Some commission members say access to classified information is needed to exercise effective oversight of the country's intelligence agency.
By Linda Karadaku for the Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 05/03/13
A parliamentary commission oversees the work of the country's intelligence service. [AFP]
A parliamentary commission is considering changes to the oversight of Kosovo's intelligence agency after one of its security guards was arrested in connection with a bank robbery.
"Despite the fact that this employee held a very low position in [the intelligence agency's] structure, it has affected great deal the credibility, image and the trust in this institution," Fadil Demaku, deputy chairman of Kosovo's parliamentary oversight commission, told SETimes.
Demaku said the February 21st incident in which Kastriot Islami was arrested with two others for the robbery of the NLB Bank in Pristina raised concerns about the oversight of sensitive institutions whose primary job is to preserve national security.
Under the oversight provision, the commission can ask intelligence agency leaders to report to them on issues related to the security of the country. The agency does not have to check with the commission to makes decisions. Although better oversight could not stop the involvement of an agency employee in a criminal act, it could tighten the agency's hiring regulations.
The commission is comprised of nine members -- two of which must be minorities -- and is always chaired by an opposition MP.
The commission has been hampered in its work because the law on classified information, which mandates up to 12 years in prison for releasing classified documents, has not been implemented after being passed in 2010, Demaku said. Some members of the commission also lack security clearances.
"We do not have access to many classified documents," Demaku said.
According to Florian Qehaja, expert at the Centre for Security Studies in Pristina, the problems are a result of the commission's lack of information.
"Its members are challenged to conduct strict supervision, [even though] they have not yet obtained security certificates and as a consequence, their access to this institution is limited," Qehaja told SETimes.
Officials with the intelligence agency declined to comment to SETimes.
Oversight is not on the level it should be for a number of reasons, according to Florim Krasniqi, who heads the commission.
"The ruling PDK party sent two members to this commission ... That makes it very difficult to supervise the intelligence agency. Sometimes it is impossible when the minority communities' members side with the PDK commission members," Krasniqi, a member of opposition party Vetevedosje, told SETimes.
Close co-operation with the intelligence agency has so far filled the gap, according to Krasniqi.
"The director and the inspector general have been very co-operative in their regular reporting to all requests of the commission," Krasniqi said.