Minister questions advice to previous govt to destroy phones

Ljubljana – Right after the 24 April general election, the intelligence and security agency SOVA recommended to the outgoing government that its officials destroy all mobile phones used in the course of their work before leaving office, web portal Necenzurirano has reported. New Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar is critical of this.

The investigative reporting outlet said on Thursday that SOVA sent a letter recommending this course of action to Boštjan Koritnik, the previous public administration minister, on 25 April, right after it became clear that Robert Golob’s Freedom Movement won the election.

Ministers, state secretaries and government agency heads serving under the Janez Janša government were urged to “professionally destroy” all mobile phones and laptops they have used during the course of their work before leaving their posts, or to keep them for themselves.

SOVA said this was due to “the protection of national interests”. “In any case, such equipment should not be assigned to the next holder of a public office,” reads the letter that was shared on the portal.

Holding a press conference after today’s government session, Minister Bobnar said this was a very questionable measure. “It is known how to handle phones containing communications. The Constitution is absolutely clear on this too, so I don’t think another comment is even necessary,” she said.

Such a recommendation by SOVA is a major departure from previous practice, Necenzurirano said, noting that the intelligence and security agency had likely exceeded its powers.

Until now, prime ministers, ministers and other public officials were required to return encrypted and other phones when leaving office. In such cases, the phones were handed over to their successors by competent authorities, before which the devices were factory reset, without in any way endangering the country’s national interests, the portal added.

When the recommendation was issued, SOVA was led by Janez Stušek, who was later, on 1 June, dismissed by the Robert Golob government under a customary first round of replacements that all governments tend to do at the outset of their term. The new government appointed his deputy Joško Kadivnik an acting director of SOVA.