Aug 17, 2007

The Great Game

If these documents are authentic, this Kazakh covert action failed to accomplish the objective. The OSCE report still panned the conduct of the 2005 election.

If they are forgeries, someone else's covert action is still in play.

What appear to be internal documents detailing an exchange between Kazakhstan's intelligence service and President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev suggest that Kazakhstan conducted intelligence operations against international monitors during the presidential election in 2005, aimed at swaying the conclusions of the monitors' reports. ...

(P)arliamentary elections are scheduled for Saturday, and Kazakhstan has made clear its hopes for a positive assessment from international monitors as a step toward achieving its goal of assuming the rotating one-year chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2009.

The bid could enhance Kazakhstan's credibility on the world stage and help offset allegations of widespread corruption, nepotism, government control of the media and violence against political opponents.

The documents, which have been circulating among diplomats since last month, raise new questions about election misconduct in the former Soviet world and suggest that the Kazakh intelligence service operated against observers from the same group its government one day hopes to lead.

A Kazakh diplomat in the United States called them a fake. Western diplomats who received them have reserved judgment and said they could become a point of contention when the European organization meets this month after its summer recess.

The documents include an operations summary under the letterhead of Nartay Dutbayev, former head of the National Security Committee, or K.N.B., Kazakhstan’s successor to the K.G.B.

Mr. Dutbayev resigned in 2006 when five of his subordinates were accused of murdering a prominent opposition politician and two members of his staff. He has left public life.

Dated Dec. 21, 2005, and marked "secret," the summary bearing his signature outlines "a number of measures" taken to "have an influence on the informational and operational activities of the body of international observers from O.S.C.E./ O.D.I.H.R."

The Office of Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights is the arm of the European group that monitors elections in former Soviet republics.

Its reports are influential. The United States often relies on them for its own assessment of a country's progress toward fair and transparent elections. They are widely cited by Western independent organizations and in news reports and by opposition movements throughout the former Soviet sphere.

The summary, addressed to the Kazakh president, described steps taken by the intelligence service to inhibit the observers' work and influence public opinion, including collecting pro-government and anti-opposition material "through operational measures" and planting it in the news media.

"Comprehensive measures were taken to compromise the unconstructive disposition of foreign individuals in the eyes of the public," the letter said.

The letter also alluded to efforts to divert the observers’ attention when they were not at work. "In order to prevent them from collecting biased materials, leisure activities were organized for observers, using operational resources," it stated.

The letter ultimately claimed that the intelligence service's activities had helped to divide the monitors into rival groups. But it noted that the mission still labeled the election undemocratic. ...

The documents were sent this summer by someone with connections inside the Kazakh intelligence service to European diplomats, including those in the Office of Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights in Poland, according to a Western diplomat who received copies and declined to be identified, citing diplomatic protocol. Their authenticity could not be determined. ...

Many of the autocratic governments in the former Soviet Union, shaken from 2003 to 2005 by popular uprisings after rigged votes in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, have asserted that the European observers incited unrest, and the governments have taken measures to minimize the reports' influence.

The measures include commissioning or supporting parallel observer missions that reach pro-government conclusions, ignoring the independent reports on state-controlled television and hiring Western public relations firms to organize pre-election news media campaigns.

Kazakhstan this year also recruited people through its embassy in Washington to join the European group's ranks of temporary monitors, a tactic its critics say is meant to dilute the mission's reports and create dissension in its ranks.

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