An Intelligence Operator's Experience in Contrasting the Criminal Phenomenon in Italy
Chief of the Operative Division SISDe
The need to respond effectively and efficiently to the aggression by organised crime, broadly identified with the phenomenon of the Mafia, led Italian Governments and Parliaments during the last fifteen years to issue several provisions that may be summarised in the so-called "Mafia emegency legislation", like the legislation issued in the 70s and in the early 80s to face the terrorist emergency.
We are dealing with several provisions facilitating investigative and repressive activities by Police Forces and by the Judiciary, which have already been illustrated by previous speakers.
As head of SISDe's Operational Department, I would like to stress that only one of such provisions deals with the Security Services, i. e. art. 2 of the Law of December 30th 1991, n. 410, setting-up the D.I.A. and entrusting Security Services - SISDe for internal affairs and SISMi for external affairs respectively - with carrying out information gathering activities to contrast organised crime which, by threatening institutions and the development of society, is a source of subversion.
This is an entirely new task for the Services, in addition to those provided for by Law 801/1977, setting up SISMi (Information and Military Security Service) and SISDe (Information and Democratic Security Service) assigning to SISMi all information gathering tasks for the military defence, for the defence of the State's independence and integrity against any danger, threat and aggression, and assigning to SISDe all information gathering tasks for the defence of the democratic State and of the Institutions the Constitution posed at its foundation, against anyone endangering them and against any form of subversion.
Laws n. 801 and n. 410 have two common features:
a. they both entrust the Services with the protection of national security;
b. such protection should be carried out by means of information gathering activities.
The Services should therefore carry out an exclusively cognitive activity, directed to researching and collecting data and information.
Such an information gathering activity is usually known as INTELLIGENCE activity, a much abused definition substantially describing a complex process which, through the research and collection of information and the analysis thereof leads to an evaluation aimed at understanding and foreseeing events, phenomena and behaviours worthy of attention for their contents in terms of present and potential threat to national security, which identifies itself with the vital interests of the State.
Today, State security means above all political stability, protection of institutions and their credibility, defence of the national economic system, fight against crime and criminal business, trust in economic and commercial relationships, social peace, increased employment rates, integration of outcasts, protection of the outcome of scientific and industrial research and so on.
The wording "intelligence activity" always implies the special modus operandi used by the Services to acquire information. As stated above, the Mafia emergency legislation has offered to Criminal Police Bodies new and more incisive investigative instruments, such as wire and premises tapping for preventive purposes, searches, the so-called "controlled delivery" of drugs, seizure of weapons and revenues from money laundering, the simulated purchase of such materials, investigative interviews in jail, and so forth.
Actually, these huge investigation opportunities are denied to our Services since intelligence agents are not Criminal Police Officers and no extension of such powers is provided for by analogy.
The argument held by many is that this is not provided for by law because people employed by the Services can carry out such activities in a non-conventional manner and here we come to the "punctum dolens", i.e. the lawfulness of so-called non-conventional actions performed by Security Services. An extensive literature exists on this subject, part of it defines them as lawful only if marked by legitimacy, or targeted to the implementation of institutional tasks assigned to Security Services.
We are dealing with formally illegal actions i.e. cover-up actions, (offices tapping, use of electronic mini-devices for surveillance and so on) performed by Service officers throughout the world in their search for information on targets otherwise unattainable, in order to protect the security of the State.
Unfortunately all this is forbidden to those employed by the Italian Intelligence Services because, according to our Judiciary, this is incompatible with the principle of legality that all citizens, including Services Officers, must comply with. If this is the situation, I find the reasons for the existence of Security Services difficult to understand, since conventional intelligence activities for preventive reasons can be easily performed by the Police Forces.
As a matter of fact, while waiting for appropriate regulations to discipline the issue, SISDe had to adjust to the situation and refrain from non conventional actions. Today, our technicians provide support to Criminal Police Officers, to facilitate their access to places where electronic devices are to be installed for eavesdropping and other technical operations requiring the use of highly sophisticated devices and of qualified technical personnel within the framework of the Criminal Police activities authorised by the Judicial Authority.
This led to revise the content of the provision contained in the last paragraph of art. 9 of the above-mentioned Law n. 801/77: the relationship between the Criminal Police Officers-Agents and the Services' Officers has now been reversed. It is not up to the former to offer any possible co-operation to the Services, as the law states but it is rather the Services' personnel who act as auxiliaries, for the above-mentioned cases, of the Criminal Police.
Such a co-operation, however, is not exhaustive in terms of SISDe's commitment in the fight against organised crime.
As of today, SISDe is only using sources out of all non conventional actions, and their use is absolutely legal, under art. 203 of C.P.C. (Criminal Procedure Code) which enables Services Officers to keep their names secret.
SISDe's sources are not only close to organised crime groups, but also quite necessary to understand what happens inside such groups and to locate fugitives .
Today, sources must be sought particularly within economic and financial environments, as SISDe's commitment in the fight against organised crime is above all focused on the so-called "economic intelligence" in view of the fact that, as everybody knows, organised crime has greatly developed as from merely criminal entity has turned into a powerful criminal economic holding. It now feels not only the need to acquire wealth, but also to manage such wealth infiltrating our legal economy: immense capitals of illegal origin must still be invested and have started to infiltrate entrepreneurial and trading circuits with devastating effects.
Economic intelligence requires a specific culture, still to come, that may gradually develop through a strong and shared co-operation between Services and other State Institutions.
To this purpose, SISDe, in its effort to reorganise itself, started at the beginning of this year to set up an office to counter the "Economic and Industrial threat" within its Operational Department. This office is divided into three sections, one dealing specifically with illegal financial flows.
Its staff is acquiring intelligence techniques in a brand new sector, strictly related to the reality to be faced in the field, as shown by the recent "Cannizzo Operation" concluded by the Guardia di Finanza, under the direction of Catania Judicial Authority, upon intelligence input by SISDe.
The operation allowed to discover a sophisticated and complex system of laundering huge sums of money, developed by a Mafia family and one of our colleagues who followed it will illustrate it comprehensively tomorrow.
This operation shows that intelligence activity cannot do without the human factor and that it should both be conducted by men and addressed to the alleged protagonists of criminal activity.
The above-mentioned intelligence input was supplied by the Services to a source who had penetrated a particular economic and financial circle.