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Poland’s Secret Police Say They’ll Unplug Their Bugs

October 25, 1989

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ The secret police will disband undercover units and turn off listening devices to try to win ″public acceptance and prestige,″ and a place in Poland’s reforms, commanders said Wednesday.

Freed from watching opposition activists - many now hold posts in the East bloc’s first non-communist government - security forces can turn to fighting an alarming rise in property crimes spawned by Poland’s economic crisis, the officials said.

″The functionaries of the security service not only fully accept these changes, but are aware that the changes are irreversible,″ said Jerzy Karpacz, deputy chief of the secret police.

″If any are found with a different view, they will have to leave the force,″ he said.

Karpacz was joined by the deputy commander of the police and the spokesman for the Interior Ministry at a news conference that opened the secret department to unusual scrutiny.

″It is obvious that the understanding, interpretation and realization of the job of ... the Interior Ministry depends directly on the broader social and political conditions of the country,″ said spokesman Wojciech Garstka.

″That is why there will be changes - perhaps the deepest in postwar history - in the way some responsibilities in the Interior Ministry will be implemented,″ Garstka said.

The despised secret police long symbolized communist control by fear. They are remembered as executors of Stalinist purges, clandestine monitors of the opposition and interrogators of activists.

Three rogue officers and their commander from the so-called ″Fourth Department,″ which spied on religious associations, were convicted of the 1984 kidnapping and murder of the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, a charismatic Solidarity priest whose bound body was dumped in a river.

The fourth department and five other units, including those responsible for surveillance of citizens’ loyalty and protection of the agricultural, manufacturing and arms industries, have been liquidated in the reform drive, Garstka said.

Also dissolved are ″archaic″ units that inspected foreign mail for secret messages and monitored foreign radio transmissions, Garstka said, along with the political education unit.

There will be ″much less frequent″ use of secret observation, wiretapping and eavesdropping, and only with the permission of the court or the prosecutor’s office, he said.

″The most radical changes will be in the secret police. The tasks of protecting internal security in the case of a parliamentary democracy and political pluralism has to be understood and executed in an essentially different manner from the past,″ Garstka said.

″As long as any opposition was illegal, it was treated as a threat. Since the considerable majority of the opposition ... has become legal ... its representatives are in the parliament ... they have ceased to be an object of interest to the secret police,″ he said.

Three new secret police units will be formed. One will protect the constitutional order against political extremists and terrorists who ″do not want to become legal″ under new freedoms, another will safeguard the economy against espionage and disruption and the third will analyze security information and work on crime prevention, Garstka said.

With Poland ″still the object of increased interest from foreign intelligence services,″ counterintelligence efforts will be strengthened, Garstka siad.

Acknowledging an expansion of the secret police ranks over the years, Garstka said the department will be limited to 7 percent of the Interior Ministry, or about 7,500 posts.

Greater importance will be put on public safety and protecting property, Garstka said, and some secret police officers will be transferred to help with a national alert issued to combat an ″alarming″ rise in thefts and burglaries.

There are about 1,250 crimes per 100,000 people annually, which Garstka said was relatively low by Western standards, but increasing incidents of car break-ins and other crimes are being reported as the economic situation worsens and the division between the well-to-do and the impoverished widens.

The 12,500-member paramilitary ZOMO riot police, disbanded in a symbolic move Sept. 29, will be replaced by ″prevention squads″ of 5,177 officers in 22 of the 49 provinces. They will be supplemented by 13,000 men serving in the police as an alternative to mandatory military duty, Garstka said.

Interior Ministry officials were questioned about confiscations of once- banned underground publications, the privileges supposedly provided to security forces and what would happen to the information gathered through surveillance.

They said material confiscated but not destroyed following court procedures might be returned if proper application was made.

As the secret police units were disbanded, ″all the resources were listed and in cases in which analyses were not useful, they were destroyed,″ Karpacz said.

He denied that a special unit existed to monitor foreign journalists but would not answer directly whether their offices and homes were bugged.

Interior Minister Czeslaw Kiszczak, one of four remaining communists in the 24-member Solidarity-led cabinet, has recommended that the prime minister create an advisory committee representing Poland’s political forces ″to deepen society’s control of the Interior Ministry,″ Garstka said.

Interior Ministry officers were brought together this month for a two-day seminar during which Kiszczak gave a lecture on how they should work ″in the new conditions,″ the spokesman said.

″Acting in a responsible and cautious way, according to law, with professionalism, openly informing society about their actions and problems, the Interior Ministry is going to strive for public acceptance and prestige,″ he said.

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