Department of State Security
(Departamentul Securitatii Statului - Securitate)
The Ministry of Interior's Department of State Security (Departamentul Securitatii Statului, popularly known as the Securitate) was the Communist Party of Romania's secret political police. This organization was shrouded in secrecy, but an increasing number of defections from their ranks shed some light on their composition and activities. The Securitate was responsible for guarding the internal security of the Ceausescu regime and suppressing any unrest, disturbance, or dissident group that criticized or challenged it. The Securitate succeeded in repressing most organized opposition to the regime. Yet spontaneous outbursts of discontent with Ceausescu's "cult of personality," economic austerity policy, treatment of ethnic minorities, antireligious campaign, and lack of respect for internationally recognized civil and human rights occurred with increasing frequency after the mid-1970s, and ultimately led to the overthrow of the regime.
Given the deteriorating economic situation and the growth of social unrest in the 1980s, the loyalty of the security and intelligence services was critical to the political future of the Ceausescu clan. Despite their treatment as a privileged caste, Securitate and DIE personnel showed signs of dissatisfaction with the regime and the situation in the country during the late 1980s. Poor living conditions were so widespread that even these individuals were affected, creating the potential for sympathy with a largely discontented population. The services played a decisive role in the outcome of the leadership struggle between Ceausescu, his heirs, and other contenders for power.
In 1989 the directorates of the Securitate were the largest component of the Ministry of Interior. They also comprised Eastern Europe's largest secret police establishment in proportion to total population.
The Directorate for Investigations had agents and informants placed in virtually every echelon of the party and government, as well as among the public, to report on the antiregime activities and opinions of ordinary citizens. It perpetrated illegal entries into public offices and private homes and interrogated and arrested people opposed to Ceausescu's rule. Its agents frequently used force to make dissidents provide information on their compatriots and their activities. According to some prominent dissidents, because of the directorate's influence over judges and prosecutors, no dissident arrested by it had ever been acquitted in court. It worked closely with the Directorate for Surveillance and the Directorate for Mail Censorship. The latter monitored the correspondence of dissidents and ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania. Toward this end, it collected handwriting samples from the population and supervised the official registration of all typewriters and copying machines by the police.
The General Directorate for Technical Operations (Directia Generala de Tehnica Operativa--DGTO) was an integral part of the Securitate's activities. Established with the assistance of the KGB in the mid-1950s, the DGTO monitored all voice and electronic communications in the country. The DGTO intercepted all telephone, telegraph, and telex communications coming into and going out of the country. It secretly implanted microphones in public buildings and private residences to record ordinary conversations among citizens.
The Directorate for Counterespionage conducted surveillance against foreigners--Soviet nationals in particular--to monitor or impede their contacts with Romanians. It enforced a variety of restrictions preventing foreigners from residing with ordinary citizens, keeping them from gaining access to foreign embassy compounds and requesting asylum, and requiring them to report any contact with foreigners to the Securitate within twenty-four hours. Directorate IV was responsible for similar counterespionage functions within the armed forces, and its primary mission was identifying and neutralizing Soviet penetrations.
Directorate V and the Directorate for Internal Security focused mainly on party and government leadership cadres. Directorate V provided protective services and physical security for Romanian officials. With more than 1,000 agents, the Directorate for Internal Security concentrated on rooting out disloyalty to Ceausescu within the PCR hierarchy, the Council of Ministers, and the Securitate itself. It was a small-version Securitate in itself, with independent surveillance, mail censorship, and telephonemonitoring capabilities. An additional source of information on attitudes toward the regime within the Securitate was one of Ceausescu's relatives, who was a lieutenant general in the Ministry of Interior.
There were few signs of widespread organized opposition to the Ceausescu regime in the late 1980s, but scattered and sporadic indications of social and political unrest were increasing. This opposition emanated from political and human rights activists, workers, religious believers, ethnic minority groups, and even former mid-level officials of the PCR. But the ubiquitous Securitate effectively suppressed dissidence because activists were few in number and isolated from one another and from their potential followers.
The Securitate had an effective overall strategy and varied tactics for suppressing dissidence. It relied primarily on extralegal reprisals against leading individual dissidents that ranged from petty harassment, threats, and intimidation to physical beatings at the hands of the plainclothes militia. Dissidents were often fired from their jobs and then prosecuted and imprisoned for "parasitism," even though they were frequently denied all opportunities to work. To isolate dissidents from one another and from Western diplomats and media representatives inside Romania who could bring them international attention, the state denied them residence permits that were required by law before they could live in major cities. The state either avoided prosecuting dissidents in open trials that would generate publicity for their causes or prosecuted them in secret trials before military courts.
Even if they avoided detention, some well-known dissidents had their telephone and mail service interrupted and were jailed without warning. Several lived under virtual house arrest and constant surveillance by plainclothes Securitate agents and the uniformed militia, who cordoned off their apartments and intimidated potential visitors. Dissidents were often vilified publicly in the media as traitors, imperialist spies, or servants of the ancien régime. When the cases of certain dissidents became known to international human rights organizations and the state was unable to act freely against them, the Securitate pressured these dissidents to emigrate by making their lives unbearable and granting them exit visas to leave the country.
Romania's industrial workers became an important source of unrest and a potential threat to the Ceausescu regime and future PCR rule in the 1970s. During the 1980s, the labor force's restiveness continued, primarily in reaction to the virtual collapse of the national economy and the deteriorating standard of living. The regime's economic austerity policy and attendant food, fuel, and power shortages hurt the working class in particular. But Ceausescu weathered spontaneous, short-lived labor protests with the support of the security forces and police, who prevented the development of a sustained, independent workers' movement in Romania that would be comparable to Poland's Solidarity.
Although they never failed to subdue protestors, the Securitate and police appeared to be strained under the burden of monitoring restive workers throughout Romania in the late 1980s.
Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Created by John Pike
Updated Saturday, September 05, 1998 10:59:39 AM