Military Intelligence is respected at home and around the world
The importance of intelligence services in the current security situation was confirmed by the recent visit of Prime Minister Petr Fiala to the headquarters of the Military Intelligence. The Prime Minister, accompanied by Defence Minister Jana Černochová, met on 5 January at the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Service with its Director, Gen. Jan Beroun, when the Prime Minister followed up on last year's visit to the BIS. According to Fialy, knowledge of accurate and timely intelligence information, including international intelligence cooperation, is the basis of a functioning defence and security system.
Picture: The Prime Minister, accompanied by Defence Minister Jana Černochová, met on 5 January at the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Service with its Director, Gen. Jan Beroun, when the Prime Minister followed up on last year's visit to the BIS. | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
As the Prime Minister stressed at the subsequent press conference, the Military Intelligence Service improves its capabilities where it is also responsible for it. This is particularly the case for the effective defence of cyberspace. In his view, the Czech Republic must be able to detect and stop attacks in this area as well. "Military intelligence must continue to build key capabilities for which it has national responsibility. These include cyber defence to detect and stop cyber attacks against the state and critical infrastructure. It is also necessary to further develop the capabilities of the Czech Satellite Centre, which acquires and analyses satellite imagery for the intelligence support of the army, as well as for the IRS and other state institutions," Prime Minister Fiala said in his speech. An important topic and task to be addressed is the issue of disinformation, which can have a significant impact on the country's defence capability as a weapon.
Picture: Military Intelligence must continue to build key capabilities for which it has national responsibility. This includes cyber defence, which is designed to detect and stop cyber attacks against the state and critical infrastructure. (illustration photo) | Shutterstock
In connection with the above, we put several questions to the government's National Security Adviser Tomáš Pojar:
How important is the regular service of Military Intelligence for the Prime Minister's decision-making?
It depends on the specific issue, but the work of all intelligence services is important for the government. In times of war on the European continent, this is doubly true.
The Ministry of Defence is considering, for example, following the British example, by introducing regular reports on developments in the fighting in Ukraine. Do you think this is one way of combating disinformation in the public space?
I do not know the details. However, refuting disinformation is important and this may be one way of doing it.
Unlike in previous years, there seems to be much better relations between our intelligence officials and the current government. At least in the case of Russia's activities, then, their words have come through. How important is it that politicians listen to the intelligence community and do not wage their own wars with it?
The cooperation of the various branches of the Czech state is important and is a value in itself. Credibility, i.e. the credibility of the Czech state and its individual institutions, is absolutely crucial for us. We are dependent on international cooperation.
What do you think is the current security situation in the Czech Republic and the EU?
We live in a safe country, but a major war conflict is raging nearby. We have to be constantly aware that our security is not a given, and we must therefore constantly strengthen our security adequately.
The Director of Military Intelligence, Gen. Jan Beroun, then emphasised during the press conference that this visit was out of the ordinary in two ways. The first was that it was the first ever visit of a Prime Minister of the Czech Republic to the premises of the Military Intelligence. The second exception was that the meeting was divided into two parts: a review meeting and a meeting on future plans. "We talked about the previous year, which was very hectic and which has completely rewritten the security situation in the Czech Republic," said General Beroun. In the context of plans for the future, Gen. Beroun, together with the Prime Minister and Minister Černochová, discussed the future development of the Military Intelligence, the development of the security of the Czech Republic's defence capability and other issues important for intelligence work.
Jan Pejšek, spokesman of the Military Intelligence, gave a more detailed comment to CZ DEFENCE:
Has 2022 changed the system of work of the Military Intelligence?
It cannot be said that there has been any substantial systemic change. Even though until February last year everyone believed or wanted to believe that the open conflict in Ukraine would be averted, we were preparing for this option as well. Thus, the relevant answer is that the system has not changed, but the intensity of the work has. Military intelligence has been monitoring and analysing the situation since the very beginning of the Russian invasion. For reasons of secrecy, it is not possible to go into detail, but it is possible to say that all our units are involved across the board.
The need for further investment in technology and expansion of workplaces was mentioned at the press conference. Will MI expand into new domains? Will Military Intelligence change its headquarters?
Technological developments are accelerating at an incredible rate. What used to take many years is now a matter of months in some domains. Military Intelligence has to move with the times, which of course places high demands on people and money. The leadership of the Ministry of Defence is aware of this and is accommodating us budget-wise. As a result, we are constantly improving our capabilities in areas of national responsibility. These include, in particular, the effective defence of cyberspace and the capabilities of the Czech Satellite Centre. And if you ask about domains, space is one of the areas we want to focus on more and more. We will not comment on the dislocation of our space for security reasons. However, in general terms, we have to think about the future, i.e. we have to invest continuously in the working environment, equipment and security of our workplaces.
Does the MI within the Alliance cooperate and coordinate the results of its work with other partners in order to create a relevant picture of the current security situation?
Of course yes. Much closer cooperation and information sharing with Alliance and non-alliance partners is proving to be a necessity. One of the priorities within the NATO Military Intelligence Committee, which the Czech Republic chaired last year through the MI, was precisely to strengthen cooperation between military and civilian services within NATO, including the production of joint outputs.
The Military Intelligence Service, as part of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic, regularly informs the Minister, the Prime Minister, as well as the relevant committees of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. The Minister of Defence appreciated the work of the intelligence officers, adding that it is always difficult to comment on anything related to intelligence services and added that you can know a good intelligence service if the results of its work are tangible in some way, without the activities of specific intelligence officers being discussed in the media in terms of some scandals or leaks. Similar praise for our intelligence officers is also heard in the evaluation of cooperation from alliance partners.
In the press conference, Minister Černochová further said that the discussion included not only the possibilities of developing the capabilities of the Military Intelligence, but also the need for new workplaces or space capacities of the MI. The Minister also recalled the need for legislative changes that would further support the activities of the Military Intelligence. In this context, she cited the enforcement of the Cyber Defence Act as an example. Although it was adopted in a different security environment, it has proved its worth and does not need to be changed even after one year. "We have also discussed with Director Beroun the possibilities of amending the legislation in combating terrorism," the minister said, referring to the creation of a wider range of activities and authorisations for the MI.
We also asked additional questions to Defence Minister Jana Černochová:
Has this year shown any new directions in which the MI should move?
It is not so much about new directions. It is necessary to further develop what has been started. Military intelligence is and wants to remain a modern service of the 21st century. That means making effective use of new technologies in addition to traditional intelligence disciplines. Examples include cyber defence of the Czech critical infrastructure or imagery intelligence for military and civilian needs through the satellite centre.
How would you assess the functioning of the Military Intelligence, either from the position of the Minister or in the previous period from the position of the Chair of the Defence Committee?
The Military Intelligence fulfils many tasks and does its best for the Czech Republic and our allies. I have said this repeatedly as Chair of the Committee and it is still true now. As Minister, I am pleased that during the negotiations foreign partners often speak of the MI in superlatives. The last time this happened was last year, when the MI chaired the NATO Military Intelligence Committee (MIC) in a very difficult international situation. Positive assessments of the active work of the MI were heard both from the NATO Military Committee and from representatives of the European Union.
How important and crucial is regular information from the General Staff for your decision-making or that of the government?
Military Intelligence is a respected institution that provides timely, relevant and quality information. It is currently the dominant service monitoring and analysing current developments in Ukraine and informing both the government and both chambers of parliament. Since the beginning of the Russian aggression, the Military Intelligence Service has prepared dozens of situational briefings for us and the House and Senate committees. In addition, military intelligence officers carry out many other tasks. Among other things, they ensure and continue to build up the cyber defence of the state or, for example, participate in the fight against disinformation. Military intelligence is an integral part of the security system and plays a key role in ensuring defence.