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August 3, 2018 12:00 am | FILED UNDER: politics

Missing UZSI Spy Tech Discovered In Hands Of Private Firm

By ČTK

Prague, Aug 3 (CTK) – One of the Agata International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers, which were missing in the Czech civilian intelligence service (UZSI), has been found in a private security agency, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today, referring to two independent sources.

 

Several other devices, about five, were donated to a partner intelligence service abroad.

 

The UZSI bought a total of eight to nine Agata devices for some 90 million crowns, daily Pravo has written.

 

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek (Social Democrats, CSSD) has received the final report on the investigation into the UZSI financial management today, he tweeted today, adding that he cannot comment on its content since it is classified.

 

Hamacek will meet the UZSI management next week and then decide on further steps.

 

MfD writes that Agata is one of the most efficient devices for wiretapping and locating mobile phones. It is able to create a false operator’s station within a several-km range and force mobile phones to connect to it. This is why only the police and secret services can officially use it.

 

It would mean a serious security threat if it ended up in unauthorised hands.

 

This is why a thorough investigation was launched a few months ago when a check of the UZSI financial management revealed that several pieces of this IMSI catcher, which the UZSI had bought, got lost.

 

One of them has been found in a domestic private security agency of late. This seems suspicious at first sight. However, the UZSI often uses cover firms or security agencies for its purchases of similar devices mainly to keep them secret.

 

This is why it is not sure whether this was a similar cover-up or an attempt to gain illegal equipment via an intelligence service.

 

Besides, the UZSI donated some five Agata devices to its Egyptian colleagues as a reward for their aid to the liberation of Czech missionary Petr Jasek who was imprisoned in Sudan. The Egyptian intelligence officers chose the Agata equipment themselves, a source, well versed in the negotiations about Jasek’s release, told MfD.

 

The investigation into the UZSI work also focused on its operations in the Czech Republic on suspicion of breach of powers. The UZSI can operate in Czech territory only if the case is connected with information from abroad. However, experts point out that such connection can be found almost in any case.

 

This part of the investigation is politically important, as PM Andrej Babis recently said the UZSI might stand behind the recordings of his meetings with former MfD reporter Marek Pribil that were released in a Twitter account. The inspection is therefore also investigating the suspicion of the UZSI abuse against Babis.

 

Another case into which the inspectors may look is the UZSI’s investment of millions of crowns in a company dealing with cyber security.

 

Shortly after the investigation was launched, some dozen UZSI officers left the service. In May, then Interior Minister Lubomir Metnar (for ANO) took UZSI director Jiri Sasek off duty. The inspectors questioned many UZSI officers as well as former interior minister Milan Chovanec (CSSD) in June and July.

 

The Chamber of Deputies committee supervising the UZSI work debated the case on Thursday.

 

Lawmaker Zdenek Ondracek (Communists, KSCM) said at the meeting that the police were dealing with the results of the check in the UZSI, among others over the missing Agata devices.

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