The Enemy Within:
The Romanian Intelligence Service In Transition

UM 0215 - The Re-Birth Of A Political Secret Service

One of the most controversial intelligence services currently operating in Romania is known by the code name UM 0215. This service, subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was set up as a haven for officers from the notorious political police of the communist era. Independent media have repeatedly charged the service with meddling in Romania's political life. Despite strong official denials, doubt continues to surround the service's activities, with some critics suggesting that it might take the role of a new political force by doing some of the "dirty tricks" for the Romanian Intelligence Service, the country's main security structure.

UM 0215 took shape in January 1990 as the brain-child of Gelu Voican Voiculescu, one of the most enigmatic characters involved in the events surrounding the overthrow of Ceausescu. During the turmoil, Voican Voiculescu was involved in Ceausescu's trial, execution, and secret burial as acting head, for a few days, of the Department of State Security (DSS), which formally ceased to exist shortly after the dictator's ouster. On 26 December 1989, Ion Iliescu, then president of the National Salvation Front Council, ordered the transfer of the DSS and Security Troops Command from the Internal Affairs Ministry to the Defence Ministry, and on 30 December signed a decree stipulating the dissolution of the DSS.

In order to reorganize the country's intelligence system, the new authorities decided to give three months' notice to the Securitate employees, during which period they were expected to carry on their activities under the new military umbrella. Voican Voiculescu, as newly appointed deputy prime-minister, launched a campaign to rehabilitate Securitate personnel in early 1990, which later became an open glorification of that institution in nationalist-communist publications such as Romania Mare and Europa. According to some analysts, this campaign was aimed at reactivating some segments of the former Securitate in order to place them at the service of a group within the nascent, postcommunist power structures gravitating around Petre Roman, Romania's prime minister from December 1989 to September 1991.

The first new secret service to be built on the ruins of the Securitate seems to have been the Foreign Intelligence Service, set up on 18 January 1990 under the command of Major General Mihai Caraman, one of Roman's friends and a former deputy-director, from 1972 to 1978, of the Foreign Counter-intelligence Service. He was later replaced in April 1992 by Ioan Talpes, a former adviser to President Iliescu.

Also in January 1990 Voican Voiculescu began preparations to create UM 0215 by gathering some 400 employees of the Securitate's Directorate IV (responsible for military counter-intelligence) and the powerful Bucharest branch of the former securitate service. From the start, the unit had the reputation of a political police force using Securitate-style methods, including strict rules for undercover operations and using code names and multiple identities in addressing one another. Even its very designation recalled the Securitate's practice of giving code names for its special departments consisting of the letters "UM" followed by four figures. Most of these details became public only after Voican fell from grace and was placed in diplomatic quarantine, as ambassador to Tunis, in 1992, for allegedly knowing too much about Romania's recent history and its protagonists.

It is said that none of all the secret services currently operating in Romania has changed its command as often as UM 0215. Its first head was Colonel Ion Moldoveanu, a Securitate officer who had allegedly been in charge of the surveillance of the Romanian dissidents. From February 1990 to February 1993 another three former Securitate officers were appointed and dismissed as the head of UM 0215. Since 1993 the unit's commander has been Major General Dan Gheorghe, who prior to 1989 was in charge of the surveillance of foreign students living in Bucharest. The service is currently said to employ some 1,000 officers in Bucharest and some twenty in each of Romania's forty counties. It is reportedly made up of two divisions. One is for counter-intelligence, which in official jargon is termed "protection of the cadre of the Internal Affairs Ministry". The other one is for intelligence, which is divided into three sections: combating hooliganism; delinquency and "parasitism" (a term reminiscent of the Ceausescu era, largely misused for persecuting political opponents); and economic crimes.