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The Annual Report of the State Security Service of Georgia (SSSG) Contains Anti-Western Rhetoric

In accordance with the Rules of Procedures of the Parliament of Georgia, the State Security Service of Georgia (SSSG) submitted a report on the activities of the previous year to the legislative body on April 15, 2024.[1] It covers a wide range of SSSG activities, such as the current state of affairs in the occupied territories, the fight  against corruption, the threats of terrorism, and state security. In the report's latest section, the SSSG identifies hybrid warfare as primary threat, that includes disinformation and propaganda, the so-called soft power and influence operations, as well as cyber security.

  • Occupied Territories

The 2023 SSSG activity report underscores that the Russian occupation of the Abkhazia and Samachablo regions remains the most significant threat to state security. The Security Service evaluates the obstacles that are present in the occupied territories. Namely, the SSSG highlights the enactment of processes intended at the annexation of regions by Russia, the issue of illegal detention of Georgian citizens, and the borderization and Russification policy against the ethnically Georgian and Abkhazian population.

While examining the obstacles in the occupied territories, the SSSG report addresses numerous critical concerns. In 2023, the Security Service has observed a tightening of regulations towards international organizations and local non-governmental organizations in occupied Abkhazia. This has been followed by an increase in the proliferation of discrediting rhetoric by the occupying authority. The occupation regime has accused these organizations of interfering in "social-political processes" and serving the goals and objectives of the central government of Georgia.

According to the SSSG 2023 report, the occupation regime began to strictly regulate the relationship between international organizations and the local civil sector and tightened the so-called legislation that regulates the activities of international organizations. The United Nations agencies were obligated to negotiate a financial resource distribution agreement with the so-called Ministry of Foreign Affairs in accordance with the occupation regime.

Concurrently, the SSSG noted that the situation deteriorated in December of 2023. Specifically, the occupation regime declared the regional director of USAID in the South Caucasus as "persona non grata" and imposed restrictions on new initiatives funded by the agency. Restrictions also affected UNDP initiatives. Furthermore, there was a prohibition on carrying out activities aimed at facilitating contact between Georgians and Abkhazians. Additionally, there were restrictions on media projects that covered both so-called domestic and foreign policy matters concerning Abkhazia.

The SSSG believes that the occupation regime's policy, which involves restricting the activities of foreign organizations, is designed to enhance Russia's influence in the occupied region and reduce contact between Georgians and Abkhazians to a greater extent.

  • State Security and Counterintelligence Activities

The Counterintelligence Department of the SSSG is responsible for coordinating counterintelligence activities in the country. Its principal objective is to prevent and suppress activities that are detrimental to national interests and comes from the special services of a foreign country.

In the 2023 report, the SSSG reviews the counterintelligence activities carried out and the threats that, according to the document published by the agency, are directed against state security. The primary threats listed in this section are disinformation, influence operations, and hybrid warfare instruments.

In contrast to the fight against terrorism and the overview of the situation in the occupied territories, the SSSG does not explicitly identify the states whose special services employ hybrid warfare tools against the state security of Georgia in the chapter on state security. Only in the context of the occupied territories is Russia identified as the primary threat, and it is noted that the occupation is used to carry out destructive policies.

According to the report, the primary threat to state security is the aggravation of the political situation in Georgia by a variety of actors, the preparation of the grounds for a violent change of power, and the attempt to find appropriate resources to this end.

According to SSSG, an investigation was conducted in 2023 that identified a specific group of individuals in the territory of Georgia and beyond. These individuals were planning destabilization and civil unrest in Georgia during October-December 2023 with the ultimate goal of changing the government through violent means.

It is important to acknowledge that the SSSG in the report fails to mention any specific facts, individuals, or special services that may have been involved in this process. Furthermore, the agency's report does not disclose any information regarding the investigation or its outcomes. It is crucial to note that the SSSG has previously described a comparable scenario. The agency issued a statement on September 18, 2023,[2] in which it stated that certain groups intended to destabilize and coordinate civil unrest in Georgia in October-December of this year with the ultimate objective of overturning the government through violent means. The SSSG asserted in the statement that the execution of this "plan" was contingent upon Georgia's supposedly unfavourable evaluation of its eligibility for EU membership candidacvy and the designation of government officials as "pro-Russian." The organization CANVAS was one of the potential participants in the implementation of the plan and was assigned with training the youth, as stated in the same statement. Subsequently, on October 2, the SSSG released an additional statement and disclosed video surveillance recordings as part of its covert investigative operations.[3] The organization CANVAS, with the assistance of USAID, conducted a training on September 26-29 with the objective of retraining young individuals, according to the agency. This statement echoed the "revolution scenario" that was reiterated by SSSG. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that the training identified by the SSSG was not a conspiratorial meeting. The content and agenda of the training were publicly disclosed, and any interested party had access to the content and agenda of the training.

Nevertheless, SSSG reiterates the narrative of the "revolutionary scenario" once again and notes  that the risks they identified in 2023 have been eradicated. It is also crucial to note that despite questioning multiple people who have attended the training, the SSSG did not disclose information regarding the subject of the investigation or the actions taken so far. Such Information would on one hand help public understand what signs of criminal activity were observed to prompt investigation, and on the one hand, how the agency prevented the identified risks.

In the chapter on state security, the SSSG does not explicitly name the countries whose special services employ hybrid warfare weapons on country territory. Nevertheless, the narrative formed by the SSSG over the past year, which includes the direct accusation of USAID-supported training participants and organizers in the implementers of a revolutionary scenario, clearly demonstrates that the security service regards the activities of Western funds in the territory of Georgia as a threat to the country. This justification is substantiated by the actions of the Georgian Dream in the past year, which unambiguously oppose the financial aid provided by the US and EU to the Georgian CSOs. The organization views this aid as an interference in the "internal affairs of the country" and its "sovereignty".

In one respect, this suspicion is supported by the fact that in Georgia such activities on a larger scale are financed using the western funds. Furthermore, the passage of the "Russian Law" is attributed to the suppression of civil society and the limitation of western financial support.

In addition to the named case, in the SSSG report, activities such as cultural, educational seminars and conferences, as well as numerous meetings with local and international experts or civil activists, are evaluated as "soft power and influence operations". The SSSG is of the opinion that these activities are overseen by the special services of individual foreign countries and are intended to advance the political course and ideology of their respective countries, consolidate these organizations, and establish the foundation for their active participation in politics. The SSSG considers that these special services finance humanitarian, religious, and infrastructural initiatives to bolster the loyalty of the Georgian society to their respective states.

The security service repeatedly points out that the surveillance of comparable activities is relevant to the counterintelligence operations, which serves the aim to safeguard state security and avert potential threats. Consequently, it is permissible to infer that the SSSG employs covert investigative actions or special counterintelligence measures, including operational-technical methods such as covert surveillance/wiretapping, against all individuals who engage in such activities. The agency's publication of a secret video recording of CANVAS training, which it claims was obtained as part of a covert investigation reaffirms that the SSSG is engaged in this practice.[4]

While the SSSG report pays a lot of attention to projects supported by Western funds and considers them harmful to state security, the report does not contain any information about the ongoing investigation against the former General Prosecutor of Georgia, Otar Partskhaladze, that started due to his alleged support of hostile activities of a foreign country (Russia).[5] The investigation began after the US State Department, within the framework of identifying Russian supporters in the ongoing war in Ukraine, put Partskhaladze on the list of sanctioned individuals acting under the instructions of “FSB” (Federal Security Service) for influencing Georgian society and politics in favour of Russia. [6]

It is worth mentioning that the SSSG's report notes that the occupation regime's restriction of USAID and UNDP activities in occupied Abkhazia is an expansion of Russian influence. Simultaneously, the same agency also observes that the primary state security challenge arises from the financial support of the same organizations in the central government controlled territories. Western funds provide financial support to civil society organizations for the execution of comparable educational and cultural events. The SSSG's interest in the activities of similar organizations and their perception as a threat to state security suggests that the agency is developing legitimacy to maintain complete control over both ordinary members of organizations and individuals involved in a variety of activities. At the same time, the SSSG continues to maintain silence regarding the genuine concerns emanating from Russia. For instance, the public remains uninformed of the outcomes of the ongoing investigation into the former General Prosecutor, Otar Partskhaladze. The agency does not address the allegations of hostile activities against Partskhaladze in the 2023 report and does not provide any information about the investigation's progress. Consequently, the extent of the negative impact on state security that the alleged hostile activities of the former General Prosecutor had in the context of his complete access to state secrets is still unknown to the public.

The SSSG report once again suggests that its activities are excessively subject to party interest, and the mass control or surveillance mechanisms at the agency's disposal are still being used as an instrument of political persecution.

Footnote and Bibliography

[1] The report of the State Security Service, 2023. The website of the Parliament of Georgia, available at: https://cutt.ly/EeoindgD, updated: 10.06.2024.

[2] Statement of the State Security Service of September 18, 2023, website of the State Security Service, available at: https://cutt.ly/OeoiO35I, updated: 10.06.2024.

[3] Statement of the State Security Service of October 10, 2023, website of the State Security Service, available at: https://cutt.ly/7eoiPWhG, updated: 10.06.2024.

[4] "The SSSG publishes part of the evidence obtained as a result of the secret investigative action against the representatives of "CANVAS", public broadcaster's website, available at: https://cutt.ly/jeoi5lQk, updated: 10.06.2024.

[5] Statement of the State Security Service of Georgia issued on October 10, 2023, website of the State Security Service, available at: https://cutt.ly/XeooiCBq, updated: 10.06.2024.

[6] “Imposing Further Sanctions in Response to Russia’s Illegal War Against Ukraine”, The briefing card for the press release issued by the United States State Department on September 14, 2023, Available at: https://shorturl.at/syIS3, updated: 10.06.2024.

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