Reanimation package of reforms > News > Uncategorized > The structure of the Security Service of Ukraine is not changing globally – central office and regional units.

The structure of the Security Service of Ukraine is not changing globally – central office and regional units.


© Vasyl Artiushenko, DT.UA

The previous part of the article detailed what exactly should be changed in the work of the Security Service of Ukraine in order to transform this quasi-law enforcement agency, which reports to and acts for the benefit of the president and his entourage, into a classic intelligence service that defends state sovereignty, territorial integrity and combats terrorism.

In fact, since the publication of the previous article, Western partners have re-engaged in the process of broad discussion of the issues that hinder the abovementioned transformations. A broad-ranging discussion has already been held in the circle of relevant specialists and international experts. Moreover, the activists keep picking relevant arguments to explain why now and how it is necessary to change approaches in the SSU’s activities. However, as noted a month ago, top politicians have a completely different vision of the Service reform. And the word “completely” is too mild to describe the differences that have been identified between our vision and that of the pro-government elites. The latter want to keep the status quo for the purpose of further SSU exploitation as the Sword of Damocles in the struggle against political opponents and incompliant businesses.

I have not only received draft amendments to 20 normative legal acts that should accompany the reform indirectly, but also the text of the draft law “On the Security Service of Ukraine” developed by the SSU headquarters.   Thereafter, in December, it was submitted to the presidential administration, and later, in a month, returned to the SSU for further elaboration.

Let me remind you that today the SSU goes far beyond the notion of classic intelligence service both structurally and functionally. It has broad competences: protection of state sovereignty, constitutional order, territorial integrity, economic, scientific, technical and defense potential of Ukraine, legitimate interests of the state and the rights of citizens from the intelligence and subversion of foreign intelligence services, attacks on the part of certain organizations, groups and individuals, as well as protection of state secrets . This sounds rather decent and logical if you do not further read the relevant articles of the post-Soviet law on the SSU which specify the tasks – prevention and suspension of as well as solving crimes against the peace and security of mankind, terrorism, corruption and organized crime in the field of governance and the economy and other unlawful actions which directly threaten the vital interests of Ukraine.

The highlighted part has become the most important functions of the SSU today which give Service management the opportunity for illegal enrichment and fulfillment of purely political orders from the top officials. In other words, instead of the basic functions (counterintelligence and antiterrorism), secret service agents are engaged in pure trade – in the literal and figurative meanings. It would be possible to stop this abuse of power through the SSU transformation into a classic intelligence service such as the British MI-5 or the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet or Shabak). The latter two have no bloated structure, as a result, budget funds are spent as effectively as possible within the framework of the set goals. And these goals do not lie within the context of the “financial and share depletion” of companies in London or Tel Aviv, but are in the wake of a fight against radical jihadists or countering the threats from the terrorist organization Hamas.

In general, the basic approach employed could be the format once offered in the context of the army by one of the well-known Israel Defense Forces generals Moshe Dayan: a small and professional, efficient and inexpensive structure able to handle current security issues and run limited campaigns. It is far from certain that such an approach would suit the Ukrainian army, but it fits in the context of effective intelligence service functioning. More precisely, it could fit, but some people are trying to throw a spanner in the works, and therefore it is difficult to argue that the SSU reform will be at least half of what we, the civil society representatives, want. Let’s try to figure out what is proposed as a change.

The structure of the Security Service of Ukraine is not changing globally – central office and regional units. The network remains as branched as today. At the same time, nobody wants to get rid of “money” units reforming them under other names but with the same powers. The number of employees is simply exorbitant – 31,000 people. Let me remind you that the total number of employees of two British intelligence services is 5.5-6 thousand people. Obviously, Ukraine is a “very successful” state to have a 5-fold larger staff of the intelligence services.

Unlike the current law, the new document provides for a more detailed article on the SSU management. Now it contains an exhaustive list of grounds for the termination of powers of the Service head – end of service, dismissal or death. The SSU head can be dismissed under the following conditions: granting application for voluntarily resignation, appointment or election to another office with their consent, resignation from military or civil service over age, impossibility of exercising powers for health reasons in accordance with the findings of the medical board, expiration of the term of office, entry into legal force of incapacity or limited capacity recognition, adjudication of disappearance or declaration of death, entry into force of a judgment of conviction of a crime or other criminal offenses, the fact of bringing to administrative liability for corruption or corruption-related offenses, termination of citizenship of Ukraine, departure for permanent residence abroad or the fact of obtaining another nationality.

Note that the SSU head will not be able to be dismissed from office other than on the grounds expressly indicated in the draft law. In addition, the relevant article contains a 10-item list of authorities of the SSU head. But in fact nothing new was found there from the point of view of the institutional approach.

Small changes are associated with the SSU Panel as a collegiate advisory body that makes decisions on major areas and problems of operational and service activities. As of today, the relevant article on the panel also provides for the HR area. Also note: while today MPs are forbidden to join it, the new wording has no such clarification and even more – by the decision of the SSU head (not the president as the case stands today), the panel may consist of “other persons”.

Another important change was the detailed listing of the Service’s powers. Important ones are as follows: counter-intelligence, anti-terrorism and countersabotage protection of a number of facilities of the domestic authorities system, diplomatic representative offices and consular offices of Ukraine, critical infrastructure (defense-industrial complexes, energy generating facilities, etc.); counter-intelligence protection of the information sphere of Ukraine; fight against terrorism and its financing; fight against organized crime that threatens state security; they prevent, identify, suspend, solve and investigate criminal offenses which pre-trial investigation is within the SSU’s jurisdiction according to the law (Art. 216 of the Code of Criminal Procedure), they look for persons who are hiding in connection with the commission of a criminal offense; in accordance with the international commitments of Ukraine and the legislation; take part in measures aimed at counteracting illicit drug trafficking; carry out the function of technical regulation in the field of special technical means for reading information from communication channels and other technical means for tapping information and exercising control over its circulation, as well as directly use the technical means for the secret search, control, selection, record and processing of information within operational searches, counterintelligence activities and criminal proceedings; carry out control over the state secrets; receive information from operators and telecommunication providers; engage people in confidential cooperation; use the assistance of individuals and legal entities, freelancers and secret agents; use employees under cover; send the SSU military officers to work in local self-government bodies, state bodies, institutions, enterprises and organizations, as well as to other entities, regardless of the form of ownership without leaving the military service, etc.

Therefore, nobody is going to restrict the SSU as a pre-trial investigation body! Meanwhile, even the former heads of the Service, such as the former deputy head of the SSU, Viktor Trepak, agree with the statement – no investigations within the Service. Moreover, back in December 2018, he told about the five steps to be taken: depoliticization, introduction of parliamentary control, optimization of functions and powers, increase of the status of the SSU head, as well as change of the staff selection framework. I have written about similar things slightly expanding the range so that the reform could be referred to as a full-fledged one.

Let’s go back to the draft law “On the Security Service of Ukraine”. The aforementioned powers are only a sample, because this article lists a total of 79 items of what the Security Service of Ukraine can do. The list even includes publishing activities – definitely a “necessary thing” for a belligerent country with a non-reformed intelligence service.

However, we cannot argue that all the regulations of the draft law are totally negative. Finally, the conditions and limits for the use of physical force, special means and firearms, procedure for taking coercive measures, operational and service activities during a special period, during the anti-terrorist operation, repression and deterrence of armed aggression by the SSU officials have been detailed. It also mentions international legal cooperation, especially the exchange of information with the authorities of foreign countries and international organizations.

However, the national intelligence service does not abandon the principle of militarization since military officials will continue to remain (in accordance with the draft law) in the SSU’s personnel structure. By the way, civil servants have to serve taking into account the peculiarities established by the legislation. In other words, in terms of personnel, it is worth mentioning Part 4 of Art. 36 which clearly indicates: the president shall appoint civil servants of “A” and “B” categories without any competition. Moreover, a number of regulations of the Law “On Civil Service” do not apply to the category “A” civil servants.

We should also mention the Service manning, because according to Part 9 of Art. 41 of the draft law, military service in the SSU is possible on a competitive basis. The decision on the selection of candidates for the offices is approved by the head of the unit, body, institution of the Service.

Now let’s discuss the requirements regarding the SSU head and deputy heads. In fact, qualification requirements have been leveled up dramatically. I am not going to discuss the characteristics, so I will only mention the proposals of the government-favored forces: to become the SSU Head, you needs to have a Master’s Degree, as well as 10-year experience in the senior positions in the SSU, or 20-year experience in other law enforcement agencies. SSU Deputy Head also has to have a Master’s Degree, 5-year experience in the senior positions in the SSU, or 15-year experience in other law enforcement agencies.

I will also dwell on the novelty regarding the remuneration \ of the Service employees. Currently, the draft law clearly states who should receive compensation for their work as well as its size. Let me remind you that all new specialized laws (about NABU, about SBI) have been developed based on a similar approach. As a result, the basic salary of the SSU head will amount to 22 living wages (l.w.), that of the first deputy – 21 l.w., deputies – 20 l.w., heads of the department – 19 l.w., heads of offices – 18 l.w., heads of divisions – 16 l.w., first category special investigative agents – 14 l.w., etc.

However, in addition to the salary which basic rate has been given, remuneration additionally includes salary for the military rank or civil servant rank; seniority pay, security restrictions pay, remuneration for performing particularly important works, for the knowledge and use of a foreign language; other surcharges and allowances, as well as bonuses. This will significantly improve remuneration, for example, in the 2015 declaration, the Service head Vasyl Hrytsak declared an income of 286 thousand UAH, which in fact is a two-month salary of NABU director Artem Sytnyk.

And the last thing that will be discussed in this analysis is the diversity of controls that are supposedly introduced in the new law on the SSU. It envisages civil control, as well as presidential, judicial, financial, departmental and parliamentary control. It is the latter that will be described in the next article because the importance of monitoring the completeness and legality of the intelligence service activities is often relied on the legislative body in which structure a special committee is established. This is evidenced by international experience, and this approach is shared by the representatives of expert circles and ex-management of the Service.