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Intelligence Services

The existence in Portugal of an intelligence apparatus for political surveillance and control was as old as the modern state and dated at least from the sixteenth century. Under Salazar, however, a secret police organization of extensive and pervasive influence became a formidable component of his authoritarian regime. The secret police, called the International Police for the Defense of the State (Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado--PIDE), although under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, was in fact controlled directly by Salazar. Under revisions of the law after 1954, PIDE officers were entitled to act as inquiring magistrates empowered to detain for trial persons suspected of crimes against the state. Suspects were routinely arrested without warrants and often held for months without specific charges brought against them and without access to legal assistance. Disappearance and torture were commonplace.

Agents of PIDE carried out covert operations within communist organizations, the government-run labor unions, the armed forces, the universities, and the Portuguese emigré communities abroad. During the 1960s and 1970s, PIDE directed its efforts to suppressing opposition to the war effort in the African colonies, particularly on university campuses, and to tracking down antiregime terrorists responsible for bombing military and strategic installations.

Although PIDE was renamed the General Security Directorate (Direcção Geral de Segurança--DGS) by Marcello Caetano's government, it retained its old image. The abhorrence felt for it was so strong that it was abolished in Portugal the day after the Caetano regime was toppled. Abuses by the security apparatus were subsequently reported in detail in the Portuguese press, causing even more revulsion among the public. Outrage over the prolonged detention and torture of suspected terrorists and opposition politicians resulted in the arrest of PIDE-DGS agents and investigations of past operations of the organization.

The lingering specter of PIDE and DGS as pillars of the authoritarian regime in the memory of the Portuguese people delayed the establishment of a new civilian intelligence agency for more than a decade. Following an Armenian terrorist attack on the Embassy of Turkey in 1983, the assassination of a Palestine Liberation Organization representative at a Socialist International conference the same year, and a number of domestic terrorist attacks, the Portuguese government became convinced of the need for a new intelligence agency. After the passage of authorizing legislation in late 1984, the Intelligence System of the Republic of Portugal (Sistema de Informações da República Portuguesa--SIRP) was established in 1986. SIRP was intended to be the parent body for three separate intelligence services: the Security Intelligence Service (Serviço de Informações e Segurança--SIS), the Military Intelligence Service (Serviço de Informações Militares--SIM), and the Defense Strategic Intelligence Service (Serviço de Informações Estratégicas de Defesa--SIED). SIS, under the minister of internal administration, was given the mission of gathering intelligence to ensure internal security and to prevent sabotage, terrorism, espionage, and acts that could alter or destroy the constitutionally established state of law. SIM was intended to replace the Military Intelligence Division of the armed forces, but the transition had not been effected as of 1991. Military intelligence continued to be the responsibility of the chief of staff of the armed forces. Its authority was limited to gathering intelligence needed to carry out the missions of the armed forces and to guarantee military security, although some strategic intelligence collection abroad was reportedly also conducted.

Under the 1984 legislation, SIED, reporting directly to the prime minister, was to be responsible for producing intelligence needed to safeguard the independence and external security of the Portuguese state. The government had decided to defer the creation of SIED, however, asserting that the limited financial resources available should be dedicated to developing an effective internal security organization rather than an agency focusing on external security. Thus, SIS was the only arm of the intelligence apparatus operating as contemplated in the 1984 legislation. SIS functioned under considerable handicaps, employing only about eighty persons as of 1990. Its sole office was in Lisbon, although branches were planned for Porto, Ponta Delgada, and Funchal. SIS agents were not authorized to make searches or arrests, to intercept correspondence or tap telephones, or to intervene in normal criminal cases. Although no SIS agents were known to have been exposed to violence, they were entitled to hazardous duty pay at about 30 percent above normal civil service scales.

The 1984 security law prohibited the employment of former PIDE agents in any Portuguese intelligence function. Accordingly, SIS was launched with few adequately qualified individuals. In spite of a public recruiting drive, analysts estimated that it would be some years before Portugal could boast of a domestic intelligence service staffed with fully seasoned personnel.

In light of the history of violations of civil rights by PIDE, several bodies were formed to monitor the activities of the Portuguese intelligence community. The Council to Oversee the Intelligence Services, composed of three deputies elected by the Assembly of the Republic, was mandated to review the actions of the intelligence services and report its findings annually to the Assembly of the Republic. The Commission to Control Data, made up of three judges, monitored the intelligence data center to protect individuals against any collection of data violating their rights under the Constitution. The Superior Intelligence Council, a twelve-member interministerial body, advised the prime minister and coordinated intelligence matters.

Data as of January 1993

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Portugal Table of Contents