Who we are
The Security Information Service (BIS) is a Czech intelligence agency active within the Czech Republic. It reports to the Government of the Czech Republic, which oversees its work regulated by Act No. 154/1994 Coll., on the Security Information Service. The Service has the status of an armed security corps. Service officials are employed under a contract of service. They are entitled to hold and carry a service fire-arm and to use it for reasonable defense or in a situation of extreme distress - just as any other citizen.
The powers and responsibilities of the BIS are defined by Act No. 153/1994 Coll., on the Intelligence Services of the Czech Republic. The Service reports on its findings to the Government (Prime Minister and cabinet ministers) and to the President of the Czech Republic. It is strictly apolitical and has no repressive powers - it cannot detain, arrest or interrogate suspects. In its activities it consistently respects human rights and freedoms. If the Service is forced to interfere it always acts in compliance with the law.
In spite of the secret nature of its work, which is necessary for fulfilling the tasks which with it has been entrusted, the BIS is an intelligence service of a democratic state and is funded through taxation. Therefore, taxpayers have the right to know what we do and how we work.
The message which the Security Information Service seeks to convey to all citizens can be summed up as follows:
“If you are not a terrorist or a spy, you do not jeopardize the democratic system, the security and economic interests of the state, you do not disclose classified information, are not involved in organized crime and maintain no contact with people who do not have a clear conscience in these respects, you have no reason to fear that you will attract our interest.”
Following the dissolution of the State Security (StB) on February 15, 1990, the emerging democratic state was faced with a difficult task. Understanding that every secret service is a highly sensitive barometer of the political regime it serves led to the undoubtedly right decision to establish new intelligence services from scratch. Attempts to create democratic intelligence services by adopting merely cosmetic changes were abandoned. The new intelligence services were to be dedicated to the principles of democracy and the rule of law, fully respecting human rights and freedoms. The Security Information Service was founded on July 30, 1994. There were several milestones marking the road which lead to its creation:
Establishment of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Democracy (ÚOÚD) within the Federal Ministry of Interior (February 16, 1990 - December 19, 1990), succeeded by
The Federal Information Service (FIS) within the same Ministry (December 20, 1990 - June 30, 1991), which was superseded by
The Federal Security Information Service (FBIS, July 1, 1992 - December 31, 1992), and finally
The Security Information Service of the Czech Republic (BIS ČR, January 1, 1993 - July 29, 1994)
Objectives, principles and values
The BIS aims to anticipate, reduce and eliminate the most serious threats to our civilization, our state and ultimately to the lives and well-being of all its citizens. If the Service is compelled to infringe on human rights and liberties, it invariably does so in compliance with the law. For example, no phone is ever tapped without the consent of the Chairman of the Panel of Judges of the respective High Court. The Service does not have the authority to detain, arrest, or interrogate any individual. The BIS is guided by a commitment to democratic principles, the Constitution and the laws of the Czech Republic. It attaches extraordinary importance to communicating with the public as it could hardly fulfill its objectives without the support of the public. Furthermore, the BIS highly appreciates any help with which it is provided in protecting democracy, freedom and national security.
BIS crest, Service pledge and Service badge
The Czech national emblem on the breast of an eagle - a symbol of astuteness, vigilance, speed, tenacity and respect - is at the center of the crest. The Latin motto: “Audi, vide, tace” - capturing the principal qualities of an intelligence officer - is at the top of the crest. Intelligence officers have to be good listeners perceptive to their surroundings, who keep silent about their work. The large national emblem underlines the fact that BIS officials are civil servants. When taking their service oath, BIS officers solemnly pledge that they will be honest, brave, loyal to the Czech Republic, and prepared to apply all their strength and capabilities and spare no effort in protecting the constitutionality of the state and the well-being of its citizens, even at the risk of losing their lives. The Service badge is a 5.4 x 8.6 cm card. The front page includes the following: the holder’s photograph; the name of the Service; the card registration number; and a square holograph sticker. The name of the Service official is on the back side of the Service badge.
Audit and Oversight
Act No. 153/1994 Coll., on the Intelligence Services of the Czech Republic provides for the legal basis of intelligence service oversight. This Act stipulates that intelligence services are overseen by the Government and Parliament.
The Act defines neither the scope nor the manner of government oversight. It is based on the Government´s entitlement to assign tasks to the BIS within the Service´s legal powers and responsibilities and to assess their fulfillment; and on the fact that the BIS is accountable to the Government, which also coordinates its activities and appoints and dismisses the Director of the BIS. Government oversight focuses on all BIS activities, e.g. on evaluating the BIS budget - the BIS being a specific chapter of the state budget - and assessing whether funds are efficiently used to fulfill BIS tasks. Furthermore, the Government approves the BIS Statute, monitors compliance with the Statute, and oversees the legality of intelligence activities.
Under Act No. 154/1994 Coll., on the Security Information Service, the responsibility for overseeing the activities of the BIS lies with the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic, which sets up a special oversight body (the Standing Oversight Commission). Sections of the said Act provide specifically for the powers of the Oversight Commission.
Further means of external oversight:
Judicial oversight focuses mainly on the use of intelligence technology (warrants to use intelligence technology are granted by the Chairman of the Panel of Judges of the respective High Court - depending on the place of residence of the Security Information Service). The judge is entitled to request information from the BIS in order to assess whether the reasons for the use of intelligence technology are still relevant.
Supreme Audit Office Oversight
Under specific legislation the Supreme Audit Office oversees the management of state assets and the allocation of funds from the state budget.
The public does not have any specific powers regarding BIS oversight. Nevertheless, it plays an important role in overseeing BIS activities. Usually, the public oversees BIS activities indirectly - through mass media or the BIS website containing e.g. annual reports and various announcements.
The internal audit aims to prevent activities incompatible with the status and the work of the BIS. Furthermore, the goal of internal audit activities is to make sure that the security of the BIS is not jeopardized, to prevent abuse and leaks of information, to expose violations of internal regulations, and to draw attention to potential shortcomings and mistakes in the use of the material, technological and administrative tools the Service has at its disposal. The three following departments reporting directly to the BIS Director play an important role in internal audit activities: the Inspection Department, the Department of Internal Security and the Internal Audit Group.
Security System of the Czech Republic
Constitutional Act No. 110/1998 on the Security of the Czech Republic, as amended, stipulates that it is the State´s basic duty to ensure the Czech Republic´s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the protection of its democratic foundations, and the protection of lives, health and property.
This Act stipulates that the security of the Czech Republic is to be ensured by its armed forces, the armed security corps, rescue corps and emergency services. State authorities, bodies of the self-governing territorial units, and natural and legal persons are obliged to participate in safeguarding the Czech Republic´s security.
Intelligence services play an important and irreplaceable role in the security system of the Czech Republic by acquiring, collecting and evaluating information essential for the security of the Czech Republic, and by promptly identifying security threats and risks.