FECL 46 (August 1996):
The CIA is already operating in Prague from offices in the former building of the Czechoslovak Federal Parliament, which also houses the previously Munich based Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.
As for the FBI, it will cooperate with Czech authorities under a bilateral agreement. The FBI is not just an ordinary police body limited to carrying out criminal investigations, but also an intelligence service with tasks such as counter-espionage. Considering this, the FBI's interest in Prague could have something to do with a recent project of the Czech secret service, BIS.
As long ago as 1993, BIS reports, recently resurrected by the Interior Ministry, have claimed that Arabs working and/or resident in the Czech Republic (CR) have links with "fundamentalist Moslem terrorist groups". It is said that Bosnian Moslem refugees in the CR are being recruited for terrorist missions against US targets. This is palpable nonsense because, according to information from the Interior Ministry in June, Bosnian refugees are concentrated in four tightly-controlled camps with a total population of 400 men, women and children, and seven smaller centres. Not the easiest conditions for highly visible Arab interlopers to operate in, one would have thought. But then, the story goes, Arabs, who studied in socialist Czechoslovakia, are assisting in this subversive work, posing as employees of foreign businesses, sometimes partly Arab owned, or even as spouses of Czech nationals. They know the infrastructure, the people and the language, and some of these former "students" were in fact undergoing terrorist training by the former communist authorities.
The scenario is indeed far-fetched, but is seriously being used as a justification for the creation by the BIS of what Interior Ministry spokesman Jan Subert called "an integrated system for combating terrorism" in an interview with a Prague evening paper, at the end of July. The system will be fully controlled by the BIS, not the ordinary police. According to Mr Subert, it will be based on "analysis and monitoring of the movements of suspicious foreigners, with the help of computers which will be linked to all border crossing points".
There are reasons to believe that the FBI is greatly interested in sharing in such intelligence activity, in particular if one considers the Czech Republic's geo-strategic position - a gateway to the East at the very heart of Europe and a would-be member of a possibly enlarged EU and NATO.
Abridged and edited version of an article by Ken Biggs, editor of Postmark Praha, P.O. Box 42, CZ-18200 Prague, Tel: +42/2 8584107, Fax. +42/2 24592589.