Right to cooperation: can NABU and FBI conduct joint operations?
Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has accused Artem Sytnyk, head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), of allowing FBI’s illegal operations in Ukraine, claiming that the U.S. law enforcers were allegedly invited without the permission required and in breach of the necessary procedures. The statement by the Prosecutor General was quite resonant but the whole situation is still unlikely to spoil the Ukraine-U.S. relations. After all, Lutsenko spoke literally a couple of days after Trump lashed out at the FBI saying that the Bureau’s reputation was "in tatters".
The FBI is really going through turmoil these days: after the leadership swap, the new director has brought along the new team, while a part of the old squad remained in place. Within this whole structure, some real internal strife is ongoing. Therefore, I think that the current situation in Ukraine and Lutsenko’s statement will not affect our country’s relations with the U.S. There will be no serious international consequences.
FBI operatives could have access to classified data or confidential information
In general, cooperation with the FBI is an absolutely normal and positive phenomenon. At the same time, any joint international efforts must be made in total conformity with Ukraine’s legislation. There are many examples of such cooperation between Ukrainian and American detectives. For example, the FBI agents were invited to Ukraine to help investigate the assassination of a journalist Pavel Sheremet. Then everything was done in accordance with the procedure: following an official invitation, the FBI operatives officially arrived in Ukraine, and limits of their access were clearly defined. Besides, that whole probe involved no data under the state secret seal.
The history of cooperation between NABU and the FBI is somewhat different. There is something really strange about it. In particular, it’s about the fact that some kind of undercover operations are being conducted in Ukraine with direct participation (or even under control) of the FBI. This means the FBI operatives could have access to classified data or confidential information. Moreover, it is not so much about the FBI as such, but about foreign citizens who should not have access to Ukraine’s state secrets. But, nevertheless, that’s what has actually happened.
NABU has the right to invite the FBI to cooperate, but such cooperation must be lawful and organized in accordance with Ukrainian legislation
There are no questions to the FBI operatives. In fact, they arrived after they had been invited, and then they did their job, whatever it was. But there are specific officials in Ukraine who are responsible for having invited them and disclosing classified information. That is, they must be held accountable for that classified data leak, not for their cooperation with the FBI. In particular, it’s about the data on the clandestine means of collecting information. That is, foreign operatives and foreign intelligence services got access to Ukraine’s data collection system. And if they were given the opportunity to work with our special technical equipment, this means that not they may be aware of the software and encryption used.
Even when Major Melnychenko handed his infamous Kuchma tapes over to U.S. intelligence agencies, he clearly indicated what specific parts of the material he would not provide to foreign experts because they contained certain encryption codes allowing access to data. That is, everything related to state secrets has remained in Ukraine and was never given out to the U.S. intel officials.
Consequently, NABU has the right to invite the FBI to cooperate, but such cooperation must be lawful and organized in accordance with Ukrainian legislation. Moreover, foreign intelligence services cannot be involved in clandestine operations in Ukraine, because according to Ukrainian legislation, in this case, they would be considered spies.
Taras Chornovil is a Ukrainian political analyst