Italian Intelligence Agencies - The March 2007 Reform

The March 2007 Reform

Henceforth, the new center-left government of Romano Prodi enacted the Legislative Act n.124 of 08/03/2007, which created a new "information system for security," placing in particular the intelligence agencies more closely under the Prime Minister's supervision, who is responsible for nominating directors and deputy directors of each agencies, and which

introduces far more detailed procedures with regards to state secrets, cooperation with police forces and public administrations, judicial investigation of the conduct of secret service personnel and the regulation of the instances and procedure for undertaking acts normally deemed illegal and the acquisition of secret documentation by oversight bodies or judicial authorities, than was previously the case under law 801 of 24 October 1977.

It replaced the SISDE, SISMI and CESIS by Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Interna (AISI; internal information and security agency), Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (AISE, external information and security agency) and Dipartimento delle Informazioni per la Sicurezza (DIS, security information department), and the COPACO, transformed into the Comitato interministeriale per la sicurezza della Repubblica (CISR, Interministerial committee for the security of the Republic) was granted additional oversight and control powers, and is still chaired by the Prime minister. It also comprises the ministers for foreign affairs, home affairs, defence, justice and economy. The DIS general director will act as secretary of this body.

While the intelligence agencies were before this reform mainly divided into the SISMI, dependent of the Defense Ministry, and the SISDE, part of the Interior Ministry, the main division line now passes between "internal" and "external" security. On the other hand, the Italian military's new intelligence agency, the Reparto informazioni e sicurezza dello Stato maggiore della difesa (RIS), is not integrated into this "information system for security". Its function is limited "exclusively" to activities of a technical military and military police nature, particularly with regards to collecting information to protect armed force outposts and activities abroad, in co-ordination with AISE.

According to Statewatch, "the law also envisages the adoption of a regulation including provisions to guarantee the information services access to the computer archives of public administrations and public utility providers, with technical means of monitoring what personal data was checked after the event."

Furthermore, the "intelligence services are forbidden from employing or commissioning advisory or co-operation services from elected politicians at the European, national, regional and local level, members of governing bodies or constitutional bodies, judges, religious ministers and journalists."

The DIS will have an investigation office to verify that the activities of the various agencies respect rule of law, and will also have powers to conduct internal investigations.

The commission of illegal acts by intelligence officers, detailed in the law and excluding license to kill, will have to be authorised, case by case, by the Prime Minister or delegated authority, in compliance with a principle of "special cause for justification" for such conduct, as part of an "authorised operation". Such permission will have to be motivated, in writing, and may be subsequently revoked. In cases of "absolute urgency" that do not allow the normal procedure for authorisation to be followed, agency directors may authorise the activities, informing the Prime Minister and DIS "immediately", and explaining the reasons for such a course of action. According to the new law, the principle of justification is not applicable to actions:

endangering or harming life, physical integrity, individual personality, personal freedom, moral freedom, the health or safety of one or more people.

"Authorized operations" explicitly excluded ordinary illegal acts which would be carried in the offices of political parties, in regional parliaments or councils, trade union offices, or if they target professional journalists. Aiding and abetting is allowed, except for cases involving false testimony before judicial authorities, concealing evidence of a crime or where there is an intention to mislead investigations. Three to ten-year prison sentences are envisaged for officers who illegally fix the conditions under which "authorized operations" are granted.

3 to 10 years prison sentences may be incurred for compiling illegal dossiers outside of the intelligence agency's objectives, with secret archives also forbidden.

State secret status may cover "documents, news, activities or any other thing." Declaring "things" a state secret falls under the prerogative of the Prime Minister, who may do so for 15 years period, renewable to 30. It may not be applied to activities involving subversion, terrorism or to attacks aimed at causing deaths. In particular, the Constitutional Court may not be denied access to documents on the basis of them being state secrets. The PM can lift state secret when the initial motivations for it do not apply anymore. State secret may also be lifted for the COPACO if the unanimity of its members agree to do so.

Read more about this topic:  Italian Intelligence Agencies

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