All authority in Latvia now belongs to the state security service -- the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution /BEK/, the nation's newspaper Neatkariga /Independent/, with the second largest readership in the country, said on Tuesday, this correspondent reports.
The paper notes that from July 1, unnoticed by Latvian society, amendments to the law on BEK, adopted almost unanimously by the Saeima parliament on June 27, which vest this secret service with almost unlimited rights, came into effect. The Bureau has been mandated, without any authorisation from a court or the prosecutor-general, to carry out any intelligence and counter-intelligence operations. In particular, it can tap telephone conversations without any restrictions, to search living and office premises, to engage in surveillance, etc.
"If, coming home late at night, you discover that men wearing gray coats are deftly looking through your things, do not hasten to call the police at once -- perhaps it is a job being done by Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution agents," the paper says.
In its view, "the Saeima's absurd resolution puts the BEK above the constitution itself, which clearly states that 'everyone has the right to a private life, and privacy of housing and correspondence'".
From now on BEK will report not to the Council of National Security, whose members are the president, the prime minister, power ministers and heads of two parliamentary commission, but the Saeima's Commission on National Security. Commission members will not be informed of details of BEK operations.
The chairman of this parliamentary commission, Andrejs Panteleevs, explained the need for altering BEK rights by the pressure exerted by the US and other NATO member-countries. According to him, these countries have reproached Latvian authorities that they "are doing nothing in the field of counter-intelligence against the activities of embassies of individual foreign states". The BEK deputy director, Uldis Dzenitis, in an interview with journalists, also noted that "special measures will be taken against the activities of foreign services in Latvia".
Neatkariga believes that the privileges have been granted to BEK in the first place to solve domestic political problems. "BEK is becoming an ideal political tool, which will enable some select representatives of power to collect any information on any man, without troubling about the legality of such activity, and also that unseemly actions may some day become public knowledge," the paper says.