After the latest terrorist attacks throughout all Europe, the worldwide interest in how secret services work to protect citizens has stirred up again. But before satisfying your curiosity, let’s set some differences: in Italy and in most of Europe, secret services and intelligence are quite not the same thing. Intelligence is a word of latin origin, meaning “to read between the lines”. Their work is to analyse, interpret and evaluate the facts of the world. Secret services, on the other hand, actively operate on the field.
When questioning whether the Italian answer to the latest security threats is adequate, it is important to stress the fact that Italian intelligence services have already dealt with terrorism, during the so-called “anni di piombo” (years of lead), making them more accustomed to certain dynamics.
At the moment, contrary to popular beliefs, there are no servicepeople in the Italian intelligence, following a 2007 law which excluded their permanent employment in the field. However, recently secret services were allowed by the Parliament to use special armed forces if strictly necessary.
The current hierarchical order sees the Italian prime minister as the operative chief of the National Agency for Security (ANS), and the Information for Security Department (DIS) as the managing authority, in charge of both AISE and AISI, respectively the agency for foreign security and the agency for domestic security. Their job is to protect the independence and integrity of the Italian Republic through the gathering of vital information and, occasionally, activities of counter-espionage.
But how can you join the intelligence? Currently there is no thing such as open positions, as the recruitment works with the submission of your cv to the agency, which will define whether you are suitable for the job or not. It is also still quite common to look for candidates in universities by “tapping their shoulders”.
Going back to the latest news, how can Intelligence tell whether there is a major risk of a terrorist attack or not? There are specific criteria, such as attacks in other countries or propagandist videos on the internet. Speaking about the IS, their primary aim is to maximize the media impact of their acts, therefore a special protection was given to historical sites and main cities by the Italian government. However, after the Paris attacks, we learned that “soft targets”, namely, hitting various small gatherings of people at the same time, are becoming more appealing to the terrorists.
The news that German intelligence may have been aware of the threat of an imminent attack in Paris sparked controversy as world leaders called to cooperation between national security agencies. But could they prevent the attacks that left 130 dead? While hoping for collaboration, it is crucial to stress the fact that the data possessed by those agencies may be under state secret, making it highly difficult to communicate and thus prevent further aggressions.