V G Baleanu THE ENEMY WITHIN: THE ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE IN TRANSITION January 1995 Conflict Studies Research Centre The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Camberley, Surrey GU15 4PQ DISCLAIMER The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the UK Ministry of Defence THE ENEMY WITHIN:THE ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE IN TRANSITION INTRODUCTION 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. THE ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE - A HISTORY OF DISSENT AND PURGES >From the very beginning, SRI was depicted as President Ion Iliescu's "personal security service". Indeed, the SRI's "birth certificate", the un-published Decree no 181 of 26 March 1990, stipulated that the new service was to be directly subordinated to the president, while the Provisional Council of National Unity, Romania's surrogate parliament at the time, would have some control over it. The history of SRI, plagued by dissent and purges, appears to be rooted in what was described as the organisation's "original sin", that of being a continuation under a new name of the communist-era secret service. The presence of a considerable number of former Securitate officers within the SRI ranks is perceived as the main obstacle to a complete overhaul of the Romanian intelligence system. Although no official figures are available and estimates differ widely, in March 1994 Magureanu claimed that "only one-third of the approximately 15,000 Securitate officers had been offered employment in the new organisation". But as the real number of Securitate officers during Ceausescu regime was estimated in the region of 50,000, it is hard to believe that the new SRI and the new intelligence services are not mentally and methodically descended from the old organisation. Some younger and more open-minded Securitate officers hired by the SRI after the first wave of purges added their voices to those denouncing the continuity in personnel, material resources, methods, and mentality between the two institutions. The first major breach in the secrecy surrounding the new intelligence service was made by Adrian Ionescu, a former Securitate captain placed on reserve on 15 October 1990 on Magureanu's order. Among other things, Ionescu accused Magureanu of having turned the organisation into a tool of the then ruling party (the National Salvation Front), despite pledges that the SRI was an apolitical organization. A second wave of personnel changes took place in the secret service between June and August 1991, following the scandal in May of that year over several tons of Securitate and SRI secret documents found in a ravine at Berevoiesti (Prahova County). Dubbed in retrospect "the big purge", this wave was reported by Magureanu to have affected some 30% of the SRI's personnel. The purge's most prominent victim was Magureanu's first deputy director at the time, Major General Mihai Stan. Interesting details about the purge were revealed in a letter addressed to the parliament in April 1992 by a group of unidentified SRI officers demanding Magureanu's removal for what they said was a systematic interference in the country's political life. According to the authors of the letter, most of the "nearly 1,500 officers" dismissed during this second wave were professionals who had no connection with the communist nomenklatura. They added that former party activists in the Securitate, who held leading positions in the SRI, had not been affected by the purge. Magureanu responded angrily to these reactions, speaking of a "demolition mania" with "incalculable consequences" for the SRI. His reaction raised the suspicion that the letter contained reliable information on the service. In January 1992 another former SRI officer, Colonel Marin Iancu, decided to speak out against the SRI leadership. He criticized the similarities of style, methods, and structure between the SRI and its predecessor and warned that the former might become another "state within the state" if the parliament failed to impose a strict control over it. Hints about the third wave of changes in the SRI leadership appeared in the Romanian media at the end of 1993. In January 1994 some of the heads of SRI branches in the territory were removed. In February, Magureanu toured the counties of Dolj, Valcea and Gorj to inspect the SRI branches there and make more personnel changes. During his visit in Gorj County, where the Jiu Valley - home of the thousands of miners who ran riot in Bucharest on two occasions in 1990 and 1991 - is located, Magureanu appeared with the controversial leader of the miners, Miron Cosma, at a rally. The director of the SRI urged thousands of striking miners through a loudspeaker to remain calm and to renounce the idea of descending again on Bucharest. The move was widely attacked in the media as inadmissible interference by the secret service in public life. Magureanu was summoned to the joint parliamentary commission in charge of monitoring the SRI's activities, which concluded that he had overstepped his authority. The commission's chairman, Senator Vasile Vacaru of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), tried to play down the incident and exonerate Magureanu. After this incident, the question raised by the democratic opposition was "who controls who in the parliament?" In early March 1994, the heads of the SRI's Protection Division (known as Division E, in charge of protecting and monitoring SRI cadres and safeguarding state secrets), were dismissed for having allegedly leaked confidential information to the ultranationalist weekly Romania Mare (Greater Romania). In January, Romania Mare had accused several Romanian officials of working for foreign intelligence agencies. A few days later, the head of the SRI counter-intelligence division, Major General Gheorghe Diaconescu, was also dismissed amid speculations that he had failed to unmask a spy ring reported to include Lieutenant General Marin Pancea, the secretary of the Supreme Council for the Defence of the Country and an adviser to Iliescu; Pancea also had to quit his job. All accusations against Pancea, especially the claim that he had been spying for France, were dismissed by the Presidency as "pure invention", while the SRI said more cautiously that it had no evidence supporting such allegations. Some journalists later claimed that the true reason for Diaconescu's dismissal was no doubt related to his rather imprudent decision to keep tabs on his own chief, Magureanu. The former counter-intelligence chief, the press wrote, had thus been able to uncover some illegal transactions with foreign firms involving Magureanu and his first deputy director, Major General Victor Marcu. Diaconescu was replaced by Colonel Mihai Lupu, who had worked with the Securitate's Foreign Intelligence Directorate; from 1983; he was the deputy chief of the special unit UM 0110 responsible for counter-intelligence operations in connection with the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Also in March 1994, one of the SRI's deputy directors and the head of the organisation's training school, Major General Dumitru Cristea, was asked to resign for an alleged love affair with one of his female students. Cristea, who denied the charge and put the blame for the campaign against him on senior PDSR officials, refused to resign. He was subsequently suspended from duty and sent on vacation pending an examination of his case. Despite the fact that, as director of the Bucharest-based Higher Institute of Information, which had been set up in 1992, Cristea was responsible for the training of SRI officers and his position was very influential in both the ruling party and the opposition, he was removed from his post without a follow-up inquiry. According to the media, the removal of Diaconescu and Cristea was accompanied by more changes in the SRI leadership. Thus, Colonel Constantin Pista, the head of Division C (responsible for the protection of the national wealth), had been dismissed for incompetence, while Colonel Traian Ciceu, the head of Division A (responsible for the protection of the constitutional order), handed in his resignation in connection with the loss of strictly confidential documents on Romania's political parties and extremist groups. At the same time, in the spring of 1994, Bucharest was hit by other security scandals. Thus, a well organised campaign of innuendos and slander against Gen Spiroiu, the Minister of Defence, forced his replacement with a civilian. But soon after the reshuffle, several newspapers and the opposition demanded an official investigation into allegations that the new defence minister, Gheorghe Tinca, had ties with the Securitate. While these demands were refused, it was acknowledged that army officers are now aware that they will remain under strict control by the military counter-intelligence department of the SRI, introduced in the Army through the back door. Another scandal was connected with reports that appeared in the media alleging that the secret service through its unit UM 0215 had revived old-style surveillance and harassment actions against political parties, trade unions and journalists. Adrian Severin, the vice-president of the opposition Democratic Party led by the former prime minister, Petre Roman, claimed that his party knew about this unit, and he has urged parliament's defence and security commissions to investigate its activity and the reports that Gheorghe Tinca had ties with Ceausescu's Securitate. These scandals have done little to bolster confidence in the SRI or in the quality of political debate, which - whether in pro-government or pro-opposition circles - tends to be suffused wit h sensationalist rumour and scandal-mongering. In spite of these scandals, it was said that all the changes that occurred during the spring of 1994 had affected no more than 25% of the organisation's staff. These changes in the leadership of the SRI appear to be part of a long-term personnel policy whose rationale is at least hazy if we take into consideration the fact that Magureanu dismissed allegations that the purge was directed at the pro-Western wing of the SRI as "hallucinations". But those who suspect Magureanu of anti-Western feelings seem to believe that he had close links to the KGB in the 1980s and was involved in a Soviet-backed conspiracy against Ceausescu. Magureanu is also criticized for cultivating special intelligence relations with Russia and for paying frequent visits to Moscow. He has repeatedly rejected such criticism, claiming that cooperation between the SRI and the Russian secret service currently focused on combating international organized crime. In what appears to be an overreaction to the charges made against him, Magureanu publicly stated that the KGB had played a role in Ceausescu's overthrow in December 1989; and he also suggested that the KGB was the most active foreign intelligence service in modern-day Romania. However, the current purges within the SRI do not necessarily signal that the uncompromised, new generation of officers have scored a victory over the old Securitate guard. Most new commanders of SRI divisions have Securitate credentials, just like their predecessors. Thus, it is possible that Magureanu's main concern was to get rid of those former Securitate officers who might have posed a threat to his own position. Both Diaconescu and Cristea had long been tipped as possible successors to the former professor of political science at the Stefan Gheorghiu Academy, the Romanian Communist Party's cadre school. Irrespective of the reasons for the personnel changes, the Romanian Intelligence service will probably continue to experience "the enemy within" syndrome for some time, while the mood in the service will remain "extremely tense". 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. THE ENEMY WITHIN: THE SECRET SERVICES' INTERFERENCE IN POLITICS The accusation most frequently levelled against SRI and UM 0215 is that they have involved themselves in political life to such a degree that they have become a political police force. Some of these apprehensions are rooted in the highly politicized circumstances under which the new Romanian secret service was created. Critics maintain that UM 0215 was set up and functioned for more than two years as a secret service loyal to Petre Roman's faction within the National Salvation Front (NSF), while the SRI emerged as a kind of "personal security service" for President Iliescu. In December 1991, in a letter attributed to a group of officers from the Foreign Intelligence Service, UM 0215 was depicted as Voican Voiculescu's "fiefdom" and was charged with having continued to provide information to Roman, even after he had ceased to be prime minister. Growing frictions within the NSF and the party's split in March 1992 led to the conclusion that a "true war" was going on between the SRI and UM 0215. In the end, forces loyal to Iliescu and the head of the SRI, Virgil Magureanu, prevailed. As a result, Gheorghe's subsequent appointment as head of UM 0215 was attributed by some sources to Magureanu's personal intervention. During the critical phase of the conflict in 1992, the SRI repeatedly denied that there was any tension between itself and UM 0215. But it apparently orchestrated a series of media "revelations" about the unit's activities, in an attempt to make the unit shoulder the blame for most of the dark episodes in Romania's political life in the first half of 1990. The interference of UM 0215 in politics was by no means limited to taking sides in the conflict between opposing wings of the ruling party. The service proved far more active in undermining Romania's democratic opposition, especially in the first months after the fall of the Ceausescu regime. Among the known actions attributed to it are the infiltration by agents provocateurs of an opposition rally on 18 February 1990, which turned violent; the distribution of fake Legionary leaflets claiming that a fascist take-over in Romania was imminent; the selective release of documents from the Securitate archives aimed at compromising opposition leaders who ran in the elections of May 1990; the infiltration of the non-stop marathon rally in Bucharest's University Square from April to June 1990; and direct participation in anti-opposition violence that occurred in Bucharest on 14 and 15 June 1990, when thousands of miners from the Jiu Valley descended on the capital. Voican Voiculescu dismissed some of these accusations as fabrications stemming from the SRI; however he admitted that he had favoured the use of Securitate files in the 1990 election campaign. The involvement of two UM 0215 officers in the ransacking in June 1990 of the home of Ion Ratiu, a leading figure in the National Peasant Party-Christian Democratic (PNT-CD) who returned to Romania in December 1989 after spending more than 40 years in exile in Britain, was proved in court in February 1994. The accused - former Colonel Ion Nicolae and Sergeant Cornel Dumitrescu - were sentenced to four and three years respectively for having stolen $100,000 from Ratiu's house. However, the issue of who was behind the June 1990 riots in Bucharest is much more complicated that it appears at first glance. Despite repeated denials by its leaders, there are clear indications of the SRI's involvement. Recently, Voican Voiculescu even accused Magureanu of having staged the violence in order to take over as prime minister. Other sources claim that the miners' arrival in Bucharest was orchestrated by Major Dumitru Iliescu (now a colonel), the chief of President Iliescu's Special Guard and Protocol Unit (renamed the Protection and Protocol Service in July 1991). After June 1990 Internal Affairs Minister Doru Viorel Ursu and his successor, Victor Babiuc (both close associates of former Prime Minister Roman), are believed to have succeeded in disciplining UM 0215. It is thought that the unit suspended activities that might be construed as interference in political affairs and focused instead on tasks normally undertaken by an internal affairs ministry. In 1993, however, internal regulations were released that apparently signaled a resumption of questionable, Securitate-style practices, including the gathering of intelligence on Romanians living, studying, or working abroad; people with dual citizenship; employees of foreign firms in Romania; and foreign residents. It was also reported that the service was keeping tabs on leaders of political parties and trade unions, political personalities and journalists. It also revealed the close cooperation between UM 0215 and the SRI, which involved the former being obliged to enter immediately all sensitive information into the SRI's computer network. This implicitly confirms that the two services have buried the hatchet and are now coordinating their objectives. Following the disclosure, the Chamber of Deputies commission for Defence, Public Order, and National Security summoned Gheorghe and Internal Affairs Minister Doru Ioan Taracila to respond to the accusations. The two defended the reputation of the service and denied again any involvement in Romania's political life. They conceded, however, that some employees might have overstepped the rules; if this had happened, they added, it was only because of behaviour "sequels" among some officers. Taracila stressed that UM 0215 was functioning in accordance with the National Security Law, while Gheorghe insisted that those under surveillance - both Romanians and foreigners - where suspected of involvement with terrorist or criminal activities. The arguments were accepted without reservation by Petre Roman, currently the leader of the Democratic Party - National Salvation Front and the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies Commission for National Security. This position came as a surprise in view of Roman's denouncements of any attempt to revive the spirit and methods of the former Securitate. As if there were not enough secret services in Romania, in May 1994 media announced the creation of an Operative Surveillance and Intelligence Directorate (DSOI) within the Internal Affairs Ministry. Colonel Traian Dima was appointed head of the directorate, which stressed its independence of UM 0215. The DSOI appears to focus on police-related tasks, especially combating organized, cross-border crime. However, as in the case of the SRI and UM 0215, some of its powers are reminiscent of those wielded by the communist secret police. CONCLUSION The present situation inside the Romanian intelligence establishment shows to what extent the legacy of the Securitate, one of the most brutal instruments of repression in the former communist bloc, continues to cast a shadow over Romania's quest for democracy and European integration. In light of this dubious legacy, reassuring statements such as those uttered recently by Taracila or Magureanu on the profile and the role of the Romanian intelligence community, may sound hollow as long as the facts seem to contradict them. For the time being, together with Iliescu, Magureanu is in fact the only leading figure of the December 1989 revolt to have retained his position within the post-communist power structure. Some analysts regard Magureanu as the gray eminence of Romania's political scene and warn against underestimating his influence in the country's politics. Thus, as long as the Romanian secret service continues to function without a clear legal basis of budgetary allotment, and the fate of Romania's policy is decided behind closed doors, the enemy within will destroy Romania's fragile path to democracy and to a new destiny. References .