In Romania, the Department for State Security (Departamentul Securității Statului) is most vividly associated with the terrors and excesses of the Ceauşescu dictatorship. The Securitate was founded on August 30th, 1948 with help from the Soviet NKVD, the precursor to the Soviet’s infamous KGB. Romania’s State Security had a heavy presence in civil society, with some 11,000 citizens employed directly by the Securitate and another half a million citizens used as informants for a nation with a population of 22 million people. Founded by Decree 221/30 of the Presidium of the People’s National Assembly, the Securitate can actually trace its roots back to 1944 during King Michael’s coup d’etat again Ion Antonescu, the pro-Nazi ruler of Romania. King Michael had convinced a coalition of groups that included the communists to resist and fight against the Nazis and offer aid to the Allies. For his assistance, King Michael’s Romania was given over to the Soviets after the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Communists assumed control of the nation, with King Michael fleeing into exile in 1947. The Securitate’s stated mission was: “To defend democratic conquests and guarantee the safety of the Romanian Peoples’ Republic against both internal and external enemies.” To this end, they were brutally efficient and well-adapted to the job.
During the 1980’s the Securitate encouraged divisions among certain segments of Romanian society by pitting one against the other and ruthlessly denouncing anyone who disagreed with the regime’s orthodoxy. In a blend of actions reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution, anti-revolutionaries and intellectuals were anyone with an education who had disagreements with the regime. They were to be denounced publicly and often were done so in front of crowds of their fellow citizens. In July 1978, Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest ranking Eastern Bloc intelligence official ever to defect, came over to the United States at a U.S. embassy in Bonn, West Germany after being granted asylum by then U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Pacepa was a two-star rank Securitate General and an advisor to Ceauşescu. His defection was a blow to the Securitate’s image in the Eastern Bloc and may have contributed to the paranoid tactics the agency began to employ in the 1980’s.
In September of 1978 Ceauşescu offered a bounty of $2 million dollars for the capture of Pacepa, while Ceauşescu’s friends in Muammar Qaddafi and Yasser Arafat each offered $1 million dollars for the same. The 1987 work “Red Horizons” by Pacepa was broadcast in serial format over Radio Free Europe and was popular among Romanians who had never before heard about the inner workings of the dreaded Securitate. In addition to his anti-communist writings, Pacepa has also proven to be the source of many controversial statements, including his assertion that the Soviet KGB was responsible for the deaths of communist Romania’s first leader Gheorghiu-Dej, assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong.
Technology employed by the Securitate to monitor Romania’s citizens was very similar to that used by the KGB and East Germany’s Stasi; namely, wire monitoring devices, secret recorders, as well as the interception of all incoming and outgoing faxes, telexes and mail. The security apparatus existed at all levels of society and functioned to ferret out dissension wherever it may be located. The General Directorate for Technical Operations was charged with the task of intercepting all voice and electronic communications into and out of Romania while the Directorate for Counter-Espionage monitored foreigners within Romania as well as any contact they may have had with Romanian citizens. Directorate V provided bodyguards and protection for elite members of state. Estimates vary, but the presence of the agency was so overwhelming that it is estimated one in four Romanian citizens was tied in some way to the work of the Securitate. With the fall of Ceauşescu in 1989, the Securitate ceased to exist as it had for decades prior. Like in Russia, many successful businessmen in post-Communism Romania have or are rumored to have Securitate ties.