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GNOSIS 2/2012

Interview with

Director General of the Italian Intelligence and Security Department

Giampiero MASSOLO

articolo redazionale

Ambassador Giampiero Massolo was born in Warsaw (Poland) on October 5th, 1954.
In 1976 he graduated in Political Sciences – specializing in International Politics - from the Libera UniversitÓ Internazionale degli Studi Sociali (LUISS) in Rome. From 1977 to 1978 he worked at FIAT, Turin, in the Economic and Social Relations Department and subsequently in the Department for Community and International Affairs.
He joined the Diplomatic Service in May 1978, at the age of 23. From 1980 to 1982 he served at the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, and from 1982 to 1985 at the Embassy in Moscow as First Secretary for economic and commercial affairs. From 1985 to 1988 he served at Italy’s Permanent Mission to the European Union in Brussels as the spokesman for the Italian delegation on the working groups responsible for environmental and energy policies, State aids and industrial policy questions.
Since 1990 he has served at the Office of the Diplomatic Advisor to the Prime Minister and in 1993, during the Ciampi government, was appointed Assistant Diplomatic Advisor. In 1994 he was nominated Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister during the first Berlusconi Government and subsequently during the Dini Government.
In June 1996 he returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Head of the Press and Information Office and Spokesman of the Minister. On December 23rd, 1997 he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary.
From December 2001 to 2004 he was Deputy Secretary-General of the Farnesina. From March to November 2004 he was the Director General for Multilateral Political Affairs and Human Rights. From November 20th, 2004 he was appointed Chief of Cabinet to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gianfranco Fini.
On January 2nd, 2006 he was appointed Ambassador.
From May 2006 to September 2007 he served as Director General of Personnel.
In September 2007 he was appointed Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the highest rank of the Italian diplomatic career.
From April 2008 to December 31st, 2009 he also served as the Prime Minister’s personal representative (Sherpa) for the G8 and G20 Summits and as such was also responsible, among others, for the overall coordination of G8 issues under the Italian Presidency as well as the organization of the Summit in L’Aquila.
On May 11th, 2012 he was appointed Director General of the Intelligence and Security Department by the Prime Minister Mario Monti..

From the beginning of his interview with Gnosis, it was clear that Ambassador Giampiero Massolo's - Director General of DIS - main characteristics were his being highly professional and naturally prone to human relationships, gifted with intellectual curiosity and a deep sense of belonging to the Institutions. Knowing that someone with a multifaceted experience is the Director General of the Italian Intelligence and Security Department contributes to maintaining the best national traditions of the Intelligence combining them with a strong commitment in meeting the needs of transparency, professional accuracy and ensuring “widespread security” to our country. Confidential operations necessarily require style and intelligible official directions so as to dissipate the shades of the past and facilitate the spreading of the Intelligence culture. There is an undeniable need for adequate and qualified Intelligence Agencies as “…instruments of navigation …” in an ocean where threats are always unforeseeable, technological, and diverse. In the attempt to understand “where the world is going” the Intelligence Services carry out traditional activities – both at national and international levels – as well as large scale prevention activities which range from relatively new requirements such as brand protection and the “enterprise-Italy” protection in compliance with national interests both as potential investments and consolidation of finance, to IT security.

Intelligence and globalization: what is the role of the Intelligence Services in the “globalized” world?
Protecting national interests and ensuring the security of the State and of its citizens even against new threats stemming from globalization: not anymore and not so much “territorial,” but often widespread, vague, asymmetrical and with no definite space and time coordinates.
The economic-financial crisis reminds us every day that globalization is a multiplying source not only of opportunities, but also of risks and potential threats. Both States and citizens have to cope with this situation, as they deal everyday with the “globalized” world.
National security, the traditional core business of every Intelligence system, is today tightly linked with the economy and its ensuing social dynamics. Globalization, blurring State boundaries, has increased competition among the Italian production systems, sometimes exacerbating it by tightening the rules. The result is that, much more than in the past, the difference between winners and losers depends on the actors’ ability to gather highly value-added information and organize the collected data, both of sensitive nature and coming from the many available open sources, within a system able to provide effective policy lines.
That is also the reason why among the Third Millennium Intelligence’s priorities there should be the observation of reality aimed at identifying the interconnections among all the phenomena stemming from globalization, developing an increased awareness so as to handle its implications for our national security.
In a world marked by an increasingly fast dissemination of the information, what is the “importance” of Humint?
Notwithstanding the technological tools and the sometimes vague nature of the threat, Intelligence Services cannot leave out the human factor, often still crucial both as a source of cooperation and operational capabilities.
Intelligence Agencies are necessary tools to protect the national interest and support the political decision-maker’s activities as well as those of the whole country. Metaphorically, we could affirm that the current role of the Intelligence Services is, essentially, to provide our country with the useful coordinates to set the ship on a course and steer it safely through the thousand dangers of a trip across increasingly often troubled waters, where the instruments on board the ship are not able to predict the dramatic unexpected turns in the weather. Therefore, highly sophisticated instruments and a qualified crew are needed to bring the ship into the harbor.
Indeed, today the fast dissemination of information in the globalized world is a crucial factor that the Intelligence Services have to take into consideration. The continuous development of technologies linked with intelligence collection activities require constant refining the analysts and operatives’ tools. However, technology will not lead to any results if not matched with a “human” element of appropriate level. Thus, the importance of the human factor, of HUMINT, which remains an essential tool. Therefore, it is our duty to well use the different resources: TECHINT, SIGINT, and HUMINT so as to better exploit the potentials of the system components.

The value of the “transparency” of the Intelligence Services’ activity: security culture and communication, the United Nations Building and the protection of its employees
Confidentiality is Intelligence Services’ main feature. Operations are confidential by their own nature and to protect the officers and operatives involved, who sometimes risk their lives in highly dangerous contexts. On the contrary, the Intelligence System greatly benefits from enhancing and clarifying its role. Therefore, we must not let the confidentiality of our work cast a shadow on the system itself which serves the Institutions, the citizens and our country.
If in the past confidentiality darkened the system, this might have also been caused by Intelligence Agencies’ communication problems. We cannot afford this luxury again and we must abandon this way of thinking as soon as possible. The recipe is simple: being transparent and communicating with the public as much as possible and to the best of our abilities – in accordance with our requirements – using the various tools and opportunities offered by the information society. We are busily working on it and I deem the first results to be very encouraging, but this is only one of the two aspects of the question.
The other aspect is that a culture of security is still not sufficiently widespread.
The economic crisis, the budgetary cuts and the spending review do not leave room for privileged positions. Therefore, the citizens have the right to enquire as to how the Intelligence Services – taking into account their peculiarities - use the resources they have and what their goals and achievements are. It is a request I agree with and I deem it to be a useful driver that will push us into being increasingly efficient and “competitive.”
However, at the same time it is necessary for the citizens to develop an increased awareness of the issues linked with security, in all the different nuances. In other words, I wish that just like complex concepts such as “spread” and “default” have become common, a conscious attention for security issues will develop and consolidate in Italy, as each one of us can certainly give an important contribution in terms of civil commitment.
It is fundamental to start from the meaning of the words and language commonly used by the Intelligence Services, often technical and difficult for outsiders, in order to achieve this goal. This is the belief behind the Undersecretary of State De Gennaro’s farsighted initiative which has led to the publication of a glossary with all the main terms used by the Intelligence Agencies. This initiative has had a great success ever since the official presentation of the book on June 27, 2012 and pushes us to follow this path.

Changes in our society - the collapse of myths – the American dream - the “iron curtain” where do we start from? New possible future threats and challenges.
I would suggest that we start from the globalized world. A world we must live in, whether we like it or not. We live in an era where distances and time have shortened. Seemingly distant events may have a direct impact on our lives, and that is why the Intelligence system needs to be always able to draw an overall picture of the different phenomena developing around us and interpret them.
In the last fifteen years threats to national security have changed and become increasingly asymmetrical, demanding prompt and effective actions. In order to defend ourselves from these threats we need to open ourselves to the world and learn to understand it, trying to catch its evolutionary dynamics.
To reach this goal we must immediately redefine our analysis’ priorities and modus operandi.
As to the first, along with the traditional intelligence activities – such as fighting terrorism, countering organized crime and subversive movements, and protecting Italian troops abroad (which certainly remains one of our priorities) – other activities have acquired a fundamental importance in recent years. Notably, I am referring to the protection of national economic and financial interests as well as the protection of critical infrastructures and strategic companies in our country from the threat of a possible cyber attack. Those are sectors where competition, even with similar countries, is everyday more and more tight and complex.
I believe that today economic and financial intelligence must not only protect national economic interests, but also must promote them focusing on the sectors where our companies operate, in Italy and abroad, freeing the ground from any possible hidden danger.
In this capacity, Intelligence Services play a special role in supporting our country, effectively contributing to re-activating the growth and development processes of our economic system. As to the cyber risk, we witness with pleasure a growing awareness, not only within the Institutions, but also within the national entrepreneurial fabric, of the serious damage that cyber hostile actions may cause to our country’s strategic sectors.
Today an effective coordination among all the competent administrations is necessary so as to lay the basis for the creation of a system able to protect our cyberspace from attacks of any origin.
As to the modus operandi, I am convinced that our priority should be to reinforce the link between information gathering and analysis, adopting a concrete approach which, by highlighting the functions of both sectors, may improve their forecasting capabilities. With this end in view, I am convinced that we should consider our Intelligence Services’ actions from a “thematic” perspective more than from the traditional and obsolete “geographical” perspective which is no longer able to draw the overall picture to which I was referring earlier.

Economic crisis, unemployment, “calling for street demonstrations” – everyday reality: what will the fall bring?
I believe in the ability of the European and international systems to re-generate. And this goes also for our extraordinary country. The crisis is seriously damaging our economy with social effects which in some cases could result in dramatic outcomes. Traditionally, fall is the season where hidden tensions may become more serious and turn into an escalation of trade-union, economic, and political debates. This year, the vicious circle triggered by the need to contain public debt and re-launch growth, along with the still ongoing threat of speculative attacks against our sovereign bonds, could contribute to further increasing tensions and leave room for initiatives by illegal organizations.
We closely monitor the evolution of the events, ready to detect any possible alarm signal. However, we deeply believe that the most efficient weapon to nip any temptation to yield to violence in the bud is the sense of responsibility of all the players on the field. From this perspective, the democratic forces of our country show they are able to react with maturity to an unquestionably very difficult situation. We are working so that this effort will be rewarded.

The “planet” young people: outlook and education
I deeply believe in young people. They are an essential resource. Our future. Proof of this is that as Secretary General at the Farnesina, I have always supported the appointment of young diplomats as Ambassadors and Consuls-General, even in countries important for bilateral relations and national interests.
Italy can count on really qualified young people, coming from our universities and from studying abroad, often in centers of academic excellence. Therefore, I am convinced that our Intelligence System can and must draw from this valuable wealth of know-how and professional expertise without fear of triggering processes of healthy contagion, reaching out to circles traditionally distant from our Intelligence Services.
That is the reason why, also thanks to the important innovations in this field introduced by Law 124/2007 and the recent amendments upon a COPASIR request, we are working towards the establishment of more and more transparent and meritocratic recruiting procedures aimed at attracting new professional profiles, taking into consideration the high potential of the private sector both in terms of new ideas and innovation.
Working for the Intelligence Services is a job like many others; no-one was born being an intelligence officer, apart from abilities and talent which are innate in everyone of us. As a job, Intelligence can be taught.
Therefore, the key word is training.
The challenge we are facing is that of enhancing the value of our human resources, notably the new generation, with a path of constant training and professional growth for any job position.
Our goal is to assure that Intelligence Agencies will have a gradual generational turnover, necessary to maintain the standard of excellence in our work for our country.

Looking back, what do you miss about your twenties?
Freedom, above all.
The possibility and, maybe, the carelessness with which I could make my own choices. Professionally, I have no particular regrets, but if I could go back in time, when I had to decide what career to embark on, I would carefully considered that of an intelligence officer, a career – I must admit – I had never thought before starting this extraordinary job experience!

12th july 2012
Il Director General of DIS in visit to AISI