2020.04.07 16:37

Lithuanian parliament approves intelligence chief for second term

BNS 2020.04.07 16:37

The Lithuanian parliament backed the appointment of Darius Jauniškis as director of the country's State Security Department (VSD) for a second term.

On Tuesday, 109 MPs voted in favour of his re-appointment, four voted against and five abstained.

Read more: Lithuanian president nominates intelligence head despite overreach probe

The VSD director is appointed and dismissed by the president with the parliament's approval.

Dainius Gaižauskas, the chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defence, said earlier the intelligence agency's activities improved considerably under Jauniškis' leadership. He called on lawmakers to back the re-appointment, “because he's done all the assigned work during his term”.

“I see the huge progress [the VSD] has done and propose to allow it to continue growing,” Kęstutis Masiulis, a representative of the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said.

Meanwhile Povilas Urbys, a non-attached MP, said Jauniškis' appointment for a second term had to do with politicians' desire to have more influence on intelligence institutions.

“He [Jauniškis] has to understand that serving the state is not the same as serving a person,” he said.

Naglis Puteikis of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union said the agency was surveilling unjustifiably many people. “He does not meet the Western democratic standards,” the politician said.

The Jauniškis said earlier that the VSD vetted around 80,000 people in 2019.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda nominated Jauniškis for a second term last week after the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defence cleared the agency of overstepping when vetting several candidates and their campaigns in last year's presidential election.

The committee concluded that the VSD acted lawfully, only suggesting that its leadership should avoid giving orders verbally rather than in writing.

Read more: Seimas committee clears intelligence agency of political interference allegations

The probe looked into a report by a high-ranking intelligence officer who had informed MP Vytautas Bakas, the former head of the committee, that he had been instructed to collect intelligence about the inner circle of presidential candidate Nausėda and on Lithuania's former foreign minister and diplomat Vygaudas Ušackas.

The whistleblower believed the intelligence chief could have overstepped the boundary and meddled into politics.

Read more: Whistleblower claims Lithuania's intelligence investigated president's campaign

The VSD chief responded by saying that everything was done according to the law and the collected information was not disclosed to anyone unauthorised to see it.

Jauniškis was first appointed to lead the VSD in 2015.