Jeff Stein Part 2: US Must Work around Borisov's 'Dark' Past

Diplomacy | August 13, 2012, Monday // 10:45|  views

Bulgarian PM, Boyko Borisov, labels all publications about his alleged criminal past tabloid news and attacks on him from political adversaries. Photo by BGNES

The site for investigative journalism, official partner of WikiLeaks for Bulgaria, has released the second part of their exclusive interview with US journalist and top intelligence expert, Jeff Stein.

In 2007, Stein published in Congressional Quarterly a harsh article about the shady past of Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov. At the time, Borisov firmly denied the strong accusations in the report, while a number of Bulgarian politicians and media defended him or hushed the news.

More on Stein and the first part of the interview read HERE and HERE. publishes with Bivol's permission the second part of the interview, which can also be found HERE.

Bivol: You are one of the leading experts on security and secret services in America. According to you, which one of the two statements of the US Ambassador in Sofia is more authentic?

The first statement was made before the cable was published: the cables from the Embassy in Sofia which one can read on Wikileaks are balanced, professional and contain information needed by the Department of State.

And then immediately after the cable went in the media, the same US Ambassador, James Warlick, said that the cables, leaked by Wikileaks, contain partial and incomplete information. And he defended Boyko Borisov as an ally, and expressed the full confidence of the US State Department in his government.

So, which one of those statements is true?

JS: I think both A and B, as you listed them for me, both are true; that the cables obtained by Wikileaks are balanced, they are professional and contain information needed by the Department of State - that is true, and is also true, as I said, these are snapshots and they contain partial and incomplete information because there are other sources of information such as the Pentagon. There were military attaches in Bulgaria, and CIA people... They are also filing reports and those are not available on Wikileaks, so it is true. I would add that the Ambassador's statements were a way of trying to squirm out of an embarrassing situation for the Embassy. To soften the blow, because we have to maintain cordial relations with Bulgaria in the interest of terrorism, narcotics smuggling, and other reasons, so that was a political statement by the Ambassador, in my opinion.

Bivol: Yes, but there are also professional relations with the CIA, which is giving Borisov a strong shoulder. The CIA Director recently spent three full days in Sofia and according to Borisov "he rested and got some sleep, visited monasteries, churches, had dinners, lunches..." This is Borisov saying it on TV. Do you think it is possible that regarding Bulgaria, the US might be applying a policy of the type: "We know he is a bastard, but he is our bastard?"

JS: Well, the US has many relationships like that throughout the world, especially in Central Asia, so given that we know what US officials think of Borisov, then you could say that it is true that he is our bastard. But it is not also a black and white situation. I talked to former high-ranking intelligence officials, one in particular had lots of experience dealing with corrupt regimes or corrupt officials or officials that we necessarily do not want to be in bed with, and they can be two levels of this relationship - one – it is a formal relationship that we must maintain because a person like Borisov holds a certain position, so we have to deal with him. But they will also isolate him from certain confidential information because they do not trust him, so they will deal with him on a formal level. I am not speaking specifically about Borisov, because I do not know what the US relationship is with Borisov, the working relationship, but they can be different levels of engagement with such an official. We can have a formal relation, but we do not tell them everything. We all have relationships like that with friends and acquaintances with whom we can be friendly, but we do not tell them everything

So, we work around them. It is also the operating policy of intelligence agencies to develop sources independent of people like Borisov, so it is in the interest of CIA. What does the CIA? They are a spy agency, right? So like Bulgaria's spy agency, Bulgaria probably has interest in developing sources in the military and intelligence services of surrounding countries whether there is Greece or Romania or Turkey. The same way, the CIA would be interested in developing sources around Bulgaria.

As the expression is: we don't put all our eggs in one basket... Also, Borisov may be gone tomorrow, so we want to have other relationships. Again, it is possible that they can have a formal friendly relationship. The CIA Director, General Petraeus, who has much experience in dealing with bad guys, he is a very gifted military leader and diplomat, and he may have a formal friendly relationship with Borisov and as soon as he leaves the room he is saying "that bastard, he is a terrible person."

Bivol: Yes, but he spent 3 full days in Sofia which is not very usual for a CIA Director and we asked the question to US officials if this was a private visit or an official visit to Sofia, because visiting churches monasteries and having dinners and lunches is OK, but not all the time, for 3 full days? This is an accessory topic though... Speaking about the CIA, have you heard anything about the abbreviation SIMO? What is its decoding? What is the meaning of SIMO? It was decoded by the German paper Tageszeitung like a cryptonym that is synonym of CIA.

JS: I would like to wait to see more corroboration of that statement by the German journalist. It could be the CIA. There is a very sophisticated market intelligence firm called SIMO, but that could be a cover for the CIA also; also SIMO refers for Special Items Military Office, that is a military abbreviation.

Bivol: This one hypothesis. We were searching public information about SIMO and the only thing we could find is that it was a military office, which is not part related to intelligence in areas like Bulgaria? Why should they spy on Borisov's methamphetamine trafficking?

JS: The CIA has a role in narcotics intelligence. It has a whole department of counter narcotics, so narcotics intelligence is a good place to find other information. People, who are involved in the drug business, often know, because they have to know, what is going on, who is corrupt, what officials are doing what. Drug traffickers can be very good sources for US intelligence if they could be flipped and drug people like to be flipped because they think it gives them some protection, some shelter

CIA as well as the drug enforcement information, which is part of the intelligence community, it has a representative in Sofia in the Embassy, are interested in drugs, so they would be collecting information on drugs transiting Sofia or Bulgaria.

I am working on other things and I have not had the time to investigate this acronym SIMO. I am sure if I spend 24 hours on it, I would be able to give you an answer of what SIMO is.

Bivol: But if one day if you have the time, it would be really very good to corroborate the Tageszeitung story.

JS: It would be good information to have, but at the end it does not really matter. It means that the information from intelligence sources that the Embassy has access to is confirming what the State Department says. We know that the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, the Military Special Forces etc., all have a presence at the Embassy. The bottom line is - what more do you need to know? The information comes from the other intelligence arms of the Embassy.

Bivol: Yes but why is this important? Is it because the defense line of Borisov is that, this is, this information is just, well, as he said it's a tabloid press, so?

JS: No. You can be sure of one thing that when the Embassy, when the person who wrote the cable refers to SIMO he's referring to an intelligence assets of the embassy and that can be CIA it can be all the assets combined in one office you know the producer's information. Or could be CIA, but so you know it means that the intelligence's collecting arms of the Embassy have provided independent corroboration of the information outside of the State Department. So if any of them... let me give you a little bit of information, inside information, about this how it works; you see the CIA is the top intelligence, the CIA is station chief in the country. It's the top intelligence officer. Formally speaking, he or she sees everything that everything goes through the CIA station chief in the country. The CIA is the top coordinator of all intelligence operations in the country. Now I will say that how this relationship works is dependent on the personalities of the people involved. If the top military guy does not get along with the CIA station chief, you know, they may not share everything. So just like everywhere else in live it depends on personal relationships, but officially speaking, the CIA station chief is the top intelligence officer that coordinates or sees everything else and so the ambassador would be referring in SIMO whether we know if that stands for CIA if that's the acronym or not you know I can't say offhand but in any of that it means the intelligence available to the ambassador outside of the State Department. That means US intelligence agencies.

Bivol: We asked John Gets who's the author of the article in Tageszeitung. He's a former investigative journalist in "Der Spiegel", a German media outlet, and he said that SIMO, he did not put it in the article, but he said that SIMO means 'Special intelligence methods organization" and this is a cryptonym of CIA according to his source.

JS: I would suspect that he got that from German intelligence sources.

Bivol: He said he worked with the source from formal CIA source, not the German intelligence.

JS: Oh, OK. He's probably true. I just cannot independently corroborate but you know, the CIA has two methods of work in any country including ally countries. One is to cooperate with locals, work together with local security services and the other is to spy on them. So, depending on the relationship, you know, I mean US is, any spying that the US will do, MI 5 or MI 6 will be very low key but you know that's what spies do. You can't stop them, that's what they do by their very nature. They develop sources and relationships.

To be continued...

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Tags: Bulgarian, Bulgaria PM, criminal past, media, Jeff Stein, expert, US, intelligence, military, foreign policy, politicians, Wikileaks, cables, Congressional Quarterly, CQ, SIMO, Tageszeitung


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