Before World War II the Czechs had developed an impressive military intelligence structure, headed by Gen. Frantisek Moravec, that succeeded in recruiting several useful German sources, among them an Abwehr officer, Paul Thümmel. Codenamed A-54, Thümmel provided high-quality information to Moravec, who moved to England shortly before the Nazi occupation of Prague in 1938. Moravec skillfully negotiated considerable independence from the British because of A-54’s value and was able to supervise an organization that extended into Czechoslovakia and Switzerland.
From its creation in 1948, the Czech security apparatus, the Statni Bezpecnost (StB), established a reputation for the ruthlessly efficient suppression of dissidents and the management of sophisticated, longterm agent operations that were often dependent on exploiting family contacts among émigré communities. The extent to which the StB had succeeded in recruiting expatriates emerged when Nicholas Prager was convicted of passing RAF technical secrets to the Czechs, after he had been identified as a spy by a KGB defector. More evidence was provided in 1969 by two StB defectors, Jozef Frolik and Frantisek August, who exposed several British members of Parliament as having succumbed to pressure, among them Sir Barnett Stross, Will Owen, and John Stonehouse. In addition to Frolik and August, the StB suffered a further seven defectors in the three years following the Soviet invasion.
The StB was also responsible for the only known penetration of the Central Intelligence Agency, with Karl Koecher who posed as a refugee in 1965 and succeeded in obtaining employment as a CIA translator. He and his wife were StB officers and at the time of their arrest in New York in November 1984 were believed to have been responsible for compromising the true identity of a valuable CIA source code-named TRIGON.
Whereas Koecher and his wife operated under their own authentic identities, the StB was adept at developing illegals, as was demonstrated when Erwin van Haarlem was arrested in April 1988, having adopted the identity of a Dutch hotelier. A true professional, van Haarlem never revealed his real name and served his full prison sentence without making any admissions. Ironically, by the time he was deported back to Prague, the regime he had served had been replaced in the “Velvet Revolution.” Although MI5 asserted that van Haarlem had been caught because his wireless transmissions had prompted complaints from neighbors, in reality he had been denounced by an StB defector, Vlastimil Ludvik.
In February 1990 the StB was dissolved and a new, democratically controlled security apparatus, the UOUD (Urad pro Ochranu Ustavy a Demokracie/Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution and Democracy), was established under the leadership of Zdenek Formanek.
Soon afterward, in July 1991, this was renamed the FBIS (Federální Bezpeènostní Informaèní Sluzba/Federal Security Information Service), while the StB’s foreign intelligence branch became the UZSI (Urad pro Zahranicni Styky a Informace/Bureau for Foreign Contacts and Information). Currently headed by Petr Zeman, it is a civilian organization that answers to the Ministry of the Interior.
In July 1994 in the newly formed Czech Republic, the BIS (Bezpecnostni Informacni Sluzba / Security Information Service) was created, and in 1999 the former head of military counterintelligence, Jiri Ruzek, was named as its director.