A conversation between Ceca Christova and Ivan Boyadjiev for Memoria regarding the new anti-terrorism law and national security. Translated by Valentina Tzoneva exclusively for SouthFront
Colonel Ivan Boyadjiev is an expert on security, anti-terrorism and explosives with over 35 years’ experience in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. From the mid-60s to 1992, he has been working for the Service of Operational and Technical Information at second head office of State Security. He is the founder of the Special Department for Discovering and Detonation of Self-Made Explosive Devices in 1985 and he has been the head of the Department for seven years. He has participated in the investigation of some of the most serious terrorist attacks, amongst which is the bomb attack at Bunovo Station on the 9th of March 1985, when seven people died. After 1989, until his retirement in 1992, he served at DOTI. Between 1995 and 1997, he was the Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He has worked as an expert on security and prevention of terrorist threats in the capital.
Colonel Boyadjiev, is the law for anti-terrorism – voted by Parliament on first reading – a threat to our fundamental rights and freedoms? Extreme powers have been given to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, DANS and the military.
Ivan Boyadjiev: In the last few years, a new Cold War started with the inflow of these migrants who were pushed by somebody to leave for Europe and, of course, the ongoing wars. These are people who did not come in order to benefit our society; they came to conquer and consume straight away. The time when our specialists tried to convince us that they are coming here to work in the farms, to work, study and socialize has passed. It’s impossible. These crowds arriving here cannot be integrated.
In this connection, a few years ago, when the inflow started but there were about seven to eight migrants in Bulgaria, I was arguing with your colleagues then that measures must be taken in Bulgaria for protection of security, the society and the citizens because our culture is one thing and they have been bred in another way. They have been born differently. For them, here with us, there is nothing sacred. They do not fear death – that’s why they quietly become kamikatze and die. That’s what they say: “We don’t fear death. We accept it with joy. That’s why we will win over you, because you are afraid of death.”
At that time, I started talking about the preparation of the citizens for achieving security amongst the population regarding terrorism. We mustn’t close our eyes because terrorism is connected to the inflow of migrants. Now they have started to acknowledge it. I am pleased that the French have acknowledged it first unlike my teachers, the Germans, who are still idling about it. Let them idle. They will accept more immigrants.
To the question – there can’t be security for the citizens without breaking the civil and democratic rights to a certain degree. This is unthinkable. You can never provide 100% security, but we must aim to maximum security. And maximum security is achieved by breaking to a certain degree, some rights and freedoms. In the beginning, I did not quite approve the new law which has come up now because I love freedom. I hate it when my rights are limited. But from my side, I have also limited the rights of people, related to terrorism, of course. This is a necessity.
For example, if we speak about interception, we immediately have to include the wire-tapping when we are suspicious of terrorist activities because the terrorists quickly communicate with each other and while we pass through the legal authorities to obtain permission for the interception, they have already been organised and have disappeared without a trace. The same goes for the searches in the houses: if you don’t go immediately to search his house as it happened in France, you will find no weapons, no explosives and you won’t understand who is who and what is what.
There are so many Bulgarian laws that are good. However, and you know it, there is no one in Bulgaria to abide by them. Now a new law has come, which might not be perfect (it cannot be perfect but I guess on second reading they will remove some of its disadvantages) but in principle, I agree with all the clauses in it – regarding the army and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It is another question that such a law requires more professionalism from those who will implement it – the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the military. Immediately after accepting the law, training of the staff must take place – namely, the security services. It will be misguiding to say that they are very well-trained and qualified and they are limited in numbers. When I walk on and see what kind of people are walking on the streets in uniforms, it makes me sad because it is difficult to work with such people. They must be trained again.
Apart from that, this law requires not only professionals, but a lot of honest people too – honest people dedicated to their work of protection of the fatherland and its citizens. This must be instilled though. This is very difficult, I know what it is, but without it the meaning of this law – which is very good for the present moment and the future – could not be achieved.
This law is a bit late after the events in France and Germany took place… I will give another example of France – although I do not defend their services; I am loyal to the services of Germany (West Germany in the past) and Russia, which have taught me anti-terrorism. I am surprised by what the French are doing – they are re-establishing the National Guard. Do you understand what a big hit it is for the enemies of France? This is serious, although it will mean a limitation of the rights, like here with our new law.
Photo. “This law requires not only professionals, but a lot of honest people too – honest people dedicated to their work of protection of the fatherland and its citizens.”
Many people are asking if it is possible to abuse the rights of the citizens after applying this new law.
Ivan Boyadjiev: Avoiding abuse of rights requires teaching high professionalism and pure people. I do not want to mention how we were taught in the past. Two things are very important: professionalism and pure, honest staff. Not like the four policemen who participated in the control of the migrant flow of money. There must be strict control and teaching of staff is very important. For me, this link between the old and the new staff has been cut off. There is a tendency now: people who cannot get jobs anywhere else apply for jobs at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This is bad.
Is there a guarantee that we can avoid the events we are witnessing in Turkey? Today, major rights and freedoms have been taken away for the sake of the fight against terrorism.
Ivan Boyadjiev: What happens in Turkey today is not surprising. They have not yet acknowledged our five centuries of occupation (let’s not talk about some Bulgarians who are also not recognizing it, so what can we expect from the occupiers?) This is normal for Turkey and for the autocracy. I believe that autocracy has no future in Bulgaria, there are no conditions for it. Of course, I hope for a new president who stands solidly on the ground and does not almost start a war with Russia, but pacifies every structure below him as well as the people, the citizens, in order to protect ourselves from this wave.
Yes, but we saw the strict measures and laws taken after 11/9 but terrorism was not contained.
Ivan Boyadjiev: Terrorism cannot be contained. It flows into different forms. You see how Islamic State and Al Qaida which joined it (and in the past Hezbollah and the Taliban) came up with new forms of terrorism. Here: the truck in Nice, the shooting in Germany, the priest who was slaughtered in the church – this is blasphemy. They do not recognise our religion and for them this is heroic. Terrorism flows into new and newer forms. They won’t stop. And it won’t be easy to eliminate them. We must not forget, and I have repeated this numerously, that we are a step behind the terrorists, regretfully. We cannot overtake them; we cannot even level with them. By watching what is happening in the world now, I think that we are half a step behind them.
Will the creation of a European service for the fight against terrorism, closer cooperation between the powers of security in the member states of the Union, as well as exchange of information help? The Germans have already stated that they are against it.
Ivan Boyadjiev: There is no way for it to happen: you cannot think as one man and one brain. These are many states, many heads, it is impossible. I have experience from before the 10th of November and at that time we were still fighting with terrorism and bombs, and every year we had meetings at the Warsaw Pact on the questions of terrorism. The Czecs, our colleagues did not tell us about an explosive which they invented and were selling everywhere; only we didn’t know about it. Bear in mind that at the time, there was a strict form of organisation and cooperation. Now, it is impossible for it to happen in practice. Now the services hide information from each other. You see, the Germans are actually covering us with incorrect and untrue interpretations and information, unlike the French. If we have to sum up who says what and who writes what, you will excuse me but the Germans are not correct.
Even at the time of the Warsaw Pact, the synchronising did not happen, although there was a strict discipline then. What can we say now? Who will tell us anything? Will the Germans call Bulgaria to warn us of coming danger? They only talk in common. If there is something specific, they would keep quiet. If the FBI and CIA cannot agree on sharing information, then what about us? It is not a secret that 9/11 in the USA took place because of this. There had been information in both agencies, but they did not share it with the other.
That’s why I don’t believe that if there is a central command, the Germans would warn us of a coming danger. And what will this central command be? It will be aligned to NATO. If it is aligned to NATO, it will mean that the Turks will be in as well. And how is it going to work? That’s why each country must tighten up, the government to do its job, to choose carefully new people who are elected and to stop playing with referendums. The referendums work in Switzerland, but here it is not serious. There must be people standing on solid ground. Whether we have 120 or 240 MPs in Parliament, if they were from the same category, there is no point in having them. That’s why there must be people who love their jobs. If these people do not come forward in each sphere and especially in the sphere of security, nothing will happen. I hope that this law will stimulate some positive movement in politics and in the state, but I repeat again: only with professionalism and pure intentions! Otherwise, everything will be flawed.
Photo. “I hope for a new president who stands solidly on the ground but pacifies every structure below him as well as the people, the citizens, in order to protect ourselves from this wave.”
Is the currently-acting legislative structure sufficient to protect the security in the state and to counteract terrorism?
Ivan Boyadjiev: Now, in the legislature there is a little bit of something said on many points, but there was a need for centralisation because it is important how to interpret the laws now – the judges and the prosecutors do whatever they want to. One such law will coordinate all aspects and actions, but meanwhile, there must be a provision for a fund for insurance against possible damages done by the security services in case of necessity. I have participated in such activities in catching terrorists, detonation of bombs. I will give you the simplest example with a case in Varna where there was a signal for an explosive installed in a car. We saw through the window a big toy dog tied with a string to the door. It means it’s a bomb. What can you do? The easiest thing is to break the glass, right, and then what? The bomb detonators risking their lives will go to court and be sued because they have broken the window of the car?
There is something that I would like to highlight. In our work, there is no false alarm when talking about hand-made explosives. Only when the object is detonated can one say whether it is a bomb or not. The bomb can be false, but the signal cannot be. When your colleagues write that someone has given a false alarm, the citizens are stressed. They have even told me “we are not going to call anymore.” There is no false alarm. There is a false bomb, but this, you realise at the end.
How do you explain the speeches of the European leaders that we have to get used to terrorism?
Ivan Boyadjiev: If you add up the variety of NGOs which are in Bulgaria and which are paid from the outside, you cannot expect a different reaction. There must be other voices. At long last now, they heard what I have been talking about for the last three or four years. At long last, when the French and the Germans got burned. Now it is expected that the Americans will get burned again and it will happen.
Ivan Boyadjiev: Yes, I am convinced that it will happen because they are spilling the blood of Islamic State and they are frightfully revengeful.
The fact that the British withdrew from the EU does not mean that they are protected. On the contrary. But I guess that there, there will be something. It’s especially worrying around the tunnel under La Manche where many migrants have gathered who want to cross over. Although they are still manageable, I hope that an incident will not take place there. But this is the worst – that they are manageable, like the Turks, they were managed not to go to Europe.
Against this background, Angela Merkel announced that Germany won’t change its migrants politics. What is behind this political correctness?
Ivan Boyadjiev: This is a misunderstood tolerance. Unfortunately, the Germans do not realise it. The same happened to the Belgians where the opposite of tolerance hit a variety of people. The same happened in France. They received their “due”. Now they burned themselves and started to back off. They realised that the old method does not work: “come here, you’re my brother.” What kind of a brother are you to me? You did not come here to be my brother. This is not how it works…
At the moment, in France, there are five million naturalised immigrants from northern Africa, and I’m not talking about new immigrants. Five million unhappy about what is happening to them. Out of them, there might be about 2 000 people who are satisfied, who have integrated into the society and have established themselves. The rest of them live for 10 to 12 years in the ghetto and they don’t see anything else. When they grow up and go to the big cities, they see the good life, the shiny limousines, the beautiful women, something that you cannot find in the ghetto and they become dissatisfied because they don’t have it. But how can you have it? As with our gypsies – they do not want to study, they do not want to work, they want to have everything handed to them. But it’s ok, they’re our gypsies, like our Muslims. I spoke sharply against Islam several times but I love our Muslims. I have a lot of friends among them. I even live with them. But these are different types of Muslims. They are not like those who are coming from outside.
You know better than me about what happens in Bulgaria after these talks about the migrants. For now, only one man out of thousands of migrants who passed through Bulgaria has applied for documents and decided to stay in Bulgaria (I guess they have been warned that we will feed them with pork and that’s why they don’t want to stay). And can you imagine this huge flow of millions crossing Bulgaria on their way to Germany? They are like swarms of locusts. Nothing remains after they pass through. This is frightful.
This whole organised inflow of migrants in Europe is disguised with women and children… If you have noticed, over the last months, only men between 18 and 30 come to Europe. These are ready soldiers! They will slaughter us as it already started in Bulgaria in Sofia. They kill each other with knives. This is an Arab form of fighting – not as much with machine guns as with knives. And from this point of view, I am very worried. Although most of the attacks which took place in Europe, are done by Islamists who are there for a second or even third generation, but it means nothing as they have been trained and came back like new migrants and those new ones, pour fresh power among the radical Islamists.
Photo. “This whole organised inflow of migrants in Europe is disguised with women and children.”
Is Bulgaria threatened from terrorist attacks? Is the danger serious for us?
Ivan Boyadjiev: I’ve always suspected it. If I trust the Americans for something, it’s their prognosis. Years ago, they said that Bulgaria is one of the goals of terrorism. At that time, we didn’t even speak about the Islamic State. It was still Al Qaeda, Hezbollah… It’s unavoidable. They said there is no state able to avoid terrorism. For now we are in a zone of calmness and let’s hope it lasts, but there is danger – if the situation in other European countries becomes tense and these migrants pass through our country, there might be some incidents here as well. As we have sleeping cells of Islamic State, I am sure of it. First of all, there is no way that there are no spies among this huge flow of migrants. I distinguish between spies and terrorists; these cannot be mixed. There is no way that foreign states around us have not placed a spy or two in our country. But separately, in line with the terrorism of Islamic State, there are many cells here trained and ready for action for sure. Apart from that, in Bulgaria there are many favourable conditions for it – these ghettoes and those burkas became popular not by chance and they demonstrate to what degree our state has the power to overcome some future difficulties.
But why would they attack us here? Our politicians are moderate in their speeches and actions.
Ivan Boyadjiev: Politicians are politicians and why should the people live quietly? Terror in Latin means horror.
Terrorism means horrifying. Did the horror take place in France and Germany? Yes it did. This is the main goal of terrorism. Well, if they do it in Bulgaria and they spread horror here and we are not ready?
Do you know what happens if you leave an open bag in the street with a ticking clock and wires sticking out of it and you watch what happens from a distance? For the duration of 30 minutes, 20 people will pass, look at it and will walk away. There is a policeman behind the corner but they will not tell him. And finally, a thief will pass by and steal the bag. Unfortunately, this is what happens in Bulgaria. Recently, there was a case about a forgotten bag. For an hour and a half they could not find the owner. Before the people from my department shot, a woman came who said she had forgotten it. They checked what’s inside and gave it to her. This is not the way. In the west, there is a 200 euro fine in case you forget your luggage and you haven’t taken control of it. You have scared the people. So, measures must be taken. You pay for it and then you don’t forget.
The civil society must be educated gradually, especially by you, the journalists. One must live quietly within certain frames and to be careful. We cannot give in to these miserable terrorists. We must be cooperative with the state and the organs of security.
Photo. Sowing of horror is the main aim of terrorism.
What are the external threats for Bulgaria today? Are the events taking place in Turkey dangerous for us?
Ivan Boyadjiev: I think that what happens in Turkey at present is not directly threatening for us. For 40 years now, I have been dealing with terrorists and bombs and I have some feeling about what can happen and what cannot. Unfortunately, whatever I’ve said so far has taken place. I have been in Turkey meeting colleagues. I wouldn’t say whether it is good or bad about what is taking place there now. I do not want to get involved in the politics of this state. It is threatening only if they release the migrants. But I hope that they will stick to their word because otherwise, it will be frightening. They will overflow us and there is no way for us to stop them. We cannot shoot at them. How can you shoot? This is a live man. You don’t know who he is. When I watch on tv how miserable they are, I feel sorry for them, although not all of them are guilty; and those little children. But what grows from them now will be the next generation that will go against us, against Europe like now in Europe they are second or third generation. We mustn’t fool ourselves. But this doesn’t mean to shoot children as in the time of Jesus’ birth, right? It is bad that we cannot integrate them. They simply don’t give in. And it is not the mistake of the religion, but the application of this religion. They are strongly influenced by side factors and they are poor. That’s how it goes.
Photo. “It is threatening only if they release the migrants. It is dangerous. They will overflow us and there is no way for us to stop them.”
Do you think that the action and the decision of the managing elite is adequate to the modern threat on security?
Ivan Boyadjiev: At the moment, Boyko Borisov is trying to lead a balanced politics regarding our neighbours. In Bulgaria one must know and it has been said a long time ago: always with Germany and never against Russia. We are a state that cannot be alone and we must be very careful in our relationship. We must not adapt, I do not like this verb, but be very careful in our politics because it comes back as a politics of economy.
What I do not like is the desire to buy two expensive ships and two expensive airplanes and we must do what the French are doing – to pay attention to the national security. We must make a maximum re-armament of the security services of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the army instead of spending money on airplanes. With two ships and two airplanes we can do nothing. And when I watch how they go to the border – with trucks from over 40 years ago, we must buy new equipment. We must pay attention to the ground troops because the fight with terrorism, especially in our country, cannot be done without work on the ground. With two planes and two little ships, Bulgaria cannot fight with terrorists.
Photo. “We must pay attention to the ground troops because the fight with terrorism, especially in our country, cannot be done without work on the ground.”