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Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the UK Ministry of Defence
A Clear And Present Danger To Democracy:
The East European countries' transition from communist autocracy to liberal democracy unleashed by the political upheaval of fall 1989 and the end of the cold war led to a new understanding of the traditional notion of state security, where diffused dangers and challenges rather than specific enemies could undermine this region's quest for a return to Europe. In their struggle for democracy and a free market economy, these countries are "no longer confronted with an enemy, but with dangers; and it was easier to see the enemy, but it is not easy to see the dangers".1 However, even if a clear and present danger in the shape of an identifiable enemy might have disappeared, some former communist countries are still perceived as encountering important set-backs and obstacles in achieving a democratic civic society because of their security services' methods of harassment and infringement of human rights, reminiscent of the old arsenal of the communist legacy.
In Romania, a clear and present danger capable of threatening this country's post-communist fragile democracy is indisputably coming from its overlapping secret services' structures and their association with the notorious Securitate. Indeed, after the December 1989 downfall of Ceausescu's regime, the carefully erected and brutally maintained security services structures disappeared to be replaced by some 9 new independent secret organisations, set up on the legacy of more than 40 years of communist mentality. Unfortunately, Romania's suspicious society with its little support for religious-cultural tolerance and individually self-reliant behaviour, combined with the way in which the old system ruled and the way it collapsed, did not help to eliminate this inheritance. So far, the oversized Romanian secret services' transition to democracy has remained tortuous, as the democratic requirements of a new, liberal society, in which a proper parliamentary scrutiny, the rule of law and independent judiciary to replace the old communist mentality of repression and manipulation are still to be achieved.
Securitate Successor Agencies Step Up Their Activities
During 1995, new allegations that the harassment of Romanian intellectuals was stepped up by members of Securitate successor agencies were reported in the context of growing public awareness of the number of secret services now operating in Romania, and interest to know what they are doing and in whose name. The fear that the old Securitate, the political police of the communist era, is back at work under a new disguise, was fuelled by attempts to intimidate members of Romania's opposition and some independent journalists, cases which were widely debated in the Romanian media.
Of particular interest was the case of Horia-Roman Patapievici, a 38- year-old physicist who had won a reputation as an opponent to Romania's present government and president. His activity in the independent Group for Social Dialogue (GDS) and as a political correspondent to the group's weekly journal "22" and Radio Free Europe drew the security services' attention and harassment. In February 1995, while Patapievici was in Germany on a post-graduate scholarship, his wife, also connected with GDS, was told by a neighbour that a person, claiming to be a police officer, had been investigating her husband's political convictions. The officer identified himself as Captain Soare and claimed that he was interested in cases of corruption and Arab-led money laundering. By using this old-style Securitate "legend", Soare tried to probe Patapievici's political views and his journalistic contributions. Following the GDS press conference devoted to this problem, a group of prominent Romanian intellectuals condemned the continuation of the "methods of the former Securitate" aimed at "bringing back an atmosphere of suspicion and fear".2
But the most puzzling aspect of the "Patapievici case" was concerned with the impossibility of identifying the organisation Captain Soare belonged to, after the police quickly stated that Soare was not a member of their staff and suggested that the officer had used a fake identity card. Under mass-media pressure, the main Romanian intelligence service - SRI - issued a communique denying its interests in "Patapievici's activity as a journalist or in his political ideas", suggesting that the aim of this scandal was to "stir unrest by hounding Romania's main intelligence service".3
At the same time, Interior Minister Doru Ioan Taracila stated that no employee of the special ministry intelligence unit UM 0215, which had often been accused in the past of acting like a political secret service against leading figures of the opposition and labour movement, had been involved in this case.4
The case became even more controversial after the commander of UM 0215, Lieutenant General Dan Gheorghe, summoned before the Senate's Commission for Defence, Public Order, and National Security denied his service's involvement in the Patapievici affair. At the end of the hearings, Senator Alexandru Radu Timofte, the commission chairman, suggested rather surprisingly that Captain Soare could belong to an "illegal intelligence structure", operated by former Securitate officers. But taking into consideration SRI Director Virgil Magureanu's repeated complaints of "unfair competition" from similar organisations and his demands for extensive SRI control over Romania's intelligence community, some newspapers concluded that the Patapievici case has been intentionally staged in order to present the conflict among Romania's various secret services and the need for only one institution to coordinate and monitor the activity of all these services.5
However, as the official inquiry into this case was not able to find the culprit, another secret service jumped in to deny any knowledge of the affair. This time it was the Justice Minister Iosif Chiuzbaian who saw fit to acknowledge that his ministry's special intelligence unit, the Independent Operative Service (SIO) which functions within the General Directorate of Penitentiaries (DGP), "had not been involved in this case or any other similar incidents". According to the daily Romania Libera, the minister's denial, when nobody had ever suggested a connection between Patapievici and the Justice Ministry, was "an implicit admission of similar practices" in his department. As very little was known about this relatively new secret service, it was revealed on this occasion that IOS, headed by Major General Ioan Chis, was in charge of gathering information regarding delinquency and organised crime within Romania's prison system, as well as of protecting state secrets within the DGP. But as Romania Libera pointed out, the very existence of this secret service was based on encouraging prisoners to denounce each other, while the protection of secrets within the prison system might suggest that in Romania there were still political prisoners.6
However, not long after the Patapievici case was revealed in the Romanian press, it became apparent that a certain Captain Marius Soare was working for the Guard and Protection Service (SPP), Division D, the secret service known for its close links with President Iliescu. Some newspapers even indicated that Soare's true name was Streche and that he was working in fact for the President's Bureau of Political Information, a branch of SPP7, details which were promptly denied by SPP in its first-ever press conference on 4 April 1995, which marked the service's fifth anniversary.
In order to improve its image, the SPP director added a few details during this press conference concerning his organization's short existence. Thus, it was acknowledged that SPP was established on 7 May 1990 as the Special Guard and Protocol Unit, and is still headed by Major General Dumitru Iliescu, who repeatedly denied rumours that he is related to President Iliescu. The service is a new version of the former Directorate V of the Department of State Security, which was in charge of Ceausescu's protection and was formally dismantled days after his overthrow, in December 1989. But according to General Iliescu, SPP is a different entity altogether because it inherited neither the structures, nor the equipment of the old Securitate department. The average age of its 1,500 or so members is 34, and most of the new staff have served in the army. The main task of the service is to ensure anti-terrorist protection for Romanian dignitaries and their foreign guests, and to guard their headquarters and residences. General Iliescu also pointed out that "the SPP is an autonomous, military-administrative authority controlled by the parliament and coordinated by the Supreme Council for the Defence of the Country (CSAT)".8
But the most striking aspect of SPP's new initiative of polishing up its image was its constant denial of a direct subordination to President Iliescu and of being Iliescu's Praetorian guard, as it was depicted in the mass-media. Implicitly, it was assumed that the "image campaign" was orchestrated in order to protect the president and his entourage against any possible accusations of interference with secret services' activities against political adversaries. These accusations were, however, reinforced by the mass-media when it became apparent that while various branches of government were busy denying any links with the Patapievici case, at least one secret service was interested in covering up the affair. Indeed, two journalists who had managed to interview the mysterious Captain Soare/Streche were detained and interrogated for hours at a police station, while their homes were searched, in the best Securitate tradition.9
Although many other scandals and cases of harassment against Romanian intellectuals and journalists were reported by the media in recent months, observers of the Romanian scene are now divided, according to the liberal daily Evenimentul Zilei, into two camps. On the one hand, there are those who blame the SRI for using the same methods as the defunct Securitate and on the other, those who appreciate the SRI for publicly admitting its shortcomings.10 The same daily went even further to stress on 24 March 1995, with the occasion of SRI's fifth anniversary, that Romania's main intelligence service has changed its style and image for the better since September 1994, when Magureanu first presented a detailed report on his organization's activities to parliament.
Indeed, SRI's growing self-importance as the only Romanian secret service under parliamentary scrutiny on a more or less regular basis was expressed pompously during the 24 March celebrations, in the presence of President Iliescu, Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, Chief of Staff Colonel General Dumitru Cioflina, Interior Minister Taracila and other high-ranking officials. The festivity, organised in the new building of the Romanian Higher Institute of Information at Gradistea, near Bucharest, was opened by Virgil Magureanu who said in his speech that SRI was now operating under "normal conditions" and has succeeded in improving its image "considerably". Corneliu Coposu, the late chairman of the National Peasant Party Christian Democrat (PNT-CD) and one of the leading opposition figures who was detained in jail for most of the communist era also praised the SRI for "having taken seriously its mission to watch over Romania's security and future".11
But many opposition politicians, intellectuals and journalists are far less enthusiastic about the SRI's alleged transformation, considering that the successor organizations of the once-omnipresent communist political police seem to have serious problems in adapting their working style to a democratic environment and continue to use at least some of their predecessor's dubious methods to try to exert extensive control over the population. This critical attitude was reinforced even further in August 1995 by the resignation of Major General Victor Marcu, SRI's first deputy director, after more than two months of pressure from Virgil Magureanu, following a surveillance operation discovered by a Romanian newspaper, directed against two journalists who had published articles about President Iliescu's alleged links with the KGB.12 To make things even worse, a former SRI agent, Dinu Dan, decided at the same time to speak out about some of the SRI's political activities and to demonstrate its connections with Romania's nationalist-extremist parties.13
But the involvement of the new secret services in the running of Romania's affairs reached a critical moment in October 1995 when the Ministry of National Defence and the government denied any association with the purchase of 12 Puma helicopters from South Africa, after the South African Office of Serious Economic Offences (OSEO) opened an investigation into the payment by the Armscor (Armaments Corporation of South Africa) company of a confidential commission of about 4 million dollars to Romania.14 After days of investigations behind closed doors and reports and counter-reports from the SRI's director Virgil Magureanu, as well as from the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), Stefan Talpes, and the head of the Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence Departments of the Army, Lt. Gen Decebal Ilina, it became apparent that at least a culprit should be found. According to the Romanian press, Benone Ghinea, former economic counsellor at the Romanian Embassy in Pretoria, now under arrest in Bucharest, was accused of taking a $400,000 commission from Armscor, while the remaining $3.6 million could not be traced. But since this incident seemed to be a copy-cat of the old AVS (Special Currency Contribution) operations run by the Securitate during Ceausescu's regime, when large amounts of hard currency from trade transactions were transferred to secret accounts at Ceausecu's disposal, the obvious question is whether Benone Ghinea is really the culprit or the "scapegoat" intelligence officer ready to cover up the whole affair orchestrated by the Romanian intelligence services as a "money for the ruling-party" operation.15
Nevertheless, in trying to explain the intensification of political police operations, some politicians and journalists pointed out that these actions could be only the tip of the iceberg or the beginning of a new campaign aimed at helping the present regime to grasp the whole power in Romania and to silence its critical intellectuals. Others are inclined to consider them as acts of intimidation before the forthcoming campaign for the 1996 general elections. But leaving all speculations aside, the plain truth is that at least some attempts have been made to revive old methods of terror and harassment which used to be part of everyday life under Ceausescu.
President Ion Iliescu - The Subject Of A Smear Campaign Over His Alleged Links With The KGB
In the summer of 1995, President Ion Iliescu has been the subject of a smear campaign, claimed to be orchestrated by nationalist extremists with the help of some unhappy former Securitate officers, for his alleged links with the KGB during his studies in Moscow in the early 1950s. But speculation about Iliescu's pro-Moscow stance, including possible support from the KGB in bringing him to power after Ceausescu's overthrow in December 1989 is nothing new in Romania.
In order to diffuse these allegations about possible KGB support for the new Romanian political elite, SRI presented a report of activity to the parliament in March 1995 which claimed that the number of Russian "tourists" in the country had increased in December 1989 from a previous average of 80 per day to over 1,000, and implied that popular demonstrations in Timisoara and Bucharest were at least partly orchestrated by outside forces. The report also claimed that the Hungarian and unspecified Western intelligence services were involved, as well as a Yugoslav national linked to the Hungarian and Yugoslav intelligence services. As usual, speculation has abounded as to the motives behind the publication of the report, as well as its veracity. Possible explanations included the contention that it was the sign of an apparent power-struggle within the SRI which has seen the dismissal of numerous officials over the past few months. It has also been seen as an attempt by Magureanu to distance himself and implicitly, President Ion Iliescu, from claims that they had been too close to the Russians in the past, and to deflect allegations of Romanian communist manipulations of events in 1989 onto foreign culprits.
But in April 1995 the weekly Academia Catavencu claimed that according to the common practice at the end of the Stalinist era, Iliescu had been recruited by KGB during his studies in Moscow. Not long after his return to Romania, Iliescu was appointed the communist youth organization's secretary, a position which could not have been secured without KGB permission. The newspaper also indicated, as a more recent pro-Moscow attitude, Iliescu's haste to sign a bilateral treaty with the Soviet Union in April 1991, an act condemned by the Romanian opposition as unacceptable. Only the sudden demise of the Soviet Union saved Romania's parliament from ratifying the treaty. However, in order to certify the continuity of Iliescu's alleged links with KGB, the weekly revealed that before 1989 Colonel Mihai Lupu, the then deputy chief of Securitate special unit UM 0110 responsible for counter-intelligence operations in connection with socialist countries, kept a file on him under the code name "Iancu".16 It was also alleged that for his "discretion" regarding Iliescu's pre-1989 relations with the KGB, Colonel Lupu was appointed General, and later this year, SRI deputy director.
But while the debate about Ion Iliescu's pro-Russia sympathy erupted, it became apparent, even by Romanian press standards, that logical arguments are not enough to reach a conclusion in such a sensitive case. In order to reverse the situation and to present more concrete evidence, a new media attack against Iliescu blew up on 9 May 1995. Thus, Sorin Rosca-Stanescu, the editor in chief of the daily Ziua, published an article titled "A Murderer Leading Romania", in which he claimed to have evidence that Iliescu was responsible for most of the killings in Bucharest during the December 1989 uprising and bloody suppression. The pro-government media quickly dismissed the accusations as "coming from a paid informer of the former Securitate", an allusion to Stanescu's already confessed cooperation with the old communist secret service.17 However, the editorial coincided with Iliescu's official visit to Moscow for the 9-10 May festivities marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. And while Iliescu was received with pomp at the Moscow's Energy Institute, where he had been a student from 1950 to 1954, a new article appeared in Ziua. This time, a newspaper correspondent, Tana Ardeleanu, reported from the Russian capital that she had contacted Igor Bondarchuk and Aleksandr Kavischuk, former colleagues of Iliescu who allegedly recruited the young Romanian communist student as a KGB informer.
Ziua' s accusations prompted some opposition parties to ask Iliescu to defend himself by taking a stance as a private person on the allegations. This demand forced the publication of an official communique by the office of the president condemning the "spiteful and frenzied campaign of denigration and calumny" organized by "minor publications hunting for scandals".18 Quoting Iliescu as "solemnly declaring" that he had not ever been contacted by any secret service seeking to recruit him, the statement also denounced the attackers as being "on the pay-roll of various secret services" interested in accusing Iliescu "of espionage and even crime in the absence of any proof". And in order to stop this campaign completely, Senator Vasile Vacaru, the head of the joint parliamentary commission in charge of monitoring the Romanian Intelligence Service, told journalists on 31 May 1995 that following a hearing with SRI director Virgil Magureanu it became clear that all information on a possible Iliescu-KGB link was "pure fabrication".19 But as Iliescu avoided taking a private stance on the accusations, his silence inevitably fuelled more media speculation, which finally forced him to give an interview to the Romanian TV. According to Iliescu, the KGB story was a "journalistic forgery" as the Moscow institute denied the very existence of the two Russians recruiters' names in its archives.20
The official reaction to the Iliescu-KGB story has aroused fears that the authorities might be tempted to suppress the independent press, which offered contradictory explanations for this episode. Indeed, if some segments of the press tried to explain the allegations as trivial, launched to boost the newspaper's circulation, others considered that the whole story might have been an act of revenge by people exposed under Iliescu's administration as former Securitate officers and collaborators. On the other hand, publications like Romania Libera appeared to share the rather widespread belief that the KGB itself could be behind the scandal, as Moscow is very distressed by Romania's recent rapprochement with NATO. The daily even assessed that Iliescu's controversial past was only "a blackmailed pawn" and the entire game was nothing but "the Kremlin's warning" to Iliescu's increasingly pro- Western policies.21 Other newspapers, however, rejected this hypothesis as a "myth" promoted by the SRI in order to generate sympathy for Iliescu.22 And in order to complicate the situation further, an unofficial visit of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Chief, Yevgeniy Primakov, was announced only by the ITAR-TASS agency, although he was received in Bucharest by Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, the Director of Foreign Intelligence Service Stefan Talpes, and by the SRI's Director Virgil Magureanu.23
But irrespective of the truth behind the whole story, some of the journalists involved in this affair were summoned to the General Prosecutor 's Office in order to give evidence on both their sources and how they obtained the incriminating documents. They refused to make any statement and denounced the procedures as "intimidation" when they were told that Article 238 of the penal code provides for up to five years in prison for "offending the authorities".24 But when a few days later two SRI officers were caught in flagrante videotaping a meeting of one of the journalists, Ada Ardeleanu, with another reporter who had been in Moscow to scrutinise Iliescu's past, the official investigations appeared to be only the tip of an iceberg of harassment.
After contradictory explanations, SRI was finally forced to recognise that Ada Ardeleanu had been shadowed, but only by mistake, as the two surveillance officers "believed" that they were following two suspects spying for a foreign country. Amid mass-media anger for this "illegal action against the independent press, reminiscent of a political police" and calls for SRI director Virgil Magureanu's dismissal, Ziua decided to sue the SRI director. In this situation, under growing public concern about the role and activity of SRI, Magureanu decided to find a scapegoat in the person of his deputy, General Victor Marcu, who was in charge of the uncovered surveillance operation against the two journalists.25 But the change has brought as many questions as it solved, because the newly appointed deputy director was no other than Gen Mihai Lupu who, before 1989, was in charge of Iliescu's file.
And in addition to all these allegations, a letter in the form of a memorandum, supposedly written by 300 top military leaders defining themselves as "a group of generals both in service and in reserve", accused President Iliescu of "ruining" the country's armed forces by "obeying orders from NATO" to sack 75,000 military personnel and dismantle 600 tanks, 900 artillery pieces and 30 planes. The letter's authors concluded: "You delivered the country's army, independence and sovereignty to traitors, spies, and speculators. For such high treason, there can only be one punishment." 26
The letter was published in Romania Mare, the newspaper of the extreme- nationalist chairman of the Greater Romania Party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who has long sought to discredit the president. Although on this occasion C. V. Tudor tried to mend the rift by publicly declaring his "political and moral support" for Iliescu, later that year he intensified his attacks against the president, declaring even that "Mr Iliescu should be executed for treason".27 The new offensive was considered to be the last straw, and by mid-October 1995 the ruling Social Democracy Party of Romania (PDSR) broke off all political cooperation with Tudor and his party, as a "reaction against racist, chauvinistic, anti-Semitic, extremist and totalitarian phenomena which characterise PRM and its chairman Cornel Vadim Tudor".28
However, the "witch hunt" that followed the publication of "the letter of the 300", as it was depicted by the Romanian press, coordinated by the SRI and by the Counter-Intelligence Department of the army, confirmed the existing rumours that the memorandum was in fact a one-man frame-up aimed at "creating confusion among army personnel".29 Although the name of the culprit was not revealed, it became apparent in October 1995 that the letter could have been the work of the Army General Paul Cheler, the commander of the 4th Romanian Army - Transylvania. Indeed, after the 1989 December events, General Cheler has strengthened his links with the ultra-nationalist mayor of Cluj-Napoca and chairman of the right-wing Romanian National Unity Party, Gheorghe Funar, and made known his conservative views by sharply criticizing the reform of the armed forces along NATO criteria and the idea of Romanian-Hungarian reconciliation. However, as his attitude was embarrassing for the government, he read the news about his retirement in the press. Needless to say, Gen Cheler reacted with rebellion and in an unscheduled press conference in Cluj-Napoca, Cheler announced that he would continue to consider himself the commander of the 4th Army until the defence minister personally travelled to Cluj-Napoca to remove him.30 And after his removal, he boycotted the ceremony organised by President Iliescu at the presidential Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest for the 50 generals who were retired and placed in reserve.31
All these scandals and allegations provoked unprecedented debates and speculations in the media about the forces that may have an interest in inspiring a political crisis in Romania. But irrespective of the reasons behind these allegations, the on-going debate about the dangers posed to democracy by the omnipresent interference of the nine Romanian secret services in this country's affairs reveals much about the conspiratorial nature of this society, and the accusatory tenor of its politics which inevitably feeds concern about the underlying stability of Romania.
A New Legislative Framework Aimed at Extending the Security Services' Power
At the beginning of 1995 a debate was opened by the Internal Affairs Minister (MAI) Doru Ioan Taracila on the necessity of up-dating the Romanian legislation to meet the new dangers which confront the national security. Deploring Romania's legislative framework as not being very specific about terrorist acts or its punishments, and asserting that the national security Law no. 51/1991 is already obsolete and needs to be amended, Taracila urged a review of the existing legislation on state security. But his legislative initiative was met from the start with scepticism by the democratic opposition and the independent media, which warned that any increase of the secret service organisations' power could lead to a resurrection of the surveillance practices of the communist era.
As the media was still debating the issue, a campaign of bomb threats erupted in Romania in March-April 1995. The main targets of this campaign, described as "telephone terror", were Romania's airports and airplanes. Anonymous calls claiming that bombs had been planted in public places became even more frequent after a Tarom flight crashed near Bucharest on 31 March, in which 61 people died.32 Although the accident was not caused by a bomb, as it was initially thought, but by a technical problem, a new tide of bomb hoaxes frightened the public and created panic and chaos in Bucharest.
But after a few days, when the situation returned to normal, some newspapers suggested that the hoax campaign might have been staged as a "diversion" by "professionals" from various security structures interested in increasing both their legal powers and their budgetary allotments. A few newspapers even noted, for instance, that some of the hoax calls at airports were received on classified telephone lines unknown to the public at large, and wondered if Romania was confronted with a terrorist campaign or a "Bombgate".33
In the middle of this "telephone terror" campaign, the ruling PDSR party and its allies in the coalition government, considering that terrorism is now on the rise in Romania, asked the Supreme Council for the Defence of the Country (CSAT) to endorse the draft bill prepared by MAI experts on preventing and combating terrorism. After a few days, on 7 April, it was the government's turn to approve the draft bill and to forward it to the parliament for an emergency debate. And in order to obtain full public opinion support, Lieutenant Colonel Marcel Antipa, the first deputy of SRI's anti-terrorist brigade, acknowledged in an interview on 10 April that there are "several international extremist- terrorist organizations presently operating in Romania". Assessing that these organisations "cannot be fully destroyed", he considered that an anti-terrorist law could be "particularly useful" under the current circumstances. At the same time, Antipa appealed to the "population's conscience" to report any "alien and suspicious people", which later was interpreted by some newspapers as "an invitation to denunciation".34
Once the groundwork was done, it was not surprising when Romania's Senate adopted on 11 April, by a vote of 96 to 26, a law modifying the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, including changes connected directly to terrorism and national security. Among the main amendments to the Penal Code was Article 324, which made terrorism a criminal offence punishable by one to five years in jail, or up to seven years if the persons affected by such an act were incapable of defending themselves. An amendment was also introduced in order to increase jail terms for those found guilty of spreading false alarms to up to 20 years, if the act caused a loss of human life. New penalties were also provided for offences regarding the regime of nuclear substances, narcotics and organized crime.35
Other controversial measures in the Penal Code referred to Article 236 concerning the provision for jail terms of one to five years "for defamation of the country and the Romanian nation", an amendment considered to be directed against ethnic minorities. Unsurprisingly, this article was opposed by all Senators from the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR). They insisted, during the parliamentary debate, that the same punishment should be applied to those who slander ethnic minorities, but their initiative was rejected. As a result of UDMR's refractory attitude, a few months later, in November 1995, the parliament decided to criminalize the hoisting of the flags or other insignia, as well as the playing - publicly and in a group - of the anthems of foreign countries, except in cases stipulated by law.36
But one of the most questionable changes to the Penal Code was the revised text of Article 150 of the Penal Code which practically made all official documents classified as state secrets. As the media noted, this issue was further complicated by the Law No. 23/1971 on state secrets, a notorious piece of legislation reflecting the spy-mania of Nicolae Ceausescu's era which has not yet been repealed, although a few attempts were made in the last few years. More recently, a SRI draft bill was sent to parliament for approval, which was characterised by Romania Libera as "a big danger to the Romanian society".37
Indeed, the vague definition of the notion of state secret, the extension of the security services' activity in the economy, and the increase of their powers in approving high-ranking civil servants in administration and even in the private sector, stipulated by the draft law, were seen as new measures designed to expand the role and importance of the security services in the Romanian society. At the same time, the introduction of new proceedings regarding the censure of information combined with harsher punishments against the press and journalists were considered to be not only anti-democratic, but also a danger to Romania's future integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures.
Some amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code also aroused the suspicion that Romania's crypto-communist government is seeking to facilitate the surveillance of the population under the excuse of combating crime. Indeed, Article 64 allows audio and video recordings, as well as photographs, to be used as evidence in court, while Article 91.1 officialized the interception of telephone conversations if there is a "solid presumption" that a crime is being planned or perpetrated. Although a bugging warrant must be reapproved every 30 days, according to Romania Libera, authorisation seems relatively easy to obtain since it is given "irrespective of the criminal offence".38 The same independent daily, recalling that Romania enjoys the reputation of having been one of the first former communist countries to have resorted to wiretapping of political opponents since 1947, considered the new legislative framework as an "extremely serious problem: that of legalizing totalitarian methods under the pretext of fighting organized crime or terrorism".39
In addition to these initiatives, some proposed changes to the Law No. 51/1991 on national security submitted for debate and approval to the parliamentary security commission that oversees the SRI appeared to be even more controversial. This was because Law No. 51/1991 had aroused from the very beginning a wave of criticism for its deficiencies in letter and spirit. Thus, the notion of "national security" had been very loosely defined, while "threat to national security" was considered to be all the plans and actions designed to harm "the sovereignty, unity, independence, and indivisibility of the Romanian state", as well as treason, espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and the participation in "totalitarian or extremist actions of a communist, fascist, legionary, racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist, or separatist nature." 40
As the independent media pointed out, the new amendments to the Law No. 51/1991 broadened the concept of threat to national security even more, to include calls for restoring the monarchy as well as for territorial autonomy based on ethnicity, a concept defined as "an intermediary stage toward territorial separatism".41 Needless to say that this last change was seen as a direct attack against UDMR's political doctrine, which supports territorial autonomy for the Magyar minority in Transylvania.
But what was completely new for a Romanian law on national security was the provision for legal protection of those who inform to the various secret services. As is well known, the network of informers and collaborators in communist Romania had been one of the most efficient instruments in monitoring and preventing the emergence of organized forms of dissent and opposition. After the December 1989 events, the successor services to the hated Securitate rejected the idea of publicly exposing the old regime's informers. Some critics claimed that the reason behind this decision was the fear that exposing former informers, the new intelligence services would find it more difficult to recreate their networks.
And last but not least, another important amendment to the Law No. 51 was the setting up of a special body within the CSAT in charge of "operative and permanent coordination of state organs with prerogatives in the field of national security - the SRI, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE), the Protection and Guard Service, the National Defence Ministry, the Internal Affairs Ministry, and the Justice Ministry - through special internal structures". But the new body, the Operative Coordination Council, became a source of great dispute among different commissions, groups and political interests.
Thus, Senator Vasile Vacaru acknowledged that his SRI monitoring commission was interested in assuming control over the activity of SIE as well, while the head of the Senate's Commission for Defence, Public Order, and National Security, Alexandru Timofte, promptly rejected the idea of the concentration of so much powers in Vacaru's hands. According to Ziua, the main force behind Vacaru's position was Magureanu and the SRI, and the rejection of this initiative was supported by President Iliescu himself, who was not very enthusiastic to see his old friend Magureanu consolidating his position "beyond any reasonable limit".42
In Romania, despite some positive changes that have occurred in the last few years, like the slow but sure advance of a market economy, freedom of political activity and of travel, a free press and the emergence from international isolation, many critics of the present regime argue that Ceausescu's legacy lives on and still remains strong. Indeed, the country's rulers are all reformed communists, much of the old state socialist economy is still in place, and the communist nomenklatura has retained its influence and used its connections to flourish in the private economy.
But more than that, unlike the situation in other former East Central European communist countries, the main danger to Romania's "original democracy" is much clearer and present: the communist secret police, the Securitate, has been reborn in the form of at least nine new security services structures. Based on the legacy of the former Securitate's methods, these successor services have managed in the last few years to greatly increase their power and, as a proper parliamentary scrutiny is still far from being achieved, they could very easily push Romanian society toward authoritarianism, especially when democratic institutions and processes are new and untried.
But Romania's acute dependence on international financial aid and the leadership's fear of international isolation, which have kept the government on a broadly reformist course and for a swift integration into Euro-Atlantic structures could still take the necessary measures to downsize and to keep its security services under control. Otherwise, the on-going scandals combined with the new legislative framework on national security which helped the new security services structures to set up their activities in recent years could impel Romania away from a possible return to Europe to a country where the spectre of the Securitate secret police would haunt the people once again.