Spain, Intelligence and Security

Spain, Intelligence and Security

Spain is one of the few Western countries in which a single agency handles both internal and external intelligence. This is CNI, or Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (National Intelligence Center). In addition to CNI, the Spanish military and interior ministry each have their own intelligence branches, whose work includes monitoring Basque terrorists.

CNI. From the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 until 1975, Spain was under the right-wing dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Following Franco's death, the country liberalized rapidly, and in 1977 it dissolved the old intelligence services that Franco had used to maintain control of the country. In place of the Franco-era Political-Social Brigade, the Spanish government established the Centro Superior de Informacion de la Defensa (CESID or Higher Defense Intelligence Center). CESID in 2001 became CNI.

Nominally a civilian agency, though headed by military personnel, CESID placed a priority on monitoring both the homeland and outlying territories, including the Spanish-owned enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coast. It also maintained close relations not only with the intelligence services of Arab countries in North Africa and the Middle East, but with Israel's Mossad as well.

Ministry of Interior. Whereas CNI is primarily concerned with intelligence, the principal focus of the interior ministry is security. The Ministry of Interior is divided into three groups: the National Police, who conduct investigations nationwide and maintain security in urban areas; the Civil Guard, which patrols rural areas, borders, and highways; and autonomous police forces, which have replaced the Civil Guard in Galicia, Catalonia, and the Basque Country.

The last of these regions was the site of the greatest threat to domestic security, in the form of ETA (Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna or Basque Homeland and Liberty), the separatist organization that claimed to represent the Basque people of northwestern Spain. A right-wing force known as GAL (Grupo Antiterrorista de Liberacion or Antiterrorist Liberation Group), believed by some observers to be composed of Civil Guard members, conducted reprisals against ETA.

In May 2002, Spain's parliament passed a law to create an intelligence and security coordinating committee which would oversee the activities of CNI, the police, and the national guard.



Bennett, Richard M. Espionage: An Encyclopedia of Spies and Secrets. London: Virgin Books, 2002.


Champion, Marc. "How Do Other Countries Coordinate Security?" Wall Street Journal. (June 12, 2002): A14.


Spain—Intelligence Agencies. Federation of American Scientists. < > (March 1, 2003).


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