Besides being the Director of the SRI and the Ambassador of Romania to the United States, George Maior was, for half a year, the president of the shadowy Academy of National Security Sciences (ASSN).
The initial email correspondence between myself and George Maior took place in February and March. Of 2016 in which I sought to discover information regarding ASSN and Romania’s academic environment in general.
Since I was in the United States in August and had some matters to take care of in Washington, I decided to write to him again, this time around asking for a direct interview. The response came quickly: he promised me he would sit down for an interview after I returned to Romania.
The following dialogue took place in Bucharest on Thursday, September 1st, in the small office belonging to PressOne.
– Since 2008, your name has been frequently mentioned before the elections, either as a potential presidential candidate or even as potential prime minister. What are your political aspirations, Mr. Maior?
– My ambitions have always been very much related to the function I carry out currently. My greatest ambition is to exercise this honorable and important status of Ambassador to the United States at a good qualitative level in regards to the absolutely vital relationship with the United States. I have no political ambitions at this time.
– But in the future?
– You can never say “no” to something. Yet, at the moment, I have no such ambitions.
– We have a situation of relative calm in Bucharest’s political scene. The parties look totally different from 2012, as Viorel Hrebenciuc, Miron Mitrea, Elena Udrea, Ioan Olteanu, Relu Fenechiu and many others have completely fallen out of the picture. Liviu Dragnea has been given a criminal sentence and Victor Ponta is being taken to court. What do you think the election will be like this autumn?
– I think things will become pretty complicated in autumn but since I am an ambassador, I don’t want to pronounce myself on political matters nor do I wish to analyze the current political climate. What is of interest to me, as Ambassador to the US, first and foremost, is the right to a fair vote, which will undoubtedly happen.
I also have a certain responsibility for the way elections will be held abroad, because absentee voting is a new concept.
Eight months ago, for example, I noticed some limitations in the law regarding the possibility of Romanian citizens who wish to vote abroad and I hope this situation will be somehow rectified.
It is important that these elections result in a solid, representative, legitimate government, to consistently carry on what I think represents, in my opinion, the cardinal axis of foreign and security policy – the relationship with the United States. Which I do think will happen, after all.
– As a result of the political impotence shown by the PSD and the PNL in recent years, two nationalist parties have been formed: the United Romania Party, led by Bogdan Diaconu, and Marian Munteanu’s Our Alliance. Are these parties a cause for concern in regards to Romania’s stability and international relations?
– I do not like making declarations about forces I do not know very well and I am not concerned with these matters. I am more concerned about the fact that from a theoretical point of view, at least at this very moment, Romania has not developed nationalist, extremist, anti-Semitic, or even populist groups, especially if you look around and compare it to other nations in this part of Europe. This is a powerful asset of ours in the way we are perceived within the European Union as well as in transatlantic relations.
I hope we can have mainstream parties without there being traces of populist, nationalist or extremist thinking because this is essential in terms of our own democratic stability, and secondly, for a positive perception of Romania, of the way we have evolved from a political point of view.
– However, these parties can gain momentum and capture a significant number of voters. We see clear examples of this trend in France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Greece and many other states in Europe.
– The economic crisis is responsible for having generated the phenomena. The refugee crisis might also add to the reason for a perpetuation of the phenomena. In other countries, not only countries in Europe, we see a shift in discourse to one that has populist, extremist, autarchic, nationalist nuances. In the context of integration and globalization, this is, in my opinion, destructive to the broader concept of security and global stability.
– This kind of nationalist and ethnocentric discourse with patriotic accents led to Brexit, as well as the political-financial crisis in Greece and Catalonia’s attempt to break away from Spain. Could Romania, with Russia on our case, be in any such danger?
– I believe in recent years we have a developed a significantly strong character regarding the evolution of the state and society, including the fact that, in the end, we have been successful.
We have succeeded in a creating a model of political, democratic and economic integration for national minorities in which there is freedom of expression.
I don’t believe it’s going to happen, but that is just my personal opinion. On the other hand, we are not exempt from being affected by the phenomena or even experiencing a shift towards these types of trends on an internal level, mostly as a result of the causes we’ve mentioned, so we do need to be careful.
Lastly, there are institutions that have the role of defending the Constitution, and this task is directly related to the defense of a democratic constitution.
On the other hand, I am also optimistic in regards to Romania’s manner of handling deviations that occur at the institutional level. But of course, you can never anticipate these things if they evolve internally, which would be, in any case, very harmful to us.
– The Republic of Moldova has found itself in a very fragile situation. In light of Chisinau’s upcoming presidential elections, Russia has stepped up its military exercises in Transnistria. How would you interpret the recent statements of the US ambassador to Chisinau in this context?
– I think that a lot of hype regarding the position of the United States on this issue has been created over a single message or a simple communique that the Ambassador made. Not to mention that it was taken out of context.
Indeed, Moldova is going through a difficult period, but I want to say one thing based on my perspective as Ambassador to Washington: In recent years, the Romanian-American cooperation on the issue at hand – the issue being Moldova’s progress towards stability, European integration while adopting democratic processes and concepts – has been better than ever before.
For example, perhaps it was not well understood from the public’s point of view that an agreement was signed precisely about this issue: the Romanian-American cooperation in granting development assistance to some countries in the region, but especially to Moldova. This came as the result of Foreign Minister Comănescu’s visit to the United States. This speaks volumes about how the two states, Romania and the US, have sought to cooperate in this regard.
The idea is to bring Moldova closer to the European Union, so that it can be more consolidated in terms of institutions and democratic evolution. This is not an easy task in the current regional context, which you have described quite well.
I am referring to what has been going on in the last two years, with Russia’s extremely aggressive political endeavors throughout the region. This includes clear violations of international law in the Crimea conflict, the instability in Ukraine, to which is added some volatility in the southern part due to what recently occurred in Turkey.
– Since you’ve just mentioned these events, which has added to the situation in the Middle East and Turkey, has made Romania’s strategic importance in the region increase. How does Washington see the US-Romania relationship?
– I think they are aware of this fact. This autumn, I believe you will see some interesting developments in the manner we approach the consultation with the framework of the American-Romanian Strategic Partnership. By the way, we’re celebrating five years since it was signed in September of 2011.
The task force working on the Partnership will meet in Washington and will address all dimensions of Romanian-American cooperation – political, military, etc.
Generally speaking, Romania once again finds itself in a very interesting place because of its ability to project stability. It is predictable in its relationship with the USA although it finds itself within a region which can be described as extremely complicated, volatile and full of uncertainty.
– Going back to the domestic political reality, how do you explain Victor Ponta’s defeat in the 2014 presidential elections?
– In short: through a democratic vote taken by the Romanian people.
– The press has a decisive contribution to maintaining democracy in a state, but in recent years, a period that coincided with your mandate as the head of the SRI, the press has proven to be a tactical field of secret services, to paraphrase General Dumbravă. Is the press a tactical field of the secret services?
– It never was – and you’ve clearly seen the types of problems the press has reported completely independently and well, even in recent years. I think there is some confusion around this notion of a “tactical field” with reference to the press. This particular problem was never before explained using such language.
Freedom of the press ultimately helps the intelligence services in accomplishing their mission, depending on the manner in which the activity they engage in is reflected in the media. It is also a matter of legitimacy for the intelligence services
– Time and time again, you have avoided providing an answer to the question regarding whether or not there have been journalists recruited by the SRI in the press. That being said, during the period of your time as head of the SRI, there was a disclosure about the editor-in-chief of a central daily newspaper who had been recruited by the SRI. This was proof that there are officers or agents in the press who were hired by the SRI.
– I think at that time, the relevant parliamentary committee provided an answer to the question. But I’m glad you brought up the fact that I avoided addressing this topic, because some of your colleagues quoted me saying something I had not said about the relationship between the Intelligence Services and the press.
What I had to say I continuously repeated, and then suddenly, my statement was decontextualized and then it was used – at least in my last interview – as an explicit reference to the existence of SRI-hired journalists in the press.
What I said was the following: in regards to the press, the Romanian Intelligence Service does no more, no less than other democratic services in the EU or in the transatlantic area. That was the phrase, the key phrase from which all kinds of interpretations were made.
And today, I still am wrongly quoted by specific individuals who are devoid of certain journalistic ethics, with statements that I did not make about this situation
– Besides this, the situation you’ve mentioned is a clear indication of the fact that there are undercover SRI officers in the press.
– I think you should ask the Service. I know that this issue was formally raised at the level of the Parliamentary Commission, but I do not remember very much about it. However, I do know that the Parliamentary Commission gave a clear response.
– With these kinds of infiltrations from the SRI, the press can indeed become a “tactical field”.
– The press is not and should not be a “tactical field”. Instead, we have seen – and we must be wise – other states that are addressing this issue, the so-called “Russian propaganda” that still exists.
Propaganda is an inappropriate term, in my opinion, because through the use of the press it is simpler to tackle a very harmful phenomenon that is an attack on democracy. This phenomenon propagates from the East, but I’m not going to name any states.
I’m talking about special, active measures, through which the press is sometimes used without being aware.
Or how through the contribution of certain individuals – and I am not including Romania in this – active measures are used and information is introduced that strategically expose the interests of one state against another. The purpose here is to promote a certain agenda within the society. This is very serious, and everyone recognizes this.
We ultimately need to be careful about how we can intelligently defend ourselves in the face of such threats.
– Does smart defense mean recruiting journalists?
– I did not say that. It means many dimensions that intelligence services can take.
– Why don’t you think the problem of the threats you mentioned could potentially be resolved through informal meetings, for example, with the leadership of press institutions?
– I can tell you that I did have meetings of this nature during my tenure as Director of the SRI. These were meetings with experts who specialized in issues regarding the international playing field. I don’t want to say more, but I really did have such meetings. I hope to have more in the future.
“I was not an undercover academic nor was I a hidden one. Beyond that, I have never considered myself an academic. The very first thing I suggested to my colleagues was not to call ourselves academics.”
– Because you were talking about continuity, what is your relationship with Eduard Hellvig, the head of the SRI?
– I was, I think, his student at one point in time. He is a man who has studied a lot in the field of national security and I know this personally. I think it’s a good choice to have continuity in the transformational process within a very difficult service that is of vital importance to the national security of Romania.
– What is your relationship with him?
– We are friends, I would say.
– Do you have a DNA (National Corruption Directorate) file?
– I don’t know the answer to that. The DNA can respond. I don’t know, I’ve never received any notice from them that I do have one or anything like that.
– Since we’re on the topic of the DNA, we have witnessed many situations in which the SRI intercepted politicians, businessmen or senior civil servants eight to nine years ago. Although the transcripts divulge their involvement in criminal activity, they were not prosecuted at the time. Has the SRI kept these interceptions hidden? How can you explain this matter?
– It is important for the public to know the difference between information and evidence. You can have very useful information for national security, which includes, at the intelligence level, corruption phenomena or facts and their ultimate conversion into evidence. This process can sometimes last a long time, even years.
When, in the process of reporting about facts related to national security, you come across information that involves corruption or organized crime, you are required, by law, to transmit this information to the public prosecutor’s offices, DIICOT, DNA, etc.
I understand that this type of cooperation is more difficult now. As a result of the strict legal and institutional restrictions between the SRI and the DNA, as well as DIICOT and the General Prosecutor’s Office, I did not get too involved with that particular situation you’re referring to.
What is the Academy of National Security Sciences?
The Academy of National Security Sciences (ASSN), was established in 2012 through a law initiated by several parliamentarians including: Gabriel Oprea, Eugen Nicolicea, George Scutaru and Marian Săniuţă.
In 2015, ASSN was transformed through a government decision, from an auto-financed institution to one that receives funding from the state budget. The same document also stipulated the establishment of the lifelong monthly stipend for ASSN members, offered under the same conditions as those granted to the members of the Romanian Academy.
Also in 2015, two days after his resignation from the SRI, George Maior became the president of ASSN, a position he suspended after his appointment as Ambassador to the US.
ASSN, also known as the “Oprea Academy”, became very visible in the public space earlier this year in the context of allegations of plagiarism and abuse in office made against the former Deputy Prime Minister, Gabriel Oprea.
Despite public interest, the Academy management has systematically refused to say who its members are.
In March, in an exclusive article published by PressOne, a list of 32 members of ASSN was released and subsequently completed with the name of Eduard Hellvig.
The public pressure that was placed on ASSN resulted in some of their members withdrawing either voluntarily or because they were asked to do so.
In August, ASSN released the names of members who are still currently active. A few names disappeared from the list, including Eduard Hellvig, Gabriel Oprea, Petre Tobă, Vasile Mihai Ozunu or Gabriel Ispas.
– Why did Romania need another academy, which theoretically deals with the sciences of national security?
– Because there is a need for strategic thinking and a place where this form of thinking can grow roots. And I believe that this kind of an institution is strengthened over time. Let’s not look at it purely from a technical level. It is formed, evolved, refined over the course of many years.
Perhaps it had a shaky start and it still finds itself in a complicated context due to the more or less justified perceptions that exist about it in our society. But I firmly believe that Romania also needs this kind of an institution to understand processes and extremely complicated phenomena in relation to the internal and external evolution of state security.
– And these phenomena cannot be understood in the absence of such an academy?
– Of course they can be, but I believe that an academy of this nature could bring about a better integrative framework between the academic area in universities, the civil area and the military area; a framework which is based on a phenomenon that is nonetheless interdisciplinary from many points of view: sociological, militaristic, even from the point of view of some geopolitical elements.
By the way, I have heard some people saying that geopolitics is not being studied anymore. I even feel myself smiling bitterly when I hear something like that. From the point of view of geostrategic studies and studies based on national security, this was precisely the intention. And I really think the Romanian state needs that.
– Give me an example of another nation that has a similar academy.
– I don’t know if they have an institution of this nature that is at the level of an academy, but anyway, I do think the big academies in any nation would have a department in this field.
-An academic section or department is something else, I specifically asked you about an academy.
– I cannot give you an example at this time, but I know that national security is approached at the academic level, which is important.
– Give me an example of a state where national security is addressed at the academic level.
– There are many states that address this topic at the academic level, including states that do so through government-led programs in major universities. These nations do not have academies in the classical sense of the word, as we have in the Romanian Academy.
– Why must it be an academy as opposed to a research-based institute?
– That’s a pertinent question. That was the thinking at the time.
– Whose thought was it?
– The thinking of some individuals who have contributed to Romania’s evolution in NATO, in the European Union, and in international security policy.
– Name these people, please.
– I will not name any names; I will not single anyone out in this interview.
– However, we cannot do this interview without referring to a few names. What about Gabriel Oprea? What is the nature of the relationship between you and him?
– Gabriel Oprea is not a member of ASSN.
– He is no longer a member, but he was. I am now asking you what is your relationship with him and what is the connection between yourself and Gabriel Oprea?
– We were colleagues in the Supreme Council of the Defense of the Country during difficult times, when hard decisions had to be taken. He was a man who, even in moments of crisis within the Romanian state, understood the importance of the times from the point of view of making decisions. Unfortunately the decision-making process is more difficult for others.
– Was the relationship between you and him built within this circumstance?
– It was built over many years, while being part of the Supreme Council of the Defense of the Country. He has had many roles. He was also the Minister of Defense, and Minister of Interior, so how could I not build a relationship with someone who runs these kinds of institutions?
You really are obliged, in a way, to be responsible in your role and to communicate with various ministers or any individual who holds a certain position.
– You said that Gabriel Oprea is no longer a member of ASSN. Did he voluntarily withdraw or was he asked to leave?
– Ask him. I can’t answer your question on his behalf.
– I’m not asking you to answer me on his behalf, I’m asking you about the way he left. Did he ask to withdraw or was he asked to do so? Or did you ask him to leave?
– I didn’t ask anyone, anything. Lady, everyone does what he thinks is right.
– Today, on September 1, 2016, the DNA asked the Senate for a criminal prosecution statement regarding Gabriel Oprea, in the case of the car accident in which the policeman Bogdan Gigina died.
– I am not going to comment on the decisions of the Prosecutor’s Office or the DNA.
– The Academy of National Security Sciences has behaved as a secret society since it was founded and up until this very moment. What do you have to hide, Mr. Maior?
– I really have nothing to hide. Why are you talking about the Academy, and then aiming the question at me?
– I ask you what you have to hide from an institutional point of view.
– There is absolutely nothing to hide. It is much less mysterious than it was projected to be in various conspiracy theories, as we have seen propagated by people in the political environment, people who I thought were a little smarter.
There’s really nothing to hide.
Some of these people work in the field of national security. They do research and write in this field and have taken the initiative to turn strategic thinking about the evolution of Romania into something more substantial. By the way, Romania has joined NATO, and has an interesting security policy regarding the Black Sea area. It is considered to have a military strategy as well as a well-founded defense policy. There has been resource planning, and a vision on national security that has been developed.
Why should these people be demonized and the institution attacked, far more than I would have expected? And let it be known that I will defend it with all my strength, as long as it continues to exercise its academic and intellectual mission. Let’s see if it will do that. Let’s have a little bit of patience.
– You are the de facto head of this institution …
– I’m not the de facto head of the institution.
– Well that’s how it seems, with you saying that you’ll defend this Academy.
– I am defending it as a member of the Academy and a man who thinks he has something valuable to say in the scientific field.
– You mean that Remus Pricopie truly runs this Academy?
– Sure, he’s the president.
– He’s the president. Ma’am, he’s the president, and I’m a member.
– Is he acting as president to hold your place for you?
– No, I’m not going to be president again. I’m telling you this now. I really don’t want to return to the role of president.
– The ASSN refused to publish a list of its members for several months, which is why we brought ASSN to court in two separate trials. Why didn’t you provide this information?
– Don’t ask me this, I’m just a member.
– You invited Remus Pricopie to meet you in Washington at the time when the ASSN scandal was at its peak in Romania, somewhere in March.
– Remus Pricopie visited the United States State Department where he is very much appreciated because he is the reason for an extraordinary level of academic cooperation, in the field of Partnership, with the State Department.
I was really surprised by the level of appreciation they have shown him. He is on the Fulbright Commission as well. That was the purpose of his visit. Do you think I invited him to discuss the Academy of National Security Sciences?
– You didn’t discuss ASSN?
– We discussed the Romanian-American relationship, the scope of the Academic Partnership with the United States, which is a priority for me.
– I managed to identify 32 ASSN members in winter, whose names I also published. Now there are 21. Hellvig, Oprea, Toba, Neagu, Ozunu and others are gone. How did this reduction in membership come about?
– This is the number of members, 21.
– How come some of them left immediately after the press started publishing content about the ASSN?
– Mrs. Şercan, it was a difficult process to set up this academy, and perhaps it was done with some mistakes. But now, this is the Academy’s make-up. It was publicly published. I’m not commenting on anything else.
– Please, however, do comment on what you will do when the press will expose the fact that some of ASSN members, who are also professors, have been the doctoral supervisors for PhD candidates who have plagiarized dissertations?
– I hope that, if this happens, they will no longer be members of the Academy. I will certainly express myself in this regard from my position as a simple member.
– From my knowledge, the Academy of National Security Sciences is unique in the world. Nowhere is there a similar institution. Why is it necessary to have an academy, given that there is no scientific field called “national security”?
– I do not know who came up with this issue. As far as I remember, all Shanghai Top 100 universities in Social Sciences offer undergraduate programs in Security Studies, as well as Master’s Degree programs, research institutes and PhD programs. The most significant is at Princeton, a doctoral program that is based on tradition, and is called “Security Studies”.
– Is “national security” a scientific field?
– Of course, it is a scientific field. I just read that at Princeton, they are studying at a doctoral level and yet you say they are not. Or at King’s College in London or at American universities. Who told you it’s not a field?
– Based on my knowledge, Security Studies is one thing, while national security sciences is entirely different.
– However, it can be a component of national security. I’m talking about national security and security studies.
– However, regarding the military academies, nowhere in the world are there doctoral studies in national security within military universities.
- I don’t want to make any statements because it seems that you know exactly which studies exist or don’t exist in the world. I had lectures at the National Defense University in the United States and I know that they were research programs at the Master’s level.
I will look into whether or not there are doctoral programs in the field. Various prominent or important universities offer PhD programs in Military Sciences or Military Strategy.
– The program doesn’t exist at Saint-Cyr in France nor at West Point or at the FBI Academy, there are also no doctoral studies in this field. This kind of program simply does not exist.
– There definitely are doctoral studies in the field of National Security Sciences in the major public universities, including some that work in cooperation with institutions that specialize in the same field. I will also do a more precise investigation to see if there are any doctoral studies in the National Defense University or the National Intelligence University in the United States.
– But is “public order” a scientific field of studies?
– I think it’s worthwhile to have a discussion about this. Maybe you have a certain bias, which I understand, in relation to public order. I also have some doubts, but not when it comes to the general phenomenon of national and international security.
– The fact that at ASSN, there is a scientific section called “Public Order…”
– I will propose that we rethink the ASSN structure regarding this field of public order at the next meeting. It’s a whole other issue.
But what you seem to be doing is removing a very important area of studies from the discussion. This area is essential in the study of international relations, interference level politics, security studies, so that’s not right.
– Among some of the ASSN’s objectives, technical progress in the defense system is listed. Yet none of the members of the ASSN are scientists or specialists in any kind of technical field.
– Wait a minute. It is an institution that will evolve, including from the membership point of view. It does not mean that if the objective is listed there and does not exist at this time, it will not be brought to fruition in the future.
We are just starting out, and in our own way – before tearing it down, we might even try to build something from the ground up. Maybe you can help us with these suggestions you’re making to create something better; and thank you for doing it.
“I will propose that we rethink the ASSN structure regarding this field of public order at the next meeting. It’s a whole other issue.”
– What is the existing connection between the field of national security and political scientist Dan Mihalache or even sociologist Vasile Dîncu?
– No, ma’am, I told you that the list is open and we will probably have other members in the future. But you cannot, right from the get go, even if you have a set bias or a certain objective here, say that these members do not represent the field of national security. Especially when the gates of the Academy are wide open.
– What qualifies Dan Mihalache or tell me, what qualifies Vasile Dîncu to be part of this academy, apart from the fact that you are friends?
– First of all, friendship has nothing to do with the membership status in no shape or form. Secondly, I think that if you’re going to mention Vasile Dîncu, then I’ll say that he would deserve to be a member of the Academy as a result of his work.
I publicly support this. And if you compare him to other sociologists in Romania, you will see that there is no one quite at his level, not even in the Romanian Academy.
– Okay, but what’s his connection to the area of security studies?
– Security studies are a multidisciplinary field, which also incorporate sociology, and among others, political science, international relations, etc. Why wouldn’t a sociologist of great standing, such as Vasile Dîncu, have a contribution to the field?
– And what kind of a connection does Communications teacher Remus Pricopie have to the national security system? Remus Pricopie is the Rector of the university where you are both a professor and doctoral supervisor and you are also close friends.
– Let’s consider a few subjective notions here. Mr. Pricopie is, in my opinion, a man who has done much in the field of communication sciences, in the pedagogical field, in the field of institutional development, in the field of understanding and education, in the sense of an extended national security system, as a component of this field of national security.
– Does this qualify him to be the president of the ASSN?
– Absolutely, he also runs the SNSPA (National School of Political and Administrative Studies) and has been very successful in overseeing how this institution evolves, particularly in the field of education. He was democratically elected and has an extraordinary reputation on an international level.
I promised that I would no longer single out people and make reference to certain names.
– Three former Ministers of Education are members of ASSN: Remus Pricopie, who I already spoke of, agronomist Sorin Cîmpeanu, who was Minister of Education last year when it was decided to finance ASSN from the state budget through the Ministry of Education…
– I repeat, if it is a crime to do something for the Romanian state in the field of national security, with a minimum participation from the state budget, then after this interview in which you clearly stand against this institution, not only from an ideological as well as from a conceptual point of view, but also from a journalistic point of view, I will help the government to assess whether or not an institution that really understands Romania’s national security should be demolished.
– If the leaders of the Institution had explained, in a transparent way, what is the scope of this institution, who are its members, and what its mission is, we would not have found ourselves in this situation.
– I know you have good intentions and I appreciate you for approaching this subject in the manner that you have, but let’s be a little more open.
– I am trying to gets some answers for the general public, who have shown a level of concern around this topic.
– I would also like some answers from the general public, who have shown an interest in inducing these very negative perceptions regarding the Institution, in a context that, I repeat, is extremely complicated as we are considering thee national security of Romania. I really believe this to be the case.
– Why is the topic of national security a complicated topic here in Romania? What exactly is the threat?
– In an interview I just had where I discussed a few of these issues was just published. I spoke about what is happening with Russia – the political situation – which is in the vicinity. I also spoke about the Black Sea, the developments in Turkey, the stability of Ukraine, the development of Moldova, the evolutions to the east, and in the south of Romania. Now, we have an institution that can do something to bring about more understanding to these phenomena.
– But there are already state institutions that deal with the security and stability of our nation. In terms of scientific study, there are state universities, private universities, research institutes, study centers. My attempt is to understand why this Academy is needed and why it is so opaque, given the fact that it is an institution from the state budget. But, returning to where we left off, Sorin Cîmpeanu was the Minister of Education …
– Madam, we are not going to continue this interview if we keep singling out different people. I am talking about the research-oriented phenomenon of this institution.
– However, it is important to understand why three of the members of ASSN are former Ministers of Education: Pricopie, Cîmpeanu, Curaj, plus two State Secretaries from the Ministry of Education. And yet, we don’t have anyone from the Ministry of Defense, for example. Why is that?
– You can ask the Academy about the make-up of it’s members, do not ask me.
– We have this group photo from one of last year’s events. ASSN appears to be more of a state defense forces institution than a research one. There are heads of the SRI, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the DNA, the National Integrity Agency. Was this manifestation of state forces truly necessary?
– If there is a scientific convention or a conference in the field of national security, based on the elaborated sense of the field, and you invite certain people, what is the moral crime to do so? And where does this perception of the Academy as an institution of state forces come from.
I believe that if we could have more formal discussions at the institutional level about different phenomena related to national security, it would be beneficial for our strategic interest, as the representatives of certain institutions from the national security field as well and as from the national administration, and from the academic and civilian environment, would come to understand the meaning of the current debate on the phenomenon of national security.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I think it’s a good thing, because you can’t easily gather many people who have roles of responsibility to come and debate an academic or intellectual issue.
– Maybe not everyone who occupies positions in this field has an inclination towards the academic aspect of it.
– But it is not strictly about the academic aspect, but more so about inter-institutional and inter-individual communication on the respective phenomena.
Why would some consider it to be a problem if the Academy were to invite members of society – even athletes – to better understand the phenomenon of national security? Do you think it’s a negative thing?
– Give an example of a research program that has been developed by ASSN.
– At the last meeting of the ASSN, several programs were proposed and I really want to observe how they will be developed: studies on certain fields related to this phenomenon of national security and studies on states that have hostile views towards Romania.
Depending on how this all evolves, we will also see my position towards the Academy evole.
But, I repeat, any institution of this type is difficult to form, so let’s see where it goes in the next five to ten years. Let’s see what it has or hasn’t done. In the meantime, the foundation of the National Security Strategy of Romania has produced a very interesting document in relation to the definition of some present concepts, introduced within the strategy. At least I find them interesting.
– The assignments of ASSN include “attracting the necessary funds to finance the activity of the scientific sections of ASSN”. This sentence formulation gives the impression that, in fact, the main purpose of the ASSN is to provide its members with a substantial income, beyond just a basic salary.
– Well in the present moment, with the funding that the Academy receives, we’re living below the subsistence level.
– But Adrian Curaj is in ASSN. He is the former Minister of Education and the head of the UEFISCDI, an institution that distributes funds to research projects.
– I don’t think any fundraising has been done and I don’t think it would be a bad thing if some funds could be gathered
– You were the head of the SRI when the Doctoral School was established. Why was this Doctoral School needed in a military academy?
– Because the field of intelligence studies had finally arrived to Romania. Besides some vulgar attempts to understand the field back in the 90s, it has become a pertinent issue and so from this point of view, the School was needed.
And speaking of this Intelligence Academy, after achieving a level of institutional cooperation with Harvard University, for some individuals to define it in this way really defies intellectual common sense.
– There are more than ten plagiarized dissertations that have been discovered so far.
– I will be the first to publicly declare that this is a problem and that the dissertations must be examined on an individual basis. Based on these particular cases, it is not fair to make a general assumption regarding the Academy, which has, I repeat, a structured program in partnership with Harvard.
Meanwhile, there are other prestigious universities, where there are many plagiarized dissertations but in my opinion, they are not at all discussed.
– Gabriel Oprea transferred to this Academy, which has a structured program with Harvard, from the Police Academy …
– I’m not commenting on Gabriel Oprea.
– Gabriel Oprea came to the National Intelligence Academy through a transfer. The National Education Law explicitly forbids and prohibits the transfer of a professor from one educational institution to another. You have to officially apply if you want to move to another university. As the head of the SRI at the time, didn’t you know that?
– Ma’am, this Academy has autonomy. It’s not the head of the SRI who is responsible for transferring teachers or other personnel.
– So were you not informed that he was transferring to the SRI Academy in violation of the law?
– Madam, you’ve suddenly discovered something extraordinary. I do not know this matter. I do not know if they broke the law in doing so. Yet you are not asking questions but are rather giving verdicts, which is contrary to journalistic ethics.
Please, if the law was broken, notify the state institutions, do not ask me about it.
– It is not my job, as a journalist, to notify state institutions. I wrote in the press about this, the state institutions can begin an investigation, but they have not done so thus far. At the National Intelligence Academy, all the PhDs that Gabriel Oprea supervised were plagiarized, with one exception. Did you know anything about this?
– I didn’t know, I don’t know this.
– You did not receive any information about the dissertations that were plagiarized? However, the National Intelligence Academy of subordination to the SRI. As director of the SRI …
– Whatever is plagiarized or if it has truly been plagiarized is treated in the academic system as plagiarism. If it really is plagiarism, those who have plagiarized will have to respond to their actions, as should those from the University of Bucharest who were found guilty of plagiarizing or those from other universities who did the same.
– Gabriel Oprea and Victor Ponta plagiarized their work at the University of Bucharest, and those from the University of Bucharest responded by giving them plagiarism verdicts.
– I don’t know about this.
“Those who have plagiarized will have to respond for their actions, as should those from the University of Bucharest who were found guilty of plagiarizing or those from other universities who did the same.“
– At the National Intelligence Academy, during the time you were head of the SRI, there was an extremely serious security incident. One of the professors published the names of some students who were to become law enforcement agents, which could have led to their cover being blown before they even started working. I understand that some students have also reported this incident. That professor is now a member of ASSN.
– I don’t know this and I don’t think it’s possible. It is out of the question.
– My personal and professional responsibility prevents me from making this incident public, as I do not wish to blow the cover of these respective officers …
– Please publish or send this information to the appropriate institutions.
– That professor is a member of ASSN.
– The undercover officer system is completely different.
– I said law enforcement officers, not undercover officers. Were you not informed about this?
– Law enforcement officers … I don’t know what this is about. I really don’t know.
– At the National Intelligence College, in the ANIMV department, a group of magistrates were educated. The college advertised educational programs to the Superior Council of Magistracy. Is it considered acceptable for magistrates to be educated in a secret service educational institution?
– Any person, from any field of work, including a magistrate, is free to study a phenomenon if he wishes to understand it. Their schooling, their education or their profession has nothing to do with it.
And from this I saw that, at one point, a line of attack was fired off against the SRI for getting mixed up in the justice system. Yet there is absolutely no connection.
As for me, if I were and officer, but I am not – and I went to a study, to complete a course organized by the Supreme Council of Magistracy, does that mean we should become suspicious towards the CSM or begin interfering in their affairs? Do we really want to block people from acquiring knowledge? I don’t think that’s a problem.
– Not even the fact that this College makes offers for educational programs to the CSM? If someone is hungry for knowledge, they can go to a civil university.
– They can, but they could also go to the said university. There is no point in trying to artificially force this subject and make it into something it’s not; it’s simply an educational endeavor.
– Is obtaining a doctorate based on a plagiarized dissertation a risk to the security of the state?
– It is a risk to the security of the state and, if you remember, I also expressed myself publicly about the baccalaureate, that to copy, to cheat, poses a risk to national security. Also here, in the same category, I place the action of plagiarizing: it is a risk to national security, yes it is!
– What can we do about it?
– First of all, we must expose it when it’s done, and I congratulate you on doing so. I really encourage you to do it. I was impressed by what you wrote and I think you started a good debate in our society. That would be the first aspect.
Secondly, the evolution of the education system, the legislation, all these things must eventually lead us to a successful academic environment.
I, at least, have spent a lot of energy and difficult years of my life to accomplish what I did academically, through the masters or doctoral studies I embarked on abroad and in Romania. I know what this means, and I don’t think it is right for some to steal, because it’s about theft after all.
And it’s important to ascertain that perhaps it’s even worse than theft, because not only are we talking about copy-paste plagiarism, but it’s also about plagiarizing ideas, frameworks, paradigms from others. Here, no one really considered this particular issue yet seemingly intelligent people who have extraordinary reputations in society practice this kind of plagiarism.
– That type of plagiarism is the most difficult to detect, while copy-paste plagiarism is very easy to detect.
– It’s even worse, truth be told.
– But the fact that the rank of General was obtained by some, on the basis of having a PhD, which was awarded due to the submission of an plagiarized dissertations, does this represent a security risk, given that our army is a NATO member army?
– Undoubtedly. Yes.
– At this moment, the state institutions refuse to say how many generals and police officers obtained these positions because they had their PhDs.
– When being promoted to the rank of General, I don’t think that having a doctorate is the only requirement.
– It is one of the criteria that would give the application an advantage, in the case of MApN ( Ministry of National Defense), for instance. And in the case of the MAI (Ministry of Internal Affairs), no examination is given.
– Each case must be looked at separately, but it’s important not to go to the other extreme. It’s dangerous to generalize. Let’s take particular cases and address them at the level of plagiarism.
Otherwise, plagiarism also becomes a kind of political police, which is more interesting in relation to the professional identity of some people.
I hope that those who have the great institutional responsibility of evaluating plagiarism come to seriously reflect on the matter, because we may fall into a trap, and I don’t necessarily mean destroying professional destinies, but rather, I mean perverting the very idea of evaluating plagiarism.
– Did you know or have you ever received intelligence data disclosing the fact that doctorates are obtained based on plagiarized dissertations here in Romania?
– Believe me, based on the millions, the hundreds of thousands of data that we received…I do not know how to answer this question right now… but I do not remember having gotten any.
– The Doctoral Schools belonging to the UNAp, ANIMV and the Police Academy have produced and perpetuated a great deal of deception, largely affecting the society on a whole. What should we do with these three academies?
– Doctoral Schools should be subject to evaluations and cases such as these should be treated within a framework of ethics in education, with reference to them as such. The State, the Ministry of Education, etc. should also intervene.
– Did you ever consider, even for a second, after the scandal related to the Academy of National Security Sciences, that you should close the Academy?
– Not at all. No, and I repeat once again, I consider that doing so would be harmful to the evolution of Romanian strategic thinking – if the Academy were not able to fulfill its mission.
This will take time and a lot of work. But I don’t think we should just close down institutions that could really bring value to a field that is of real importance in this country.
Who is George Maior?
Ambassador to the USA and former director of the SRI for the course of more than eight years (2006-2015), George Cristian Maior is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at “Babeş-Bolyai” University in Cluj-Napoca (1988-1991), where he also obtained a PhD in International Law (1998). He has a Master’s degree in International Law from “George Washington” University in the United States (1991-1992).
Son of Liviu Maior, former PDSR Minister of Education who served in this role between 1992 to 1996, George Maior started working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1992. From 1997 to 1999, he was in charge of business relations at the Romanian Embassy in Ireland.
In the field of politics, he worked in the PSD, as did his father. After the PSD won the December 2000 elections, he was appointed Secretary of State in the Ministry of National Defense.
In 2004, he was elected Senator by the PSD party, later serving as chairman of the Defense, Public Order and National Security Commission of the Romanian Senate.
He has also been a member of the Special Committee of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate for the purpose of exercising parliamentary control over the SRI and in the Committee on Human Rights, Cults and Minorities.