On April 11, the State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) issued its annual report for the year of 2016. The document presents SSG’s view on the main threats to Georgia’s national security and the service’s priorities.
Occupied Territories (Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia)
The SSG report names the existence of occupied territories as the country’s “main challenge,” while their “increasing militarization” by the Russian Federation and the presence of considerable Russian military forces in the occupied regions are described in the report as an “existential threat for Georgian statehood.”
Other problems related to the occupied territories, listed in the report besides the Russian military threat, include: discrimination of ethnic Georgians; restrictions on free movement of people; crime; illegal detentions; and movement of the occupied regions’ boundaries (the so called borderization process).
SSG “coordinates security measures… along the occupation line,” while also being the leading agency representing Tbilisi in the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings in Gali (on Abkhazia) and Ergneti (on Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia) - established in the frames of the Geneva International Discussions with the purpose of addressing security concerns and developments on the ground on regular basis.
Foreign Covert Activities
SSG describes in the report extensive foreign intelligence efforts in Georgia. According to the Service, “foreign intelligence services constantly attempt, from legal and illegal positions, to find their way into the government agencies and security organizations,” with the “main purpose of influencing the country’s internal and foreign policy.”
SSG notes that “intelligence services of various countries” employ soft power, including “public diplomacy” and “information subversion.”
The report also states that Georgian security services themselves are frequently targeted by foreign opponents, forcing them to consistently counter this effort.
The SSG report highlights attempted attack on the Russia-Armenia gas pipeline near Saguramo village, North-West of Tbilisi. Seven suspects accused of the attempt were arrested on August 20, 2016. The case is pending in the Tbilisi City Court at the time of the writing. It is notable that while the SSG report includes a section dedicated to terrorism, the attempted gas pipeline attack is highlighted in the “Counterintelligence Activities” section that describes covert activities of foreign intelligence agencies in Georgia.
According to the SSG report, Georgia is not among the countries facing high risk of terrorist attacks, though it admits existence of “certain challenges” related to terrorist organizations and radical ideologies. The SSG notes that the number of radicalized Georgian citizens wishing to engage in terrorist activities has decreased.
The report names five Georgian members of jihadist terrorist organizations convicted in 2016, and another one charged with the same crime. SSG also investigated a number of foreign citizens residing in Georgia for supporting the so called “Islamic State” and terrorist activities.
SSG also reports its activities against the use of Georgian territory for transit by individuals willing to reach Syria and Iraq in order to take part in the military activities in these two countries. 750 individuals were refused entry into Georgia on the country’s border due to counter-terrorism concerns.
Among other matters highlighted in the report are chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense; fight against corruption; and personal data protection.
Two instances of illegal actions with radioactive materials were uncovered in 2016. On April 14, six individuals were arrested in Tbilisi for keeping Uranium-238. Six more were arrested in the town of Kobuleti on April 25 for keeping 1665,5 grams of Uranium-235 and Uranium-238.
SSG launched 47 criminal investigations on corruption cases in 2016. During the same period, 59 individuals were prosecuted in 32 corruption cases.
SSG also says in its report that in 2016 the Service prioritized personal data protection, citing active cooperation with the Personal Data Protection Inspector.