The Enemy Within:
The Romanian Intelligence Service In Transition


V. G. Baleanu, January 1995

Conflict Studies Research Centre
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Camberley, Surrey GU15 4PQ

At least nine intelligence services are known to operate currently in Romania. Both the exact number and functions of these units, about which the authorities have made contradictory statements, have become the object of widespread speculations in the media. Most analysts tend to see these agencies as successor organisations of the Securitate, the notorious political police of the communist era. Official denials of any connection between the new agencies and their infamous predecessor have not been able to dispel the suspicion that they are splinter organisations of the former Securitate, resuscitated under new names and with specialized functions.

Although the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) - the country's main security structure - has attracted a great deal of public attention over the past five years, the activity of smaller security services has repeatedly provoked heated debates in the media, especially since it appears to be even less subject to parliamentary or other forms of public controls than that of the SRI. Moreover, the modus operandi of these parallel services, which often have overlapping areas of competence, lacks any transparency.

Among the security units operating under the umbrella of various ministries and other central institutions are the Protection and Guard Service of the Presidency; the Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (also known under the code name of Military Unit 0215 - UM 0215); the newly established Operative Surveillance and Intelligence Directorate of the General Police Inspectorate (subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs); the Foreign Intelligence Service (attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs); the Counter-intelligence Directorate and the Intelligence Directorate of the Army (the Ministry of National Defence); an intelligence structure within the General Directorate of the Penitentiaries (the Ministry of Justice); and a Special Telecommunications Service, which claims to be a military body, although it is not subordinated to the Defence Ministry.

Following the creation of these agencies, allegations and rumours about the continuing role and influence of the notorious Securitate, Ceausescu's secret police, have been a staple of post-December 1989 Romanian political life. Although the Securitate was officially disbanded and replaced by the Romanian Intelligence Service and the other intelligence services in 1990, the newly formed organisations are operating under the shadow of their predecessor and this represents one of the main internal sources of conflict and dangers that could impel Romania away from a possible liberal and democratic future. Thus, these institutions have become the enemy within, a tool in the hands of the neo-communist government which came to power during the still unclarified events of December 1989.

Since 1990, waves of changes have been taking place in the leadership of the Romanian Intelligence establishment. Although the real reasons for these changes remain unclear, there are indications that an internal struggle for power is taking place. Virgil Magureanu, the head of the SRI - a former intelligence officer and then a professor of Marxism - spoke of a process of transition and rejuvenation that was likely to continue for some time and suggested that it was affecting primarily former Securitate officers who had failed to adjust to the new political environment.