WARSAW, Poland – Officials of Poland's new right-wing government, backed by troops, entered the office of a fledgling NATO counterintelligence center shortly after midnight Friday to replace the head of the center with a person loyal to the new leadership.
The previous head, Col. Krzysztof Dusza, failed to act on a dismissal order last week, said Bartlomiej Misiewicz, a defense ministry official. He said Dusza's license to access classified information was recently lifted and he could not continue in the post.
There was no resistance, and Dusza wasn't there, but the head of the center was able to enter.
There was no explanation from the government for the dramatic swoop at 1:30 a.m.
The center is still being formed and is renting space from Polish military counterintelligence.
The new Law and Justice government has been replacing top staff at all of the nation's security services.
Dusza, speaking on TVN24, said he had not received a dismissal document and believed he is still the head of the center.
The incident sparked an angry reaction from the political opposition.
"I believe it has never happened in the history of NATO that a member state attacked a NATO outpost," said Tomasz Siemoniak, who was defense minister in Poland's previous centrist government.
That proved to be an overstatement.
"This is an issue for the Polish authorities," said a NATO official in Brussels, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to make public statements.
"The Counter Intelligence Center of Excellence in Poland has not yet been accredited by NATO," he said.
The official said NATO centers of excellence are "are international research centers, which are nationally or multi-nationally funded and staffed, and work alongside the alliance, but they are not NATO bodies."
The one in Warsaw is being jointly organized by Poland and Slovakia and is to be based in Krakow, in southern Poland.
Poland had been in political crisis since Law and Justice took power in mid-November. The party's attempts to put its supporters on the Constitutional Tribunal — refusing to allow three judges chosen legally by the previous government onto the court — has sparked a deep crisis.
Opposition to the way that the party is consolidating power brought out tens of thousands of protesters last weekend and more rallies across Poland are planned for Saturday.
Associated Press writers John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.