Italy: Law reforms intelligence services (1)

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The new intelligence services law received its unanimous final approval in the senate's constitutional affairs committee on 1 August 2007. This follows a long catalogue of scandals including involvement in CIA renditions, unlawful monitoring of the activities of politicians, authorities, businessmen and, most recently, lawyers, members of the judiciary and NGOs, and the planting of scares and false information in the media while having journalists as paid informants. SISMI, the military intelligence service, had been at the centre of the scandals, and its director Nicolò Pollari, who is on trial in connection with the Abu Omar rendition, was replaced in November 2006.

The concerns raised by the scandals and judicial proceedings involving the intelligence services among the political class were two-fold: on the one hand, there was the degree of autonomy that allowed the carrying out of activities straying from their remit, such as renditions, misinformation, including the misleading of judicial investigations and unlawful information gathering and surveillance activities resulting in the compiling of dossiers; on the other, the embarassment and loss of credibility caused by judicial proceedings, increasingly serious revelations and the disclosure of secret or confidential information liable to be harmful for Italy's security, including through the loss of trust in Italian security information services by foreign agencies with which they co-operate.

The new law changes the bodies and institutions tasked with intelligence activities, places them more closely under the prime minister's authority and 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.

New information system for security

The reform replaces the current intelligence services, SISMI (military secret service, run by the defence ministry), SISDE (for the defence of democratic institutions, run by the interior affairs ministry) and CENSIS (co-ordination, analysis and direction, under the authority of the prime minister's office, which was ultimately responsible for the intelligence structure), with a new "information system for security". It will comprise the Agenzia informazioni e sicurezza esterna (AISE, external information and security agency), Agenzia informazioni e sicurezza interna (AISI, internal information and security agency), the Dipartimento delle informazioni per la sicurezza (DIS, security information department) and the Comitato interministeriale per la sicurezza della Repubblica (CISR, interministerial committee for the security of the Republic), an advisory, proposal and deliberation body establishing policy guidelines and objectives chaired by the prime minister and comprising the ministers for foreign affairs, home affairs, defence, justice and economy, which already existed under the previous law. The DIS general director will act as secretary of this body.

The reform thus changes the structure from one in which SISMI was a barnch of the defence ministry and in charge of information and security activity for the military defence of the state's independence and integrity from any danger, threat or aggression, and SISDE was part of the interior ministry and tasked with defending the democratic state and the integrity of the institutions established by the constitution from anyone intending to attack or subvert them, to one in which the main distinction is between internal and external security. AISE will only be able to conduct activities within national territory in co-ordination with AISI, and the same applies to AISI activities abroad. Neither

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