There was a large-scale operation eavesdropping on anti-government protesters by the Interior Ministry, State Agency for National Security and specialist surveillance department at the time of the now-departed administration, the head of Parliament’s committee on internal security and public order said on February 5 2015.
The eavesdropping went on for 300 days, according to committee head General Atanas Atanassov, who several years previously headed the National Security Service and currently is an MP for the centre-right Reformist Bloc, a partner in the coalition cabinet.
Bulgaria saw widely-supported protests against the government that took office in May 2013, after that administration – that was in place on the basis of a mandate handed to the Bulgarian Socialist Party – put controversial figure Delyan Peevski at the head of SANS.
Peevski’s appointment was withdrawn within a few days, but the anti-government protests continued throughout that administration’s several other controversial moves, until the government was voted out in early elections in October 2014, prompted by an earlier rout of the BSP in European Parliament elections.
Atanassov, speaking in a television interview on February 5, sharply criticised Interior Ministry chief secretary Svetozar Lazarov, in particular for the handling of the case of the Lyaskovets shootout. Atanassov contrasted the “little work” done on that case with the huge efforts put into eavesdropping on anti-government protesters.
Lazarov is still in office after his appointment was sealed by the now-departed administration, but is expected to be made to walk the plank after the process of new legislation – through which he will not meet the criteria to hold his post – is completed.
Atanassov said that he did not know specifically who had been tapped, but said that he knew that it was a large-scale operation, conducted jointly by several institutions, including the ministry, SANS and the specialist surveillance department.
In a statement later on February 5, the Protest Network, which arose in 2013 out of the anti-government protests, said that representatives of the network had met with Atanassov and with Metodi Andreev, deputy head of the anti-corruption committee, after Atanassov’s statements on television.
The Protest Network said that the meeting was a continuation of its actions during the time that Yordan Bakalov was in office as caretaker interior minister to establish the facts about possible illegal activities by the ministry, SANS and surveillance department against anti-government protesters.
The Protest Network had informed the MPs about their known facts regarding these possible illegal activities, the network said.
(Archive photo of the anti-government protests: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)