Austria, Intelligence and Security

Austria, Intelligence and Security

Following World War II, Austria faced the monumental task of restructuring its national government and intelligence forces. The Nazi government before and during the war substantially increased the nation's intelligence service, but post-war Austria sought to distance itself from the Nazi legacy. The intelligence system was reformed wholly, along with the nation's extensive police and security forces. Because of its central geographic location, post-war Austrian military intelligence agencies played a crucial role in signals intelligence during the Cold War.

Intelligence and security forces in Austria follow the traditional division between military and civilian, domestic and foreign intelligence agencies. The individual military services and the Ministry of Defense supervise military agencies; the Ministry of Interior regulates civilian intelligence agencies and police forces. The main units of the military intelligence force are the Nachrichtendienstliche Aufklärung , or Army Intelligence Service, and the Nachrichtendienstliche Abwehr , Army Counterintelligence Service. Both agencies primarily focus on external intelligence, often working with Austrian civilian and international intelligence agencies.

Austria's premier civilian intelligence agency is the Generaldirektion für dieÖffentliche Sicherheitt , or General Directorate for Public Safety. The agency coordinates domestic intelligence operations and assesses internal national security risks. The Staatspolizei , State Police, is the main national police force. The State Police is charged with ensuring public welfare and aiding in the protection of national interests within Austria's borders.

Proving that Austria is a pioneering nation in the widespread use of scientific forensic evidence, its civilian and military intelligence agencies created a nationwide DNA database. Austria's DNA database, the result of cooperation between the Ministry of the Interior and the Institute of Legal Medicine at the University of Innsbruck, was created in 1997. While the police and security agencies actively seek to expand the database, the Austrian government has enacted several measures to insure privacy and fairness in the use of the DNA database. The Ministry of the Interior maintains a database with personal information on each sample, while personal information is withheld from the lab that processes samples for criminal and intelligence investigations. The DNA database is controversial, but Austrian authorities claim the system aids police forces, protects citizens, and greatly improves counterintelligence operations.

Austria's domestic intelligence and security forces declared a new effort to combat money laundering and banking fraud in 2002. The country passed legislation in 2000 and 2001 permitting the continued use of limited anonymous bank accounts. With the creation of a financial market intelligence unit, Austrian intelligence hope to closely monitor the use of such accounts to ensure that their funds were not used to support fraudulent enterprise, illegal trafficking, or terrorism.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Austria joined the international coalition to fight terrorism. A member of the European Union, Austria pledged to contribute signals intelligence technology to pan-European counterterrorism measures. Austria's advanced and extensive financial intelligence network aids the discovery and seizure of funds used by terrorist cells. Along with Switzerland, Austria ferreted out nearly forty percent of all such illegal funds seized in Europe in 2001. The Austrian government created an inter-ministerial committee to oversee counterintelligence against the financing of terrorism. The committee, comprised of representatives from the Ministries of Finance, Justice, and the Interior, coordinates the combined efforts of Austria's various counterintelligence units and their cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies.


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