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February 3, 2023

Foreign Intelligence Service reacts to ‘covert officer’ uncovering scandal

Following President Traian Basescu’s allegations that Prime Minister Victor Ponta was a covert officer and ex-SIE Director Teodor Melescanu was his accomplice in adopting a government decision to help bury the information, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) brings clarifications, communicating that ‘for information classified as SECRET, the classification term is 30 years and documents concerning a member of the SIE staff are not declassified once that member has been retired, but remain SECRET until the end of the term stipulated by law. This clarification actually brings nothing new, being just an explanation of legal provisions that, in fact, can also be found in Law No. 1/1998 and at article 36 of Law No. 182/2002’.
‘The note according to which <data concerning the personnel operating in the area of intelligence activities is secret even after the employment or service relations cease for whatever reasons> was inserted into the enforcement of the provisions of article 12, paragraph (2) of Government Decision No. 585/2002, according to which the information classified as SECRET have a classification term of 30 years. The need for this explicit clarification, that makes the legal provisions in the matter particular, was generated by concrete situations in which the Service has found itself in the last 10 years, when over 70 operative officers have been uncovered, a situation that could cause major harm to SIE, knowing that the staff is the most valuable resources of the Service and the exposure of an officer triggers the exposure of SIE work and, by that, harms the interests of Romania or of its strategic partners’, SIE states in a release.
The Service says the updating of the list of information classified as state secret in the government decision cited by President Traian Basescu was initiated by SIE itself, that the normative act covered the legal approval process and that its adoption was not subject to the Supreme Defence Council clearance.
The Service notes that in 2002 it prepared and presented to the Government for approval the list of categories of state secret information in its area of activity, under article 22 of Law No. 182/2002 on the protection of classified information.
‘The military nature of HG No. 1209/2002 over time revealed a series of vulnerable spots in securing the protection of headquarters, categories of activities and personnel of the institution, generated by the fact that the normative act was not opposable to third parties, which permitted that some of the staff, headquarters, structures and types of activities taking place in those or conducted by those to be exposed without the relevant authorities – the Prosecutor’s Office, in this case – to have the legal tools to take procedural measures upon SIE’s notification’, SIE explains.
‘’Under the legislation in fore, this type of normative act is not subject to clearance by the Supreme Defence Council (CSAT), just as HG 1209/2002 WAS NOT approved by CSAT either. As a matter of fact, based on the information that we have, no Government decision regarding lists of state secret information of other public authorities and institutions that manage such information was ever submitted to CSAT for approval’, SIE further notes.
As a matter of fact, ex-SIE head Teodor Melescanu said the issue of the photocopies President Traian Basescu presented Monday night should be clarified, as SIE documents sent to officials are to be returned after reading, and may not be multiplied. Asked during a press inference is President Traian Basescu had broken the law by the things he exposed Monday night, T. Melescanu answered that he had indeed broken Law No. 1/1998, which stipulates that the sources of intelligence, working methods and means of the intelligence services may not be uncovered. Asked if the president had also violated the Constitution, Melescanu said he was not in the position to have ‘a Constitutional debate’. ‘As far as I am concerned, the legal requirements are extremely clear’, he said. On the penalties the president may be facing, the former SIE director noted that Traian Basescu is facing ‘legal penalties’. Asked to specify those penalties, he answered: They are not stipulated by the law’. In his opinion, the only thing that ‘poses problems and that will need to be clarified is the fact that the president said he had photocopies of documents sent to him by SIE, which, under the law, is prohibited’. ‘The image of Romania will definitely suffer. The exposure of a covert officer who participated in various activities calls for a re-consideration by partner and non-partner services from other countries of all cases where that officer was present on their territory, based on the assumption that such presence would have been hostile, which creates important difficulties also to bigger intelligence services’, Melescanu said.
Ponta says he has “disappointed” his son denying that he was a spy, as Basescu stated
Prime Minister Victor Ponta has told ministers in the government meeting that his son, Andrew, asked if he is a  “spy “as said President Traian Basescu, and claimed that when he denied, his son was disappointed and said that” it was hard “if it was true.
Ponta made these statements to the press, saying that he asked Mayor Sorin Oprescu, who participated to the Government meeting of Wednesday, if he was also attacked by President Traian Basescu during the campaign of 2008, in order to favor his opponents in the election for City Hall . “I want to tell you one thing: I asked Mr. Mayor how it was in 2008, when he was attacked by the  President to favor his  countercandidate, and Mr. Oprescu said that it was fine, that he won”.
However, Ponta argued that a person was disappointed, that his son. “I have one person I disappointed, my son, Andrew, last night asked me:” Daddy, it’s true, you’re a spy, Basescu said so? “. And I said,” No. “. And he said, “What a shame it was so cool!” Now, I do not know what to say. ‘ll send Mr Basescu to talk to my boy? But my boy is much more serious and responsible and I thought to tell him the truth, that’s the situation, ” told the Prime Minister at the beginning of Government meeting attended also by General Mayor of Bucharest.
“I’m sorry, but I can not help Udrea and Macovei  by resigning”
The candidate representing the electoral alliance of the Social Democrat Party – the National Union for the Progress of Romania – the Conservative Party (PSD-UNPR-PC), Victor Ponta, has stated on Wednesday that he will resign as Prime Minister after winning the elections for President of Romania. He reffered to the statements made on Tuesday by the presidential endorsee of the People’s Movement Party (PMP), Elena Udrea, who has asked for Victor Ponta’s withdrawal from the presidential race and his resignation as Prime Minister following the recent statements of President Traian Basescu saying that Ponta were a covert officer of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) over 1997-2001.The same request regarding Ponta stepping down and his withdrawal from the presidential race was made in the same day by Mrs. Monica Macovei, independent candidate at the presidential elections.
“Yes, after winning the elections, yes, I will step down. However, there is no way they can win, either Mrs. Udrea or Mrs. Macovei. Not even if we, Mr. Iohannis and I, would leave the race. Even if they are running alone they will lose for sure. As such, I am sorry, but I cannot help them”, said Victor Ponta after participating in an event organized by the Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Iliescu on the undercover officer topic: “It is a mischievous invention, an arrangement by Basescu”
Former President Ion Iliescu considers that Traian Basescu’s  accusations on the undercover officer topic represent a “mischievous” invention and an “arrangement” by the present head of the state, intended to create confusion and to raise suspicions against the candidates to the elections.
“I would not pay any attention to Mr. Basescu and these mischievous rumours he promotes. It is a usual arrangement by Mr. Basescu. I do not think he should be taken seriously. If he has anything in hand, he has the duty to reveal things, to explain them and to stop things like these from happening”, Iliescu declared.
“But I think it is a mischievous invention by Mr. Basescu to create confusion and to raise suspicions against people. It is unacceptable. His status as President should impose him rigour and seriousness; word plays are not appropriate”, Iliescu outlined.
Disclosures far from making any electoral harm to Ponta
Analysts say that President Basescu’s disclosure is far from making any electoral harm to Ponta and his credibility in the eyes of the electorate.”Through his disclosure at Realitatea TV, Traian Basescu made Ponta Romania’s President! I never expected Basescu to reveal the presidential candidate suggested by him as an undercover officer who hides his  past of undercover officer. Therefore, I watched the show performed by Bogdan Rares, more of sympathy for the younger colleague than of professional interest,” said analyst Ion Cristoiu.
“The fact that Ponta was or was not an undercover SIE officer will not affect too much the candidacy of Prime Minister in terms of voting option. The 40% of leftist voters have neither a flash about a possible collaboration with Ponta’s secret service. Some even believe that it is a virtue, as long as we are dealing with an intelligence  service in a democratic framework,” belives military analyst Radu Tudor.

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