Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Albania Offers Protection to Army Intelligence Staff

Army intelligence agency head tells BIRN that the decision has become a necessity as the army gets deployed in more and more dangerous areas of the world.

Fatjona Mejdini
Agency of Defense Intelligence and Security | Photo: Albanian ministry of Defense

Albania's government is for the first time to grant special protection to employees and others working with the Defence Intelligence and Security agency, AISM, which is part of the Ministry of Defence.

A government meeting on January 11 decided that those categories of staff merit special protection in cases when, as a result of secret operations, their lives may be in danger and also when they are required to use double identities.

The protection offered includes surveillance of their persons and homes, possible transfer within the country or abroad as well as other measures depending on the mission.

Speaking to BIRN, the director of AISM, Colonel Bardhyl Kollcaku, said that these measures were needed now that the Albanian army was conducting missions in areas of great danger.

"AISM personnel have duties whenever the Albania army is deployed. For more than a decade our army has been acting in areas of great danger, which means that the AISM has been exposed to this danger, too," he said.

"In some cases, AISM personnel have been in more danger than army forces as a result of their work profile," Colonel Kollcaku said.

Albania joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, in 2009, and since this time its armed forces have been part of every NATO mission, including in such dangerous areas as Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Our experience in these operations and that of other NATO member armies has made this decision necessary," he emphasized.

Colonel Kollcaku was presented as the new head of Albanian army intelligence on January 8 by Defence Minister Mimi Kodheli.

He earlier had a long career and held senior positions in the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces.

In 2012, the Defence Intelligence and Security agency was caught up in political debate when the centre-left opposition of the time accused the former Defence Minister, Arben Imami, of using the agency's personnel and equipment for internal political benefits and for intercepting political rivals.

In 2014, when Kodheli ran the Defence Ministry, the General Prosecutor's office was asked to probe allegations that the former opposition was now running the country.

Colonel Kollcaku said that prosecutors need to follow up any issues related to the lawfulness of the intelligence agency's duties and responsibilities.

"What can I say in full confidence is that the personnel of AISM is dedicated to strictly following all the laws or regulations on which its work is based," he said.

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