Introduction to Italian Intelligence Agencies — PART II : The last scandal under the 1977 Legal Framework

“Could societies do without spies altogether? He [Italian President Francesco Cossiga] wished to know. What did I think? How was a supposed democracy to control its spies?  How should Italy control them? – as if Italy was a separate case, not a democracy but just Italy in italics. What was my opinion, bluntly, in my own words please, of the Italian Intelligence services en général? Were they worth their salt?  Were they a positive force or a negative one, would I say?”

John le Carré — The pigeon tunnel

Former President Francesco Cossiga

In August 2007, Italy reorganized its Intelligence Services and their Oversight Committee. Let us take a quick look at the old structure which was established nearly three decades earlier. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

In a recent post, we learned that the decision to reorganize the Italian Intelligence Community was made because of a long series of scandals. Before examining the current structure of the Italian Intelligence services [Part III of this series], let us first take a quick look at the last scandal under the old structure which will then be briefly described.

RELATED POST: Introduction to Italian Intelligence Agencies — PART I : The Scandals


On July 21 2006, Adamo Bove stopped his car on a motorway bridge, put on the emergency lights, and jumped to his death. Bove, a former police officer, had joined Italian-Telecom as  its Chief Security officer. All authorized requests made by magistrates to make wiretaps passed by him. Early reports of his death suggested that he was corrupt, depressed and suicidal. Giuliano Tavaroli succeeded Bove as Chief Security officer at the Italian TELECOM company.

While working on the Abu Omar case, the Italian justice system discovered an illegal domestic surveillance program run by Marco Mancini — the then n°2 of SISMI  — with the help of Giuliano Tavaroli and private detective Emanuele Cipriani.

RELATED POST: Former CIA Officer Sabrina de Sousa forced to testify in Italy on ‘rendition program’

Giuliano Tavaroli was arrested on 20 September 2006. Marco Mancini and Emanuele Cipriani were arrested on 13 December 2006. They had targeted more than 5000 individuals and constituted illegal files on various figures in the political, media and financial world. They had been paid more than 20 million euros. [The reporters — Giuseppe D’Avanzo and Carlo Bonini — who broke the Yellowcake forgery story were among the targets.] Officials from SISDE were also involved.

Adamo Bove had identified all the CIA agents involved in the kidnapping of Abu Omar in Milan on February 17 2003. [They had used the same mobile phones before, during  and after the kidnapping.]

While working on this project, Bove discovered a major security flaw in the system. People could enter the Italian Telecom system and implement wiretaps without leaving a trace. Moreover people could also enter the system to delete evidence, again without leaving a trace.

Unbeknownst to Mancini, Tavaroli and Cipriani, Bove had informed a Milan Magistrate who had launched a highly secret investigation which eventually led to their arrest after his death.

The Legislative Act n° 801 (24/10/1977)

The Legislative Act n.801 of 24/10/1977 — itself introduced following a State Scandal — reorganized the Italian IC. This reorganization mainly consisted of splitting the SID — the previous intelligence agency — into two separate agencies with different roles: the SISDE  and the SISMI.

The reform also created the  CESIS to coordinate  the two intelligence agencies and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

Finally, a Parliamentary Committee — COPACO — was established to oversee the activities of the two agencies.

Overview of the 1977 Italian IC structure


Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Democratica (Intelligence and Democratic Security Service), was the domestic intelligence agency of Italy.

SISDE’s mission was targeted to the defense of the State and its Institutions against whoever tries to threaten them, and from all subversion attempts.

It shared responsibility for this task with SISMI, except in matters involving organized crime. SISDE reported to the Ministry of the Interior.


Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare (Military Intelligence and Security Service) was the military intelligence agency.

SISMI was responsible for intelligence and security activities involving the military defence of Italy and for the integrity of the Italian State.

SISMI reported to the Italian Ministry of Defense and operated both inside and outside of Italy’s borders.

It was feasible that domestic Intelligence and Security, which normally fell under SISDE’s jurisdiction (since it reported to the Ministry of the Interior), involved SISMI too, unless the security threat came from organized crime.


Comitato Esecutivo per i Servizi di Informazione e Sicurezza (Executive Committee for Intelligence and Security Services) was an Italian government committee whose mission was the coordination of all the intelligence sector, and specifically between the two civilian and military intelligence agencies (respectively, SISDE and SISMI).

CESIS reported all the relevant information collected to the political Authorities, represented by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.


Comitato Parlamentare di Controllo per i Servizi di Informazione e Sicurezza e per il Segreto di Stato (Parliamentary Committee for the Intelligence and Security Services and for State Secret Control), was a body of the Italian Parliament deputed to survey and oversee the activities of the Italian intelligence agencies.

About Francesco Cossiga

Francesco Cossiga was elected President of Italian Senate in July 1983 before being winning a landslide 1985 election to become President of the country in 1985. Cossiga led the country for seven years until April 1992.

Cossiga’s tendency to be outspoken upset the Italian political establishment and he was forced to resign after revealing the existence of, and his part in setting up, Operation Gladio.  A rogue intelligence network set up under NATO auspices, Gladio carried out bombings across Europe in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Gladio’s specialty was to carry out what they coined “false flag operations”, defined as terror attacks that were blamed on their domestic and geopolitical opposition. [Global Research] Cossiga believed that the CIA had played a role in the 9/11 events.

RELATED POST: 9/11 : Former FBI Mark Rossini Blames the CIA

RELATED POST: CIA Covert Ops in Italy Lasted Long After the 1948 Elections (National Security Archive)


Adamo Bove, Top Investigator in Abu Omar Kidnapping Case — European Tribune

Si suicida Bove, dirigente Telecom — la Republica

Ex-Italian President: Intel Agencies Know 9/11 An Inside Job — Global Research


Introduction to Italian Intelligence Agencies — PART II : The last scandal under the 1977 Legal Framework

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