Italy, Intelligence and Security

Italy, Intelligence and Security

Although the Italian city-states were among the most prosperous and influential political organizations during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the modern nation-state of Italy did not emerge until the nineteenth century. King Victor Emmanuel united the city-states and kingdoms on the Italian peninsula, and the neighboring island provinces of Sicily and Sardinia in 1861. Italy was ruled by a monarchy and parliamentary government until the 1920s when Benito Mussolini established a fascist dictatorship. Through his fascist reforms, Mussolini hoped to make Italy's more agrarian south as prosperous as its industrialized north, but his alliance with Nazi Germany thrust Italy into World War II. Italian nationalists, sympathetic to the Allies, formed partisan groups that fought the Germans and fascist secret police forces behind enemy lines until the Allies successfully invaded the Italian peninsula. After Italy's defeat, the fascist regime was replaced by a democratic government.

The Executive Committee for the Intelligence and Security Services (CESIS) maintains the Office of the Secretary General, which filters and disseminates information collected by the various branches of the Italian intelligence and security committee. The main mission of the office is to act as a liaison between the intelligence services and the government, briefing government officials on intelligence matters and threats to national security when necessary. Representatives from the Office of the Secretary General routinely brief the President of the Council of Ministers regarding intelligence policy and operations. The office also coordinates inter-agency intelligence operations and established protocol regulations for intelligence personnel.

The Service for Information and Democratic Security (SISDE), administered by the Ministry of the Interior, is Italy's main domestic intelligence agency. The organization carries out all forms of surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, using some of the most sophisticated technologies in the European intelligence community. The SISDE contains several specialized operational departments, including anti-terrorism, counterintelligence, and anti-industrial espionage forces. The SISDE is also responsible for analysis of its own intelligence information, submitting completed reports or time-critical information to the CESIS.

Italy maintains specialized, strategic intelligence units within all branches of its military. However, the military and the government also administer the Intelligence and Military Security Service (SISMI). The Ministry of Defense oversees SISMI, whose responsibilities include the collection of military-related intelligence, counterespionage, and information analysis. The organization focuses on assessing threats to military and national security, whether from foreign or domestic entities.

Law enforcement in Italy is two-tiered. The military trains and administers the national police force, the Carabinieri, which has jurisdiction throughout Italy. The military police work closely with intelligence agencies, protecting national interests and investigating federal crimes. Provinces and municipalities maintain their own civil police.

Today, Italy is part of the expanding European Union (EU). The nation participates in the European Monetary Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations (UN), and several other international organizations. In 2002, Italian representatives to the EU successfully lobbied for a proposal to create EU-managed, pan-European defense and intelligence forces.

Italy is closely allied with the United States and in 2003 supported U.S. efforts in Iraq. The Italian intelligence community aids international anti-terrorist efforts, devoting considerable resources to the ferreting-out of terrorist cells operating or distributing finances within Italy's national borders.



Richelson, Jeffrey T. Foreign Intelligence Organizations, 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing, 1994.

Willan, Philip. Puppet Masters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy. London: Constable, 1991.

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