there is a European arrest warrant against him. The Romanian foreign minister asked Péter Szijjártó “to observe the European legislation in this field so that the procedure may be completed.” Hungary refused, and Romanian public opinion is up in arms. A Romanian politician who is not exactly a friend of Hungarians in the first place wrote an article on his blog in which he expressed his total amazement that Orbán has the temerity, after the Markó affair, to visit Romania this weekend. Indeed, Orbán is already in Transylvania. He posted the following picture of himself and his youngest daughter with this caption: “In Transylvania, at home.” I wonder what the Romanian reaction to this purposefully ambiguous caption will be.

Orban es Flora