In popular fiction, the world of the secret service is surrounded by glamour and mystique. The images of the pathetically smouldering wreck of a Trabant conjured up by the Miklós Lakatos confession are a far cry indeed from James Bond-style fantasies of silver sports cars able at the flick of a switch to transform themselves into submarines should necessity dictate. We harbour a certain grudging fondness for our homegrown agents, if for no other reason than their perceived amateurishness. These associations and the comic potential inherent in the Lakatos bungle are explored brilliantly by Péter Új in his article, "Naked Gun '99" (Népszabadság, 6 September):
The silhouette of the most ridiculous secret service in Europe is outlined in the light shed by the agent with the flaming Trabant. We suspect that the Hungarian organisations are built on Moldova-style [a much-loved and prolific satirist and author of searching and critical reportage on a number of recent scandals] parodies and Leslie Nielsen films.
Up to 89 (though, according to Mr Orbán up to 90, but preferably right up to 98) it was still possible to be glad of our comical service as the soft police state was still more advantageous to us [than the alternative]. We looked at the GDR with a mixture of dread and amazement, a place where - as information that has come to light recently shows - the majority of the population kept the minority under observation, blissfully unaware that the minority had also been recruited as agents, just even more so. Then here was the terrifying Romanian Secu[ritatae], the semtex-happy Czechoslovaks, but the granddaddy of them all, the vast Soviet KGB...
The ice pick still vibrates in Trotsky's skull. Since then, the genuine, full-blooded Communist secret services have surfaced here and there in different ways: the Secu as a nationalist grey eminence, the Slovaks could only muster the strength to stage just one political abduction for a ransom of a few billion, whilst the KGB - merging with a few retired, but suitably brick-****house built sportsmen - has slowly but surely transformed itself into another organisation, known in polite Western circles as the Russian maffia.
Compared with them, I would say that we got off quite lightly with our small "firm" of incompetents. The most they were able to come up with was a Danube-gate, together with carrying out a covert surveillance operation on János Kis's (former leader of the SZDSZ) egg dumplings and concealing a microphone on Demszky's cat.
Gradually liberating itself from the rigid constraints of Post-Communism, our secret service is increasingly able to fulfil its inherent satirical potential. For the last two or three years the activation of the secret service has become noticeable to a grateful public at large, as it is more or less since then that a series of actions promising sheer entertainment and helpless gales of laughter. The performance began with some very obscure goings on centering on the Nyirfa affair, out of which all I can remember is that the trail lead from Nyíregyháza to Baja and back again, that there were bluffs as long as your arm, misinformation flying about left, right and centre, providing plenty of grist to the mill of absurd humour until finally a certain Mr Földi was kicked out of the service. A few months later he became a virtual multi-millionaire at a company closely connected to Fidesz and founded by the Postabank before turning up in the most topical of secret service commotions, when he allegedly bought some cassette or other containing evidence for Fidesz purposes on the basis of a bill mentioning the VAT [so that he could claim it back later]. Having previously confessed to this on a TV programme, he withdrew the whole thing on the [following] Friday. Obviously he must have been joking. (The cunning conspiratorial technique of asking for a bill was something that Colonel Földi could only have learned in the service and so we can establish some kind of concept about the professional requirements prevailing there).
The latest story, however, tops them all: a man comes forward, a member of the secret service, who claims that he had to commit a fake attempt on his own life as part of a conspiracy (the logic of this, as we shall see, might be similar to that applied when Földi asked for a bill); he had to set light to his home-made Trabant in the Börzsöny hills, and he even had to fire a series of pistol shots into it before putting the blame on some Limited Company or another, but that latter point is more or less irrelevant.
Let's try to stop guffawing for a minute now and try to think through what suspicion can be pinned on whom, or what anyone might think on hearing the news that a Trabant was assassinated in the Börzsöny hills. Here at home, we have a roaring trade in assassinations carried out against cars: shots have been fired on Bentleys and Fords, and S-Class Mercedes have been bursting into flames, one after the other, like rings on the gas cooker lit by a household match. But nobody had ever assassinated a Trabant.
I don't know who dreamed up the idea of assassinating a Trabant (if it's true), but the person responsible was either completely off his rocker, or he has a bloody good sense of humour, or our secret agents are still using 30 year-old GDR training films as a source of inspiration, though, if the latter is true, there is a danger that sooner or later they will progress from the chapter on "How to Liquidate Trabants that Pose a Threat to the People's Democracy" to the lesson entitled "How to Take Out an Armed Saboteur Arts Professor in the Middle of a Crowd" and then denizens of the city centre sporting beards and John Lennon glasses beware!
The question that remains then is whether there is anyone in Hungary, who can be persuaded that a Trabant burned to ash as part of a political assassination attempt and who will not think to himself that some idiot left his fuel valve open and then lit up a fag? There ain't no such animal.
We still have not reached the high point of the story yet, however. The real punch line follows: our Trabant-driving secret agent, our James Bond a la hongrois only partly succeeded in his undertaking after having completed the extremely complicated and dangerous act of setting light to the Trabant, because, as he was sprinkling about the petrol (mixture!) from a jerry can, some drops fell on to his clothing as well; it caught fire and so the secret service's secret rescue unit had to come and save him. And the agent does not even try to conceal all this, but tells it to a Parliamentary Committee so that it is plain for all the country (and world) to see and hear. The Hungarian secret service's coat of arms should depict an agent standing in front of a birch forest against the backdrop of a green meadow burning along with his metallic grey Trabant whilst looking outwards in search of Zsuzsa Czégé.
Please would someone call Hollywood quickly and ask Leslie Nielsen or some other master of parody to take up the story, as there is still a lot of money to be had in this script!
A complete contrast in mood and approach to the subject matter is provided in the following article by Miklós Haraszti (writer and SZDSZ politician), which appeared in the 8 October edition of Népszabadság with the title "Self-detonating Republic. The Lakatos Affair, or rather Why is there no Lakatos Affair?":
To avoid all misunderstandings: we do not yet know whether the claims made by the officer of the Hungarian secret service are true. The most frightening aspect of the story, however, is that nobody is interested in whether or not it is true.
In a twenty-page confession, a former professional agent alleges that he was promised a flat and a new car if he were to simulate a politically motivated attempt on his own life, corroborating the "surveillance" affair. Allusions were made to the secretary of the Minister responsible for the secret service. This is like our asking "Are we in Slovakia already?" when we were on our way to the Chopok resort on a skiing holiday and woke up in the car somewhere along the motorway. I must say I wish we were there. At the moment in Slovakia they are questioning Ivan Lexa, former secret service minister, who had the head of state's son kidnapped for political purposes. In Slovakia the former Prime Minister, Mr Meciar, has to put on a circus about going on hunger strike to avoid being questioned. There the Public Prosecutor, public service TV and public service radio are doing their job.
More terrible charges have never been levelled against the Republic: in the office in charge of national security, a crime was planned to mislead public opinion. The only response from the secret service, however, is to shrug off the whole affair: according to leading figures "who wish to remain anonymous" what we are dealing with is "fantasising". This single word settles the matter in spite of the twenty-page story. The government majority in the Parliament's National Security Committee votes down the motion to debate the issue.
As far as the matter is concerned, only our major humorists like Farkasházy, Megyesi and Péter Új speak on behalf of public opinion. They have a good laugh over Trabant falling victim to the act of self-detonation. Small conspiracy, small car, they say. As if it weren't completely irrelevant in terms of confidence in democracy what the powers that be has set alight as part of an exercise in make believe: it could be the Reichstag or it could be no more than a Trabant. There is only one question at issue here: is it true that they commissioned the fire? If it is true then anything is possible.
Let us establish the facts: the self-performed assassination attempt is a fact, as is its political intention. In the "surveillance" scandal, Dénes Kosztolányi [appointed as Chairman of the Committee of Enquiry] named Miklós Lakatos, secret agent, as a star witness on 11 May. Kosztolányi referred to Lakatos' report concerning Pinpoint Limited, which he [Kosztolányi] had received from László Kövér's Ministry.
A few days later, on 21 May, Lakatos fired several shots through the window of his own car before blowing up the fuel tank. Then he stayed in hiding for a day, like someone under pursuit, and later attempted to make the police believe that members of the secret service and of Pinpoint Limited, whom he had exposed as carrying out private operations to line their own pockets, were after his blood.
Lakatos, however, who by the way was burned during the ensuing flames, threw away his lighter whilst racked with pain. He could not, therefore, deny that he had been responsible for setting light to his own car, so accusations were limited to the shots from the very outset. He said that he wanted to mislead the armed assailants, who had turned back towards him after the attack and that the reason why he set light to the car was to stop them from hounding him further. Lakatos' concocted story soon proved false: he was also responsible for the shots that had hit the car. The fairy tale of the "assassination attempt" was rendered useless.
And what has happened? Nothing. Are the police investigating the act of deception, the use of a firearm or the arson? We have no knowledge of any such investigation. Somehow the sensational news that the car belonging to the "surveillance scandal's star witness" had been found, shot to pieces and set alight was omitted from the police news programme on 22 May. The facts that the individual concerned had only come forward injured the following day, that - although he had a telephone - he informed not the police, but Minister Kövér's (the Minister without portfolio responsible for the secret service, subsequently elected to the post of Fidesz President following the decision to separate this post from the Prime Ministerial one; Ervin Demeter has just been appointed as his successor) secretary, that it was the Minister's secretary, who informed the police of the "assassination attempt" were likewise omitted. Even up to today's date, six months later, no police report has been prepared for the press and public opinion. (The press has left it at that).
What about at the workplace, at the Firm [colloquial nickname for the secret service, ed] supervised by László Kövér? Where, in carrying out the deeds listed above, Miklós Lakatos broke every rule in the book about how to conduct his work? Well, nothing's happening. In the meantime, Lakatos has quit the secret service without having undergone disciplinary procedures and on the basis of a mutual agreement. The Minister is silent.
How do we actually know about the affair at all? Perhaps from the Fidesz MP, who had proclaimed that he had found a star witness, from Dénes Kosztolányi, who had his own information about Lakatos supplied to him by Kövér? Did he announce the attempt on Lakatos' life in a voice choked with pain? Or did he announce the attempt perpetrated by Lakatos himself in a voice choked with indignation? Quite the opposite. When the agent finally spoke himself, Kosztolányi voted against debating the manoeuvre carried out by the witness with a view to deceit. Is there any other Committee of Enquiry amongst the democracies of the world that behaves like this?
The Public Prosecutor only found out about the "attempt" when György Keleti MP forwarded Lakatos' confession to him. Ever since, he has been as silent as the other guardians of our safety.
The unexpected turn of events does not encourage them to speak: according to the secret agent, both the self-performed attempt and the related lie about Pinpoint were commissioned from him whilst allusions were made to László Kövér's secretary so that they could "help the truth along". (As was the intent of the abductors of President Kovac's son in Slovakia). He says that he is revealing the truth for two reasons: because his own responsibility for the attempt has been gradually exposed and because he has not received his promised reward.
Unfortunately the story has enough credibility to it for us to need to think it through. The reason why security service officer Miklós Lakatos owned a Trabant was that he is not rich. This is precisely why colleagues offered him work in the secret service-run firm Pinpoint Limited, used for jobs on the side. Lakatos was displeased however by "the otherwise excellent idea of cover firms being allowed to degenerate into an outfit for acquiring unverifiable income". Just like the good soldier he blew the whistle on them. Nota bene not because they were guilty of lining their own pockets for political purposes, but simply because they were lining their pockets illegally! These days, Lakatos is bawling down the Committee microphones in despair that his report contains no evidence of work carried out on political request. He does so in vain, though, since Kosztolányi takes over the mike from him and nods: the matter is hereby graciously authenticated. The faked attempt does not belong on the agenda, nevertheless.
Madness follows, and it is not madness on the part of Lakatos. In claiming that the attempt was commissioned from him by someone in László Kövér's entourage as a diversionary manoeuvre, Lakatos is by no manner of means attributing original ideas to this team. The deed fits into a whole series of similar manoeuvres emanating from the same source.
In respect of which affair would Lakatos have been a star witness anyway? In the "surveillance" affair, which was set in motion by Viktor Orbán as a diversionary manoeuvre, but which has by now degenerated into a Meciar-like tissue of lies. In which the most that Lakatos could ever have been used for would have been as a pretext, on the basis of his repeated empty references to Pinpoint. And, of course, if he had not been clumsy with the lighter, then the main headline would have been: "Unknown culprits blow up the star witness' car". The sub-caption Lakatos planned, as he admits in his voluntary confession, would have been: "He went into hiding after the attempt out of fear of Pinpoint. When the attempt was carried out, the report he had prepared on the limited company was on his person".
That his story about the Pinpoint-headed assassination attempt had become useless was not due merely to the lighter he left behind at the scene: the fact that the Pinpoint-report was no longer secret - and thereby also lost its mysterious quality - had a role to play too. It ought to have been made public as soon as it was passed on from Kövér and company and became Parliamentary material. László Juszt, a journalist, took care of this instead of Dénes Kosztolányi. Whereupon Kövér et al launched proceedings against Juszt for breach of confidentiality. On top of these charges, they crushed the entire editorial office using methods guaranteed to have been employed twenty years ago. Why on earth did they do this? As a diversionary manoeuvre. Because his true crime was that of revealing that there were no secrets of any kind in the text, and certainly none pointing to covert "surveillance".
Here we are confronted with at least four cases: the Orbán-style "surveillance" allegation and then Kövér and crew's diversionary inventions; bringing Pinpoint into the picture; Lakatos being presented as a "star witness" and Juszt's "breach of secrets". Alongside the "Pinpoint attempt", they shine like pearls on a string. In all four cases, the Prime Minister and the Secret Service Minister's office, applying the same logic evinced in the self-perpetrated Lakatos attempt, hatched a plot in contradiction of the facts with the aim of deceiving public opinion.
What, ultimately, has all this madness been about? From what originally was attention supposed to be distracted? What was it that Orbán and Kövér's office have been trying to keep alive for a year now with fresh diversionary tactics? Ceterum censeo: journalists were supposed to have forgotten about the leading party figure appointed as President of the Inland Revenue, about the tax debts of his former companies and their demise at the hands of a Turk.
We have now reached the root cause of the diversions. These days, anyone, who argues that these were Fidesz companies, diverting public monies to fund the Party's electoral campaign does nothing more than trivialise the issue. The Prime Minister's father, Győző Orbán also received money to purchase a mine and soon afterwards Szilárd Kövér, the Secret Service Minister's brother, featured as a proprietor of every one of the companies involved. Maybe the stakes are higher than a clapped out Trabant, after all.
On the motive side of the balance sheet, Lakatos' voluntary confession, according to which the same people as encouraged him to perform an attempt on his own life also incited Dénes Kosztolányi in respect of the star witness report, therefore has a disquieting logic to it. Let us now take a look at the individual, whom Lakatos' story places at the centre of the affair. Lakatos claims that after the "attempt", he informed László Kövér's secretary, a certain Mr Károly Szadai, of what had happened via his mobile phone, asking him to contact the police. Szadai subsequently did just that.
There are more reasons to believe the veracity of this than that there is no means of denying that the calls were made. On the basis of the tales of distraction thus far examined, we are compelled to think that Lakatos called the appropriate person at the appropriate place. The man, who is Kövér's secretary today, was once the secretary of József Szájer's foundation. Szájer is head of the Fidesz Party's Parliamentary group.
In this capacity, Károly Szadai redirected the Fidesz state-guaranteed loan held in a foreign financial institution into companies founded by the man later to become President of the Inland Revenue and the current Secret Service Minister's brother. This took place in 1993. (Perhaps the Public Prosecutor's department has dealt with this case separately? Perhaps it has not yet become superannuated.)
Szadai transmitted László Kövér's request to former secret service agent László Földi that he should purchase the other piece of false evidence, the cassettes belonging to the private detectives hired by representatives of Xénia. (László Juszt's "betrayal of secrets" concerning these cassettes also demonstrated conclusively that there is not a shred of proof to support Orbán's allegations about "surveillance").
So far no one has denied what Lakatos maintains, namely that Károly Szadai was the caretaker of the Pinpoint legend. When Viktor Orbán started the "surveillance" scandal on its way and Pinpoint's name was thrown into the arena, Lakatos felt that he was being kept under observation and that the surveillance was being carried out by the individuals he had previously exposed for doing work on the side. He therefore sought protection for his family against the threat he imagined emanating from the people in Pinpoint.
To his utmost surprise, two high-ranking individuals from two different offices turned up at the rendezvous he had arranged at a low level: Szadai, Kövér's secretary and Pál Horváth, Viktor Orbán's official in charge of national security. He did not receive protection, but the shadowing also stopped. Then in May of this year he was named as a star witness on the basis of his erstwhile complaint concerning Pinpoint and at the same time - and this brings us on to the only unresolved issue in this entire story - he "was approached" on the subject of a "Pinpoint-attempt". (That the "attempt" pointing towards Pinpoint actually occurred is not at issue).
The fact that Lakatos called Kövér's secretary following the failed attempt is not the only aspect worthy of our attention. Two events - both of which appear to be true - preceded this. One is that Szadai met Lakatos before his office recommended the agent as a "star witness". The second is that the topic of the rendezvous was exactly the same as the recurrent theme of the subsequent assassination attempt: the "Pinpoint threat".
Lakatos claims that the contact charging him with the task of carrying out the attempt, whose cover name was "László", approached him whilst making reference to the conversation he had held with Szadai. For the sake of a guaranteed effect, he should bestow greater credibility on the Pinpoint threats by staging an attempt on his own life.
He also maintains that he was promised a new car and a modestly furnished flat in exchange for the attempt. In the same way as the reference to Szadai is supported by facts and is therefore worthy of serious examination, the allegation concerning the promised reward also has serious parallels.
Lakatos was merely a small cog in the state security machinery, not head of covert operations like László Földi. This was perhaps the reason why the reward specified was modest. According to Földi's own confession, Szadai and Kövér invited him to co-operate and, whilst they sit back in comfortable silence, the former agent is grafting away. Sometimes he states in front of the Parliamentary Committee of Enquiry that he put up the one and a half million for the cassette, sometimes that someone else paid, but he does not wish to reveal any further details. (Will there ever be a prosecutor in this Republic, who will persuade Földi, Szadai or Kövér to give a reply?)
One thing is certain: Földi became the private owner of the security service of the government-managed Postabank, Defend Ltd, without having to submit a bid or pay an advance before receiving a whole series of lucrative government orders on top of that.
Let me summarise my allegations. If Miklós Lakatos is not telling the truth about László Kövér's secretariat commissioning the "Pinpoint hit" from him then he must have added the fake case to the series of fraudulent scandals trumped-up by Kövér and company. But why would he have done that?
Waiting for the prosecutor
Why do we not know the truth, and even worse than that, why are we not investigating the truth? How can it be that no examination is being carried out in conjunction with even the proven abuses in the Lakatos affair, let alone the unresolved issues? I harbour a great deal of personal respect for both the Public Prosecutor and the Metropolitan Chief Prosecutor. Nevertheless I must ask, in all due deference: what are they waiting for?
In this Republic someone has to pay either for the slander, or as a result of genuine charges levelled, once it has been mooted that plans were made within the sphere of the National Security Ministry to carry out an illegal act for political ends, or what is more, that an explosion was planned there. Is it acceptable for the National Security Ministry to be allowed to brush this aside as mere fantasising on the part of Lakatos?
That they should fail to turn to the police or to the public prosecutor's service and that they should part company with their colleague on the basis of a mutual agreement, a colleague, whom they caught in the act, first whilst committing a staged hit against himself involving a firearm and arson and then whilst engaging in serious "libel"? How can the Public Prosecutor's Service refrain from inquiring into whether this amenableness is not linked to the "surveillance" campaign launched by the Prime Minister and organised by the Secret Service Minister, a campaign in which the hit man turning against himself was named as a "star witness"?
Proceedings are underway against László Juszt, because he was careless enough to publish a few names as well, whilst attempting to prevent the information thus revealed being classified as a breach of secrecy. Is this a proportionate penalty when we consider that László Földi, caught out in giving an unlikely confession, is permitted to buy and sell alleged secrets unpunished using money of unknown provenance?
Since we are talking about the lack of interest shown anyway, there are other, more unusual, doubts worth expressing. Why does the Public Prosecutor's Service put up with there being no news about eerily similar cases dating back to the election campaign? At an hour crucial to democracy, a series of successfully bloodless bombing attempts was made against József Szájer's uninhabited flat, the entrance door of the Party of Independent Smallholders' headquarters and József Torgyán's garage door.
These incidents, just like Lakatos' attempt to blow himself up as well, had no meaning other than as a form of primitive propaganda to arouse suspicions against the opposing political camp.
In the space of one and a half years, Sándor Pintér's Ministry of Home Affairs has proven incapable of publishing one single report on the subject of the attempts against the coalition, for example concerning the explosives used. Is it really credible that the leaders of Fidesz and the Party of Independent Smallholders, who keep a tally on every affront and who visit their wrath upon the seventh generation should be so generous? Is there a functioning democracy, if destabilising actions and a threat to public life of this order of magnitude are tolerated passively?
If the Public Prosecutor's Service is truly not passive, then what is stopping it from presenting its results and its dilemmas to the public with democratic openness? Does it not have a duty to stability that would prompt it to speak out? If by any chance the lawyers were to be under political pressure, is it really in the interests of their impartiality for them to remain silent, mouths tight shut and keep on counterbalancing? In so doing, do they not themselves become an instrument of destabilisation?
I also, however, have a question for György Keleti, Chairman of the National Security Committee, who has known about Miklós Lakatos' voluntary confession for months now. On what basis does he still regard this text to be secret, when the author sent it to him with the express intention of allowing the public to obtain full knowledge of his motives?
My heart bleeds most of all because of the silence of the press. It would appear that László Juszt's punishment has attained its perfidious aim. Journalists are not clamouring in a chorus to be permitted to make the text known, they are not burdening the high-ranking dignitaries with their questions. It isn't even worth thinking about disclosing facts that might affect the government in the public service media.
Democracy is committing an assassination against itself, even if no blood has been shed thus far.
Finally we arrive at the set of articles published on 27 May 1999 in issue eight of Juszt's weekly magazine Kriminális. The picture, which emerges of the secret service, is of an outfit rife with corruption, staffed by unscrupulous agents, who routinely put their own self-seeking interests (material gain) above the rules designed as a set of legal safeguards to protect private citizens.
This indeed fuels suspicions concerning the impartiality of the service and its role as guardian of national security. Accusations concerning political bias seem all the more plausible (corrupt officers are not exactly going to lose any sleep over who their paymasters are). We read an indictment of Pinpoint by the same Miklós Lakatos with whom we have become familiar from the Trabant escapade. He catalogues the rot that set in as a result of its morally corrosive dealings.
There is, however, as Juszt triumphantly proclaims in the gloating tone of a journalist, who knows he is on to an unbeatable scoop, not one scrap of evidence to substantiate the Prime Minister's announcement about Zoltán Pokorni's having been put under surveillance. All that we have is departmental gossip, unsubstantiated rumours and vague, tortuously expressed references to work done on the side in the greater cause of lining the pockets of high-ranking chiefs.
Most of the "evidence" is quite banal, certainly nothing that would normally merit the hue and cry that ensued. Nothing that would be worth the severe penalty of between five and fifteen years imprisonment (the price tag for betraying state secrets) and nothing that would justify kicking Juszt out of his job as presenter of the most popular programme on MTV, closing down his weekly and thereby depriving him of both good reputation and livelihood. I leave you, dear readers, to judge for yourselves:
I've had enough!
I am sick to the back teeth of being continually treated as a child and spoon-fed with idiotic fairy tales. Can it be true that I am the only person suffering from this fit of rage? For months on end we have been fed lines about who was carrying out surveillance operations on whom and how they went about it. Here of course there are two issues at stake. Let's take them in turn.
The first (and less substantial of the two) concerns who did what in the Zsuzsa Czégé versus Zoltán Pokorni case? It might not be all right for me to do so, but I remember the material dating back to 1996, which the then opposition MP passed on to the press about the Xénia movement and the group of politicians centering around it. These documents were above-board and specific in content.
In other words, it was a professionally compiled dossier. Against which no one could possibly have any objections. It is, after all, a completely normal, standard practice in conducting business for business or political adversaries to want to know everything about their rivals, and, if they succeed in that undertaking, to want to use it in keeping with their interests.
It is also part and parcel of this procedure, however, for the party under observation to attempt to defend himself by having similar investigations carried out into the particulars of the observer. This is a private matter between the two parties, though. It cannot be politics, even if one of the parties subsequently becomes a political potentate. Let us therefore set this matter aside. It is a private affair, if you like. This is something that ought to have been sorted out amongst the parties themselves.
The second issue, however, which had its beginnings in August of last year when the Prime Minister announced that "opposition politicians were placed under surveillance in the term of office of the previous government using secret-service methods and funded by public money", is deadly serious. Though that is, of course, only the case if it proves to be true!
Eight months have elapsed and, on the basis of the so-called "proof" that has been brought out into the open, it is possible to declare that this piece of news was a hoax. Even that in itself would not be a problem! The real problem is that we are still being fed a line, but this time round with the help of politicians currently in the opposition. They are desperately trying to hide papers they suspect might conceal some serious state and professional secrets or other. Except that it isn't true!
Running the risk of being accused of betraying state secrets, we hereby disclose the documents that have come into the possession of our editorial staff. We do so with the aim of letting everyone decide for himself whether he wants to continue to let himself be "led up the garden path"? Whether he is willing to accept the further tomfooleries of so-called politicians?
All that we ask from them is that they should treat us - the electorate - like sensible adults. Because, if they write us off as primary school dunces they are doing nothing other than marking themselves, since it was that very same band of primary school dunces that was able to put them in Parliament in the first place...
- - -
Political links cannot be proven, but doing secret work on the side certainly can
The Ministers announced that the assumptions must be reviewed
Subject: Pinpoint Ltd.
In the wake of the scandal that erupted in conjunction with the surveillance of leading figures of the Fidesz-MPP Party and members of their families, Pinpoint Ltd. was linked to the affair in the press. A report containing a summary of the results of the official enquiry is being prepared. Beyond the facts that may be verified by evidence, we have laid hands on several snippets and fragments of information as well as information that can neither be documented nor verified. Of these, the following merit attention:
- When Pinpoint was founded at the end of 1991, it was owned jointly by one of the National Security Office's firms, the PROTAN shareholding company and the INNOTECH Foundation, also attached to the secret service. The activities of both PROTAN and INNOTECH have been shrouded in "poetic semi-obscurity" since their inception. According to unsubstantiated information, these firms were set up in order to provide a separate source of financial support to the heads of the two - on paper still one - services. The means by which this was achieved are as follows: the companies commissioned various "expert" studies from the heads, who subsequently had their experts within the service write the analyses before selling them under their own names for huge amounts to the companies supervised by them. Between 1994 and 1998 the number of these firms attached to the National Security Office [NSO] and the National Security Service [NSS] was somewhere between ten and twenty. A large number of them were connected to the two major firms mentioned above. Running these firms was a task entrusted to their right-hand men. Trade was considerably facilitated by the involvement of Tamás Somogyi [the chef de cabinet of the Minister without Portfolio responsible for monitoring the secret services] and his immediate entourage, so that they did not need to fear any kind of examination of their activities.
- In the course of the four-year period, the circle of individuals mentioned above began to prepare for the "spontaneous privatisation" of the thriving companies. An example of this is the alleged buyout of PROTAN Ltd. in 1996 at a rate well below its market value. The election results in May 1998 upset the plans laid in advance. Panic-stricken efforts ensued to remove all traces of proof referring to the companies' activities and the way they had been sold into private hands, which allowed vast amounts to be misappropriated, and to put the companies into "hibernation" [this term refers to the practice of selling such plundered companies to mysterious individuals, who subsequently disappear].
- György Méth was put in charge of Pinpoint Ltd. from the day of its foundation. He was considered to be reliable due to his family connections as well as his friendship with Ferenc Mandúr, stretching back over several decades.
- The company - according to several pages' worth of information - gave work to active officers within the NSS, who were deemed by their superiors to be completely reliable. A typical feature of the conduct of business was that no one knew any more than was absolutely essential. Significantly, the individuals, who actually did the work, such as the compilers of intelligence reports, surveillance operatives and covert operations experts, did not know whether the work farmed out to them by middle-ranking officers in the NSS was being carried out on state orders, whether it was official or whether it was "on the side". On many occasions these employees did not even receive any remuneration for this work. The trusted middle-ranking circle cashed different, considerably larger amounts, which they documented appropriately for auditing purposes, although they did so in such a way that it would be impossible to check up on the actual work carried out. After the work was done, the lion's share of the proceeds was pocketed by the heads of the company and by Ferenc Mandúr in particular, as their supervisor as well as by Somogyi and his entourage, who began claiming a share after a while.
- The individuals, who carried out the actual work - very often because they were not aware that they were not going about official business - were allowed to use the office’s vehicles, registers and identification badges in assumed names with the tacit consent of their superiors.
- As the elections loomed ever larger, there were increasing fears amongst these middle-ranking officers that they would get caught. They no longer carried out the orders Pinpoint had been commissioned with and so the firm's sources of income had dried up by May of 1998. Some leading lights retired in panic - B.B., head of the surveillance operatives, for example - although they were immediately put back on the NSS' books as pensioned advisors [in the Hungarian system, these individuals would earn a full pay packet alongside their state pensions, thereby making more than if they lived off their pensions alone!].
- Amongst Pinpoint's clients, there is a striking number connected to the MSZP's [Socialist’s] sphere of influence or to the previous Minister and his chef de cabinet. It is not, however, possible to verify their actual orders.
- With regard to the firm's personal network of connections, its material and technical background and the political convictions of its directors, it is possible to establish that it might have been capable of carrying out the type of work as was required in compiling information on leading figures within Fidesz.
- In keeping with the logic of the profession, however, there is a greater chance that work of this type was broken down into several parts, each element of which was ordered in such a way that the real intention was largely obscured.
- It cannot be precluded that the truth is to be found somewhere in the vicinity of the S-Group, which was in a position - due to its network of personal, political and financial connections - to co-ordinate and fund the work. The composition of the S-Group's management and its family ties to the upper echelons of the MSZP provided an absolute guarantee for the client.
- A comprehensive investigation might be expedient in order to verify the assumptions and to clarify the issue of the activities undertaken by the firms affiliated to the secret service.
- Whatever happens, it would also be necessary to become acquainted with the current activities and enterprises of the experts, who have left the secret service since the collapse of Communism, in parallel with these efforts.
- Having combined the results of the two enquiries, it would be possible to straighten out whether these companies and individuals acted unlawfully in a satisfactory manner, as well as uncovering the background to the specific case. To achieve this, however, absolute loyalty is required of the heads of the secret services, as the only hope of a successful conclusion to the work of unearthing the facts is to be found in active, systematic undercover work. Obedience of the rules on conspiracies down to the last letter is indispensable when it comes to attaining this aim.
- The above conclusions are largely confirmed by the information contained in the report sent by M.L. to the MWP's [Minister without Portfolio] Office on March 11 1998. Pinpoint worked using the NSS's staff and resources, and - significantly - the NSS's officers were not able to separate them from official orders.
- The company's operations led to erosion within the service between the staff responsible for gathering intelligence and those responsible for carrying out the surveillance, as they felt that they could also "do work on the side" if their bosses were able to do so. The investigation held in the wake of the report was concluded on 11 June 1998 with the proposal that the company should discontinue its activities and that the internal arrangements for the regime should be tightened up. There is a striking coincidence between the timing of the investigation and the company being "put into hibernation". This conflicts in part with the arguments they have put forward thus far.
M.L., a colleague in the secret service, on the subject of work done on the sly within the secret service
Question: As of when did you begin compiling material for your report on a regular basis?
Reply: Somewhere between six and nine months ago, when I decided to hand it in. I began compiling recorded material because it perfectly supports my written submission.
Question: Where did you set down the information as compiled in writing and where did you record it on to tape?
Reply: I set it down in writing in different places, partly during my solitary hours at my workplace and partly at my home. The recording was also prepared at my home on the basis of the handwritten document I had drawn up, the explanation for this being that it was impossible to make the recording at work and keep it secret at the same time. This original handwritten document no longer exists as I destroyed it. No outsider could have seen it.
Question: Do you have in your possession a copy of the material submitted or of any supplementary recording or written document?
Reply: I basically handed in two kinds of recording. There is a copy of the compact cassettes, which I prepared to cover the eventuality that might arise if the original cassette were to be destroyed due to a technical fault. No copy of the micro cassette was made. I deliberately destroyed the compact cassette myself once the procedure had been completed. At the present moment it is placed somewhere inaccessible to unauthorised individuals.
Question: Who knows about the steps you took in conjunction with the report?
Reply: No one knows about every single one of the steps I took. I only indicated to my wife that I intended to take the kind of step at work that might lead me to lose my job. My wife knows nothing about any of the other details. Since this step affected my being able to make a living, I informed my wife about it.
Question: What specific result were you aiming at by writing your report?
Reply: One definite aim and one uncertain aim. My definite aim was for Pinpoint, which I deemed to be harmful, to be closed down on the basis of the evidence furnished. I feel that it represents a deficiency in the security system that such a serious problem has to be drawn to the attention of the competent powers by someone of my rank. This was my uncertain aim.
Question: What do you mean specifically by deficiency in the NSS's security system?
Reply: Within the areas of both surveillance and intelligence-gathering agents I had some insight into, I noticed an opening up towards the civilian sphere on such a scale and of such a damaging nature that it might be possible for operatives from secret services working against us or of other organisations or maybe for individuals to worm their way into our ranks.
Question: According to your account you decided at one point that you would commit a breach of the instructions you received from the Internal Security Department (ISD) and begin compiling information centred on Pinpoint. How do you evaluate this decision as a covert operations expert and moreover as a soldier?
Reply: The situation then was quite a special one given that not only my own analysis, but also a large number of other opinions deemed that Pinpoint's existence did considerable damage to the staff. In essence, my experience was that the ISD was inactive on the subject of Pinpoint's activities. Although I overstepped the mark, I considered this to be a proportionate response, since the flaw I was exposing was so blindingly obvious. I am happy to accept responsibility for this decision at any time. I continue to maintain that the interests I prejudiced by writing my report are outweighed by the greater interests of the service as a whole.
Question: You mentioned that you considered your aim to be gaining access into Pinpoint. Why?
Reply: This was still in the days when I was a newcomer to the service and I had no deeper insights into quite how damaging Pinpoint's activities actually were. As a matter of fact I initially got word from colleagues that Pinpoint provided an opportunity to make money legally and the work carried out there aroused my professional interest, that is I found the information obtained from these sources interesting from the point of view of my professional development. I would like to specify that I was thinking here of intelligence work and I found it interesting.
Question: To the best of your knowledge who placed orders with Pinpoint or rather what kind of work was carried out?
Reply: As far as I know, Pinpoint mostly sought out job opportunities and clients itself. The so-called Pinpoint colleagues, such as Mr B.R, collaborated actively in so doing. I only have an incomplete picture of the circle of clients. We know of one specific case mentioned by lieutenant colonel A.Cs., according to which Pinpoint did some work for the aforementioned B's lawyer's office. Apart from this, it was possible to deduce from references made by colleagues that potential customers included large companies, banks and various lawyer's offices. The Coca-Cola Company was mentioned several times. As far as I know, that transaction did not take place. There is a danger here that we might end up serving the interests of criminals or demands, which are damaging from the point of view of national security. It would be all too easy to do so. My colleagues assumed and I personally judge that it would be very easy to use Pinpoint to serve party political interests. Also by using very simple solutions.
Question: What do you know about the way that Pinpoint jobs were handed out and how they were organised?
Reply: As far as I know Mr György Méth handed out the demands for intelligence work and the requests for surveillance amongst the leading insiders in the department. He took care of this personally in many instances. My colleagues mentioned the example of P.B., the then head of department, as someone he frequently consulted with in Pinpoint's heyday and similarly Mr Zs. F., who was then deputy [head of the National Security Service]. According to the example, the two individuals mentioned above were responsible for how the work was subsequently divided up.
Question: From whom and what do you know about the alleged Pinpoint list, on which the names of certain high-ranking members of the secret service feature?
Reply: This piece of information was mentioned by Mr B.R. To be more precise, he stated in front of several witnesses that, whilst he was still being employed by the firm mentioned above, he completed several assignments using the computer there. He said that he had saved a list, in which the names of the heads of the secret service were mentioned next to bank transfers. On the same occasion he also alluded to having brought this list and that he would have used it had he had to put up with any measures in the course of the proceedings launched against him that he considered to be unfair. He said that he was thinking of the future in so doing and that he intended to cover himself and his own activities. I did not see the list and B.R. did not speak to me about names. All he did was to hint at the involvement of high-ranking leaders, showing off about how much he knew, using the information to shore up the ideology, which he in turn used to justify the existence of the circle he had set up himself to compile data illegally. When I referred to witnesses a moment ago, I meant Mrs E.G., Mrs J.M., and their husbands as well as B.R.'s wife and myself. This remark was made by Mr B.R. at his flat, when the "group" attached to Mrs G., the second circle that came to grief turned to B.R. for advice and help.
I would like to observe here that disciplinary proceedings had been launched and were being held against Mrs G and several of her colleagues for carrying out illegal intelligence operations and the reason they turned to B.R. was to save themselves by some or other manner of means. The reason why these individuals turned to B.R. in particular was that B.R. or rather the unit he had set up had gone through the same process of coming to grief and since B.R. had been forced to leave the service due to similar problems.
Question: In your report you mention Pinpoint as a set up designed for the big chiefs to make money. How is this supposed to be understood and what can you put forward to support it?
Reply: ...this was mainly a set up within the official ranks of the service for providing them with a secondary source of income. I would like to point out that the chiefs have recently confirmed this version of events. It was confirmed both by my colleagues in the intelligence department, who were sounded out on this issue, and by lieutenant colonel I.J. during a conversation held in confidence. Messers B.P. and Zs.F. were the individuals from the intelligence department concerned. Together with colleagues employed within Pinpoint, they leaked the information to the circle where I was allowed to compile information.
I would like to state here in order to remove any possible misunderstandings concerning the circumstances above that when I joined the service I wanted to take part in the work done in Pinpoint whatever happened, naturally in the interests of earning money legally. I discovered at the very outset, however, that - as far as I was able to find out at the time - only tried and tested, reliable and proficient intelligence agents were allowed in. Later I realised that admission was only a matter of being reliable and at a later stage that it depended to some extent on professional ability as well. Many people, who ought to have been included in the work on the basis of their professional abilities, were not involved because they were more competent professionally than many of those, who did work there...
I do not know any specifics about individuals and amounts of money; the only information I have at my disposal names rough brackets of the sort of amounts involved and the levels of directors concerned. I think that they are the ones, who authorised Pinpoint's operations or at least had an overview of them. The rough amounts lie somewhere between HUF 60 and 70,000 for one or other complete assignment, in other words, this was the sort of amount paid by the client, though in certain flagrant cases considerably higher amounts changed hands. The indications on the subject of the amounts emanate partly from the colleagues taking part in Pinpoint, partly from the circle attached to Mrs G. It is not possible to determine exactly how they became common knowledge, but certain agents, who were not interested in the Pinpoint work, also knew about amounts of this size. Payments were divided amongst three groups. The staff responsible for compiling the actual data earned on average ten thousand forints plus, although this depended on how many assignments they received from Pinpoint in a given month. According to the information at my disposal, this meant an average of around HUF seven to ten thousand. The second group comprised the leadership ranks, who provided the interface between Pinpoint and the operative staff, who, to be more precise, took care of carrying out the assignments. To the best of my knowledge, this group received a so-called expert fee, which was presented to me as being between HUF 14 and 15,000. Amongst the same stratum of leaders there were occasional extra payments, which operated as a sort of premium and a figure of HUF 50,000 was named in connection with these. In essence, it was not the payments listed above that irritated the staff so much as the allegedly huge amounts of money, which remained within Pinpoint itself, shared out amongst those in charge of running Pinpoint or amongst individuals, who had an influence over Pinpoint, but I have no information as to who those individuals might actually be.
Question: To what extent in your opinion did the existence of Pinpoint and the example it set influence the work and morale of the staff?
Reply: As far as I know, the work done by the intelligence and surveillance staff, which had previously been stable and reliable, underwent a process of decay as a result of Pinpoint's operations, as may be seen from the following. What the practice and the working set up of Pinpoint basically demonstrated to the staff in question was how much of a demand there was for this type of activity, what an extremely lucrative source of income it could provide and it basically also succeeded in showing the staff involved how it was possible with a minimum risk factor to carry out illegal information-gathering work using the service's resources. From then on, a steady flow of recommendations of individuals for outside jobs was made. There was a section of the staff, who, if they were excluded from this circle or not included in it in the first place, felt virtually entitled to look for illegal data-compiling work and who set aside any particular ethical or security scruples in offering themselves as candidates for such work. This therefore applied to both the intelligence and the surveillance staff. For example, they contacted private detective agencies, lawyers and tried to get into larger companies or banks. In the interests of finding a solvent client, they did the rounds of these companies canvassing for work on their own expense. I could mention by way of example that surveillance teams took part in the work of the private detective agency - I cannot give its exact name - closely linked to Mrs G. Alongside this, several groups also engaged in similar activities, although to the best of my knowledge they did so elsewhere, completing assignments for other clients. The way it was put was that each group went in search of its own little racket or rumpus or whatever came their way. They designated lawyers as potential clients and this may also be confirmed by my information to the effect that they often carried out surveillance operations on women, mainly at the behest of the women's boyfriends or spouses. They assumed that these requests arrived at private detective agencies via lawyers. As a general rule they did not make references in the course of these remarks to specific private detective agencies, lawyer's offices or other customers.
Question: What precisely are we to understand by your statement about turning down one particular piece of illegal work offered to you because you felt that a stop had to be put to certain matters?
Reply: During the conversation with Zs. N. recorded in the minutes earlier it was possible for me to take definite stock of the full extent of the damage that would be caused if this type of illegal activity were to be carried out on an organised basis within the secret service as well as how vulnerable this would make the secret service in question and this is why I decided that I had to do something to counteract it.
Question: You indicated that you considered the intelligence work to be the foundation for something else. What then was its actual aim?
Reply: When I entered the secret service, I did not actually know what opportunities I had. I was accepted by the intelligence department because it was the only place where there was a vacancy. I felt that I would not be able to develop my skills to the full in the work there. I was more interested in classical network-maintenance work. This is basically why I enjoyed the work carried out jointly with the internal affairs department, because I felt this to be real secret service work.
Question: In the department’s area of professional expertise, which unit of the intelligence service was most affected in the course of the disciplinary cases?
Reply: The unit headed by A.Cs. was very seriously affected. On the one hand, this was the unit from which the fewest Pinpoint workers were drafted, and they followed the bad example of its chief. On the other hand, the classic declaration that "if Cs. can get away with it then so can we" was on everyone's lips. I shall give you a detailed explanation of what I mean by this.
Lieutenant colonel A.Cs. unequivocally began his controversial activity as a result of Pinpoint's bad influence on him.
He set up the security firm "Carna Security Ltd." in his wife's name. The staff working in the department know beyond doubt that lieutenant colonel A.Cs. leads and directs the firm's dealings. Initially, under the influence of Pinpoint, he felt himself to be so very justified in carrying out moneymaking activities on his own behalf that he scarcely bothered to conceal them. I know this from what my colleagues have told me, since I was not yet a member of the staff. In those days he also went about this work during normal working hours. The form that this assumed was using his mobile telephone to check up on whether the guards had changed shifts. From the moment that tensions arose with Messers P. and F., who were involved in Pinpoint work, he tried to cover up what he was doing to a greater extent than before. As far as the staff know, the firm in his wife's name also provided the security at a disco in the vicinity of the Citadella and they also supplied external security services for a holiday house on the shores of the Balaton. All I know about this holiday home is that it has some kind of "ministerial" owner. Mr Cs. monitored these places, outside working hours as far as I know.
In connection with this I would like to note that I saw the certificate of registration of the company in Mr Cs's wife's name at Mrs G's and Mrs J.M's and A.Cs's name featured on it as a specialist advisor. As a matter of fact, the individuals mentioned above wanted to use this information if any proceedings, disciplinary or otherwise, were set in motion against them to paint Mr Cs. into a corner in the interests of saving themselves.
We suspended the taking of the minutes at 20.50 on 19 May 1998.
The minutes contain an accurate reflection of my statement, which I sign with my approval after having read them.
Verified by Mrs M.D. counsel
J.P. lieutenant colonel
- - -
The claim that Pokorni was put under surveillance for political purposes is not true
According to the evidence in Kriminális' possession and presented to our readers, captain Cs.B's hearing took up a serious amount of the Internal Affairs Department's capacity. However, the story that was narrated was not about Zoltán Pokorni, then a member of the opposition, having been put under surveillance at public expense, but that the police captain doing active service in the government guard [a special detachment of the police responsible for protecting politicians, their residences and government buildings, also referred to as the Republican Guard below] did not toe the line in agreeing to a request.
If we are attentive, it also emerges that a private detective, who obviously was in the business of doing private detective work, crops up. Where is the public money here? Where is the unlawful act? Surely someone is not angry with the upstanding Mr F?
- - -
Record of a Hearing
Drawn up on 30 April 1999 at 09.30 in office number 116 on the first floor of the National Police Headquarters' Republican Guard premises on Honvéd Street No. 28
Present: P.Sz., brigadier general of police [the Hungarian system differs from others in that we distinguish between police ranks and the positions occupied. For this reason, I have decided to leave the ranks, which correspond to their military equivalents, in the original]
J.L., police colonel
Cs.B., captain of police
E.B., police ensign, keeper of the minutes
Cs.B. made the following statement in his record, which is classified as secret for ten years:
'...that following this, a friendship had already formed with Zsuzsa Czégé and that around the end of 1996 she approached me with a request in conjunction with the attack launched by the Fidesz group on the Xénia Fever Association in its Parliamentary question. The MP Mr Zoltán Pokorni was the person, who tabled the question. Zsuzsa Czégé turned to me with the request that I should help her to compile background information concerning Mr Pokorni's motives and what kind of economic interests were lurking in the background. Because of my sphere of professional activity and my rank, I was not willing to co-operate in the specific gathering of information, but I did offer my help in putting her in touch with Dr L.F, private detective..."
During the meeting held in camera, Viktor Orbán admitted that György Keleti was right
In his statement before the Parliamentary "Surveillance" Committee, Viktor Orbán admitted that his declaration of August, according to which the compilation of data was unlawful, cannot be proven. On page 20 of the minutes of the Committee's meeting held in camera the following may be read:
"I agree with what Mr Keleti said, that the fact that it is not possible to determine, who was responsible for lodging a request for information, that the individual concerned cannot be identified is not in itself a breach of the law. I also agree that in itself it is not yet a breach of the law. Whatever happens, the situation is untenable: in Hungary rules exist on access to state registers and these rules must be respected. And if the rules do not make it possible to establish the identity of the individual requesting the information then this is not a good thing. The type of systemisation and rules needed is one that precludes such problems".
- - -
Gusztáv Kosztolányi, 5 May 2000
Part Four will continue the series with a brief explanation of some of the personalities and cases alluded to in the above documents, a chronicle of the Juszt affair and my analysis of the current situation as regards freedom of the press in Hungary.
- Return to CER front page
- Click here to read part one
- Click here to read part two
- Archive of Gusztáv Kosztolányi's articles in CER