Country Listing

Bulgaria Table of Contents


Security and Intelligence Services

In 1990 the Bulgarian state security system was substantially revamped in response to opposition pressure to improve the sinister, oppressive reputation gained by agencies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs during the Zhivkov era. After encountering strong resistance from party functionaries accustomed to using their positions for personal gain, the realignment used the American security system as a model to create three services under a streamlined Ministry of Internal Affairs. The National Security Service (called the National Service for Defense of the Constitution before mid-1991) was given responsibility for identifying and countering foreign intelligence, subversive, or terrorist activities affecting the security, territorial integrity, or sovereignty of the country. It had authority for domestic law enforcement in cases involving international criminal activity, organized crime, smuggling, political corruption, and illegal fascist or nationalist organizations. The new philosophy announced for conduct of these activities included independence from all political parties, oversight by the Commission on National Security of the National Assembly and recruitment according to professional rather than political qualification. In 1990 the service was given the important new role of preventing violence during elections.

Unlike the catchall National Security Service, the other two intelligence agencies had very specific roles. The National Protection Service was formed from the Department of Security and Protection, which Zhivkov had turned into a massive organization with unspecified functions ranging from personal protection to supplying imported cars to high party officials. The new protection service was much smaller and was confined to physical protection of government officials and foreign dignitaries.

The third security agency, the National Intelligence Service, was responsible for counterespionage and monitoring activities in neighboring countries, roles filled by the State Security (Durzhavna sigurnost, DS) prior to 1990. The National Intelligence Service announced a personnel cut of 20 percent in 1991, but even in the new atmosphere of disclosure little else was reported about its activity or staffing. After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Bulgarian counterintelligence effort continued to be directed against the NATO countries adjacent to Bulgaria; counterintelligence against former Warsaw Pact allies remained forbidden under a mutual cooperation agreement. The work of the National Intelligence Service was supplemented by the Military Counterintelligence Service, which was moved from DS jurisdiction to the Ministry of National Defense in 1990. The military service reported to the General Staff. According to its chief, military intelligence was responsible for identifying and countering subversive actions, including terrorism, sabotage, and espionage. Besides foreign intelligence services, the activities of military intelligence were directed against domestic political extremism and crime.

After reorganization of the DS agencies, substantial public skepticism remained about the role of the secret services in monitoring Bulgarian society. Some Department Six agents remained active, and in 1991 the existence of still undisclosed Department Six files fueled much media speculation. Revelations that the KGB had overseen DS activity under Zhivkov brought speculation that KGB agents might still be active in Bulgaria after the Warsaw Pact ended. The Ministry of Internal Affairs claimed that only two agents remained in 1991, attached to the Soviet Embassy.

Data as of June 1992