The names of 50,000 probed individuals and of hundreds of agents and officers of the Communist Secret Services have been kept undisclosed for years

Files Commission “Curtain Is Lifted” But Not Quite

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“The curtain is lifted”, announces on its homepage the site of the so-called Files Commission in charge of investigating the Communist-era secret services records. There you can also find a list of the probed people with possibilities to conduct a search. It is logical to expect reliable and up-to-date information from such an official website tool, but that is not the case.

Bivol’s team found that the Commission’s search engine does not contain information about individuals who were certainly probed and even exposed as agents. This is not about single cases but about hundreds of people checked. Having encountered these facts, we decided that such a situation is unacceptable and inadequate in light of public interest.

On purpose or not?

There is an extremely misleading practice. The Commission’s website lacks clarification that the search does not cover all probed and announced agents. So, if someone trusts the published data, they can decide that a person has not been probed at all or that there is no data about them having anything to do with the structures of the former State Security (DS). At the same time, the person in question may have an established affiliation as agent, but when one searches for them, the site indicates that there is no information, however that is simply not true.

In fact, hundreds of State Security collaborators and agents for whom affiliation has been conclusively established remain hidden to the public. Their files appear only in a specialized search with other criteria, such as a concrete resolution document, for example. Thus, through a careless, purely technical trick, the names of individuals who play an active role in public life continue to be “behind the curtain”.

50,000 checked persons are missing from the lists. Over 800 of them are agents or employees of the DS

These facts become public only now, after Bivol asked questions to the Files Commission under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA). The Commission assures that data for more than 50,000 individuals was still being processed and systematized “in stages” and would soon be published.

 

The Commission’s reply does not say how many agents are actually hidden from society. We had to process the 869 available to date Commission resolutions to establish that over 800 agents and full-time employees of the DS have remained “in the dark”. Their exact number cannot be stated for sure as it is possibly that there are duplicate names.

According to Bivol’s specific data, there are absurd cases in which the Commission has even issued official documents about the lack of links and affiliation to the DS to persons who have spent their entire career in this system! But this is subject of a separate analysis and internal investigation into how the Commission acts. It is hardly possible that such an objective investigation could be carried out under the current political regime in the country.

The agents’ personal data are dear to us

The available through a search information on the site of the Commission is too scarce. There is no data, for example, about the agent codenames, the DS departments, the recruiting and lead officers. It is also not possible to conduct a search with these criteria. To obtain this information, you need to delve into the Commission’s list of resolutions, download a PDF or Word file with the published resolution, and look inside.

All this creates enormous obstacles to making a real credible check on the part of common citizens. The Files Commission utilizes about BGN 3 million of taxpayers’ money per year, which cannot be adequately justified by such faking of its core business.

Last year, a list of persons probed for affiliation with the State Security and Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian People’s Army was published on the government’s Open Data Portal. At the moment, there are 193,842 records, which correspond to 148,217 checked persons. For 7,657 of these, there are Commission Resolutions to establish membership of the communist secret services. This provides a basis for comparison between the searchable data and the data contained in the resolutions.

However, the comparison is extremely difficult because the Commission has decided to publish open data with deleted dates of birth. The reason, also given in the reply under APIA, is concern about the agents’ personal data. At the same time, the date of birth is present in the search engine for probed persons on the Commission’s website. To us, the explanation is that either this is an overstatement, or a well-calculated stumbling block to the research effort to uncover the secret list of agents that SOMEONE does not want to be public.

New search tool “raises the curtain”

However, the Commission’s resolutions are so far available, though provided in a variety of formats – some of them in PDF files, and most of them in an old Microsoft Word format. Nevertheless, obtaining structured data from them is not a “mission impossible” and is in the power of modern “data journalism”. This was proven years ago by IT expert Boyan Yurukov. Since then, however, the data has increased, and a convenient search tool has never been available.

In the course of about two days, Atanas Tchobanov from Bivol and computer expert Krassimir Gadjokov managed to extract the information from all available 697 Commission resolutions and create a convenient search engine that can do searches by different criteria: by the agent’s codename, by the name of the recruiting or lead officer or by the DS department to which the agent was attached.

It is also possible to distinguish between the part- and full-time employees and agents. It is easy to generate

A name list of Bulgarian agents

with over 3,000 unique codenames (see here, in Bulgarian). The information on agents and full-time staff can be easily linked to information from other open source databases, such as the Trade Register, public procurement bids, or property declarations of persons who are or have been vested in power, thus monitoring the “growth” of the DS staff during the Transition Period after the fall of the Communist regime. All these options are missing in the File Commission’s specialized database.

The question remains why the Commission, which has been spending millions in the course of an entire decade, has not done this very simple job causing the names of thousands of agents to remain “buried” in its old resolutions for years. Bivol’s search engine fixes this long-standing flaw and gives anyone an easy and full opportunity to make a credible and detailed check for the affiliation of a probed person to the structures of the Communist DS that has spread and embedded its metastasis in all spheres of the political and social life in the agonizing Bulgarian state.

 

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