Foreign Intelligence Service (Romania)

The Foreign Intelligence Service, or Serviciul de Informații Externe (SIE) in Romanian, is, under Law no. 1/1998, "the state body specialized in foreign intelligence concerning the national security and the safeguarding of Romania and its interests".

The SIE carries on its activity in keeping with the Constitution of Romania, the laws of the country, the Decisions of the Country's Supreme Defense Council (CSAT), and military regulations. The activity of the service has the character of a state secret. The sources of intelligence, the ways and means its mission is carried out cannot be disclosed to anyone, under whatever circumstances. The disclosure, in any way, of information and intelligence that make the object of activity of the Foreign Intelligence Service is forbidden, and punishable as laid down in the law.

The Foreign Intelligence Service is authorized, under the law, to use specific methods, develop and own appropriate means for obtaining, checking, assessing, turning to account, storing and protecting intelligence information relating to national security. It also has the right, in the conditions established under the law, to ask for and obtain from the Romanian public authorities, companies, other legal entities, as well as from individuals, intelligence, information, or documents needed in accomplishing its missions.

Foreign Intelligence Service
Serviciul de Informații Externe
Serviciul de Informații Externe - Logo
Agency overview
FormedFebruary 8, 1990
Preceding agency
  • DIE (Directia Informatii Externe)
Annual budgetClassified
Agency executive
  • Gabriel Vlase, Director


By Decree no. 111/February 8, 1990 issued by the Committee of the National Salvation Front, the Foreign Intelligence Centre (Centrul de Informații Externe (CIE)) was confirmed as an institution of the Romanian state, mandated to carry out its activity in the field of foreign intelligence. Law no. 39/December 13, 1990 gave an identity to the Foreign Intelligence Service, as this regulatory act stipulates for the first time the name of the SIE, as a CSAT member.

The legal framework that regulates the activity of the SIE is based on Law no. 51/1991 on national security, Law no. 415/2002 on the organization and functioning of the CSAT, Law no. 182/2002 on the protection of classified information, and Law no. 1/January 6, 1998 on the organization and functioning of the Foreign Intelligence Service, completed by the Emergency Ordinance (OUG) no. 154 on November 21, 2001.

Cooperation with the other intelligence services in Romania

In a united Europe and in a global world, the SIE has developed, since 1991, a close cooperation with similar institutions in several countries, having beneficial effects on safeguarding the national security. In keeping with national regulations, the Romanian intelligence services frequently carry out joint actions aimed at preventing and countering events that might prejudice Romania's national security.

The cooperation between the SIE and other structures with responsibilities in the field of national security is achieved through operational intelligence exchanges on matters of common interest, as well as in other aspects or working ways that contribute to ensuring national security. This process is carried out according to certain cooperation protocols negotiated between the parties, which stipulate the obligation of immediately informing each other on aspects regarding national security.

Communication with the civil society and the media

The relation of the Foreign Intelligence Service with the civil society and the media is managed by a special structure in its organizational chart. This structure coordinates at the same time, in keeping with its responsibilities, the institutional relations of SIE with the Parliament, the Presidential Administration, the Government and the governmental organizations, as well as with the other structures in the central public administration.

In communicating with the civil society and the media, the SIE strikes a necessary balance between the citizen's right to be informed in conditions of transparency and the obligation to keep secret the information that, under the law, cannot be disclosed. This inevitably leads to a range of restrictions entailed by the specificity of the work that can otherwise be found in all the intelligence services in the democratic states.

Overseeing the activity of the SIE

The activity of the Foreign Intelligence Service is organized and coordinated by the Country's Supreme Defence Council (CSAT). The CSAT approves the organisational structure, the staff in peacetime or during mobilization, the functioning regulation, and the tasks of the Foreign Intelligence Service. Every year, or whenever the circumstances make it necessary, the SIE Director submits to the CSAT reports on the way the Service accomplishes its missions.

Control upon the activities of the SIE is exercised by the Parliament of Romania, via a special Parliamentary Committee, tasked with observing the confidentiality and the means and sources of intelligence collection. The special committee is made up of three deputies and two senators, elected from among the Committees for Defence, Public Order and National Security of the two Chambers. Parliamentary oversight aims to check whether the activity of the Foreign Intelligence Service is consistent with the Constitution of Romania and the policies of the Romanian state. While exercising the prerogatives incumbent upon it, the Commission demands from the SIE, through its director, papers, information, and intelligence, and may conduct hearings of individuals connected to the issues being analysed. The Foreign Intelligence Service is bound to meet, in due time, the Committee's requests and allow the hearing of the respective persons, with prior approval by the SIE Director.

Financially, the activities of the Foreign Intelligence Service are audited by the Ministry of Public Finances, which exercises a delegated pre-emptive financial verification, and the Audit Office, through its follow-on control over the execution of the revenue and expenses budgets. The Public Ministry also gives clearances on and authorizes the legality of some activities conducted with a view towards gathering intelligence.

Surveillance of private persons and the press

On February 4, 2015, Mugur Stroe - a former chief of SIE, declared that the Service possessed compromising pictures of TV presenters and press writers.[1] This alarming statement has been made in the context of accusations of corruption against the Romanian Intelligence Service.


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External links

Clandestine human intelligence

Clandestine human intelligence is intelligence collected from human sources using clandestine espionage methods. These sources consist of people working in a variety of roles within the intelligence community. Examples include the quintessential spy (known by professionals as an asset or agent), who collects intelligence, couriers and related personnel, who handle an intelligence organization's (ideally) secure communications, and support personnel, such as access agents, who may arrange the contact between the potential spy and the case officer who recruits them. The recruiter and supervising agent may not necessarily be the same individual. Large espionage networks may be composed of multiple levels of spies, support personnel, and supervisors. Espionage networks are typically organized as a cell system, in which each clandestine operator knows only the people in his own cell, perhaps the external case officer, and an emergency method (which may not necessarily involve another person) to contact higher levels if the case officer or cell leader is captured, but has no knowledge of people in other cells. This cellular organization is a form of compartmentalisation, which is an important tactic for controlling access to information, used in order to diminish the risk of discovery of the network or the release of sensitive information.

Espionage is the act of obtaining (typically via covert methods) information which an adversary would not want the entity conducting the espionage to have. Espionage is inherently clandestine, and the legitimate holder of the information may change plans or take other countermeasures once it is known that the information is in unauthorized hands. See the articles such Clandestine HUMINT operational techniques and Clandestine HUMINT asset recruiting for discussions of the "tradecraft" used to collect this information.

HUMINT is in a constant battle with counterintelligence, and the relationship can become very blurry, as one side tries to "turn" agents of the other into reporting to the other side. Recruiters can run false flag operations, where a citizen of country A believes they are providing intelligence to country B, when they are actually providing it to country C.

Unlike other forms of intelligence collection disciplines, espionage usually involves accessing the place where the desired information is stored, or accessing the people who know the information and will divulge it through some kind of subterfuge. There are exceptions to physical meetings, such as the Oslo Report, or the insistence of Robert Hanssen in never meeting the people to whom he was selling information.

This article does not cover military units that penetrate deep between enemy lines, but generally in uniform, to conduct special reconnaissance. Such military units can be on the border of the line, in international law, which defines them as spies, if they conduct information in civilian clothes. In some circumstances, the uniformed personnel may act in support to the actual agents, providing communications, transportation, financial, and other support. Yet another discipline is covert operations, where personnel, uniformed or not, may conduct raids, sabotage, assassinations, propaganda (i.e., Psychological warfare), etc.

Claudiu Săftoiu

Claudiu Elwis Săftoiu (born 11 October 1968) is a Romanian journalist. From December 2004 to October 2006, he was an adviser to President Traian Băsescu on matters of domestic policy; subsequently, until March 2007, he directed the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE). He headed Romanian Television from July 2012 to December 2013.

He was married to former presidential adviser and member of the Chamber of Deputies Adriana Săftoiu for eighteen years until their divorce in 2011; they have one child.

Grupul Antiterorist

Grupul Antiterorist (The Anti-Terrorist Group) is an anti-terrorist unit belonging to the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service.

Serviciul de Informaţii Externe (SIE, the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service) is responsible for collecting information and carrying out intelligence activities abroad, although it also incorporates a small counter-intelligence unit that is tasked with the surveillance of foreign operatives on Romanian soil.

Allegedly, in 1998 the Romanian Government decided that SIE needed a small anti-terrorist detachment, which could be used in capturing terrorist elements abroad, in cooperation with similar friendly structures from NATO.Thus, the detachment was created, with members taken mainly from Romania's national anti-terrorist authority, the Brigada Antiteroristă of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI, Romanian Intelligence Service). The small detachment was composed of only 23 operatives.

Over the years, their number was decreased to 15 operatives. The Group's activities are unknown, and the unit was secret until its existence was revealed by the Romanian President Traian Băsescu in a public speech, where he thanked the Group for taking part in the liberation of the three Romanian journalists held hostage in Iraq in 2005.

This created confusion among the written press in Romania, with some newspapers claiming the operators had actually been from Brigada Antiteroristă, while others were speaking of an entire "Anti-Terrorist Brigade of SIE".

However, Băsescu continued to praise the Group's activity on many occasions, including its alleged cooperation with similar NATO structures. It is highly unlikely that the President himself, who was the head of the Emergency Response Cell created to deal with the hostage crisis, was confused about the unit's very existence.

Therefore, it is logical to assume that this unit truly exists, and that, according to Băsescu and his hostage negotiation team, eight of its fifteen members were present in Baghdad during the hostage crisis, and managed to free all three hostages and bring them back to Romania.

As an additional element to support this assumption, combatants with face-masks were seen disembarking from the Romanian Air Force C-130 aircraft which brought the hostages back to Bucharest.

Ioan Talpeș

Ioan Talpeș (born 24 August 1944) was a Romanian Army general, military historian and politician. He served as head of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) from 1992 to 1997. In 1997-8, Talpeș served as Ambassador to Bulgaria and acted as an advisor to President Ion Iliescu from 1999 to 2000. He is currently an independent Senator representing Caraş-Severin County, having resigned from the Social Democratic Party (PSD) in May 2005 because of a scandal involving the party.

Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu

Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu (Romanian pronunciation: [miˈhaj rəzˈvan uŋɡuˈre̯anu]; born 22 September 1968) is a Romanian historian, politician and former Prime Minister of Romania. He was the foreign minister of Romania from 28 December 2004 to 12 March 2007, and he was appointed as Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service later in 2007. Following the resignation of the Emil Boc government he was appointed Prime Minister serving through April 2012 when his cabinet was dismissed following a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He was confirmed by the Parliament for a second term as Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, after President Klaus Iohannis nominated him in June 2015 but he resigned in September 2016, citing health issues.

Nicolae Pleșiță

Nicolae Pleșiță (Romanian pronunciation: [nikoˈla.e ˈpleʃit͡sə]; April 26, 1929 – September 28, 2009) was a Romanian intelligence official and secret police investigator. From 1980 to 1984, he led the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Securitate, the secret service of Communist Romania. He was described by the New York Times and Associated Press at the time of his death as "a die-hard Communist and ruthless chief of the Securitate secret police."A participant in various actions taken against armed or peaceful anti-communist groups, Pleșiță began his career as a Romanian Communist Party cadre, and rose through the ranks of the Securitate while holding various political offices in the Interior Ministry. Personally involved in the brutal interrogation of dissidents such as Paul Goma, and allegedly the person masterminding several attacks on the Romanian diaspora, he is most remembered for his connections with the Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal. He arranged for Carlos to be sheltered in Romania after the bombing of Radio Free Europe and was accused, but eventually found innocent in a Romanian court, of complicity in the bombing. After the successful 1989 Revolution, Pleșiță was also noted for openly admitting his various involvements in acts of violence, and for claiming that they were justified by circumstance.

Serghei Nicolau

Serghei Nicolau (born Sergey Nikonov; 1905–1999) was a Romanian communist espionage chief.

An ethnic Russian, Nicolau, like his boss Emil Bodnăraș, was recruited by the NKVD. This occurred in the late 1930s after he was expelled from the Chemistry faculty of Iași University, for attending meetings of the banned Romanian Communist Party (PCR). His studies abroad, in Brussels and Marseille, were paid for, and in the latter city, he was part of the local French Communist Party leadership. At the beginning of World War II, he was assigned to return to Romania in order to set up a spy network, but he was captured at sent to prison, where he spent part of his sentence alongside another NKVD agent, Gheorghe Pintilie. While at Doftana prison, the two belonged to a group of Soviet agents around future PCR leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. Following the 1949 arrest of N. D. Stănescu, he was made head of the External Intelligence Service (SSI). Guided by Bodnăraș, he worked to recruit loyal agents, both within the agency and in the Romanian Army. In consultation with the local Soviet espionage bureau, the pair reorganized the SSI into four bureaus: foreign information, supervision of diplomatic missions in Bucharest, domestic information and counterespionage activities. From 1954 until his retirement in 1960, Nicolau, who held the rank of lieutenant-general, led the military espionage bureau of the Romanian General Staff.In the early 1950s, his wife Nina was Gheorgiu-Dej's personal secretary.

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