Portugal, Intelligence and Security

Portugal, Intelligence and Security

Portugal's tumultuous twentieth-century political history affected public perception of the nation's government and intelligence officials. In the 1940s, António de Oliveira Salazar's dictatorship created a secret police force, the International Police for the Defense of the State (PIDE). The PIDE gained a reputation for domestic and political espionage, and the arrest, detainment, and torture of anti-government dissidents. The secret police operated above the law in Portugal for over three decades, but used especially brutal means of coercion in the nation's African colonies as an attempt to crush independence movements.

After a coup overthrew Salazar's successor, Marcello Caetano, the secret police was abolished. The agency that replaced the PIDE could not overcome the legacy of its predecessor and was quickly dissolved. Public outcry and government apprehension prevented the formation of a new intelligence service in Portugal for over a decade. In the early 1980s, a string of terrorist attacks on Portuguese interests, including the bombing of their embassy in Turkey, prompted the formation of new intelligence and security service. The new Portuguese intelligence service was established by a newly elected progressive government. Constitutional reforms in 1989 guaranteed that the new intelligence services would be regulated by the government and barred from political and domestic espionage.

Today, Portugal maintains both military and civilian intelligence and security forces. The main intelligence agency is the Sistema de Informacoes da Republica Portuguesa (SIRP), or the Intelligence System of the Portuguese Republic. The SIRP is charged with the protection of national security by producing and analyzing intelligence information gathered from foreign and domestic sources.

The SIRP is divided into two major operational branches. The Security Information Service (SIS) coordinates military and civilian efforts to protect national military, economic, and government interests. The SIS has both counter-intelligence and anti-terrorism special task forces. While the SIS is controlled by the Ministry of Internal Administration, the Ministry of National Defense operates the other significant SIRP division, the Serviço de Informações Estratégicas de Defesa e Militares (SIEDM) or Strategic Defense and Military Intelligence Service. The SIEDM primarily focuses on external intelligence and threats to state property and interests abroad. The agency cooperates closely with the military to conduct defense and anti-terrorism operations.

The Portuguese Armed Forces also maintain their own, individual intelligence units. Operations of all military intelligence forces are classified, but closely monitored by the office of the Prime Minister.

The socialist and democratic socialist parties have continued to vie for power in Portugal's government. Elections held in 2001 yielded a gain of several local offices for the democratic socialists, leading to a turnover in the national government. The current Portuguese government is endeavoring to further the massive constitutional reforms begun in 1986. Portugal is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Part of the European Union (EU), Portugal participates in pan-European intelligence and security organizations as well as the EU currency program.


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