Bolivarian Intelligence Service

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Bolivarian National Intelligence Service
Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional
SEBIN Seal.png
Seal of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service
Flag of SEBIN.gif
Flag of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service
Agency overview
Formed June 2, 2010 (2010-06-02)
Preceding agency
Headquarters Helicoide, Caracas, Venezuela[1]
Employees Classified
Agency executive
Parent agency Ministry of Popular Power for Interior, Justice and Peace

The Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Spanish: Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, SEBIN) is the premier intelligence agency in Venezuela. It was established in March 1969 with the name of DISIP, Dirección Nacional de los Servicios de Inteligencia y Prevención ("National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services"), by then-president Rafael Caldera, replacing the Dirección General de Policía (DIGEPOL). SEBIN is an internal security force subordinate to the Ministry of Popular Power for Interior, Justice and Peace.


The Venezuelan political police has an extensive record of human rights violations, from its foundation as hard-line dictator's Marcos Pérez Jiménez's police, who were in charge of torturing so-called "enemies of State", to its role as a base of operations against post-Revolution Cuba for the Central Intelligence Agency and Cuban exiles such as Luis Posada Carriles[2][better source needed] (who headed the Counterintelligence division[3]), to recent allegations of torture and murder of political opponents.[4][5][6] In their 1997 and 1998 reports, Amnesty International details human rights violations by DISIP, including unlawful detention of Venezuelan human rights activists.[7][8]

Bolivarian Revolution[edit]

Headquarters of SEBIN, called "The Tomb", in Caracas.

In 1999, President Hugo Chávez began the restructuring of DISIP, with commanders and analysts being selected for their political attributes and rumors of some armed civilian groups gaining credentials from such actions.[9] A retired SEBIN commissioner explained that there began to be "biased and incomplete reports, tailored to the new ears, that began to proliferate and ultimately affects the ability of the institution to process information and know what happens".[9] On December 4, 2009, President Chávez, during a swearing-in ceremony for the high command of the recently created Bolivarian National Police (Policía Nacional Bolivariana), announced the change of name of DISIP, with immediate effect, to Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia, or SEBIN).[10]

The restructuring of SEBIN was completed in 2013 with one of its goals to guarantee the "continuity and consolidation of the Bolivarian Revolution in power".[9][11] In the beginning of the 2014–15 Venezuelan protests, SEBIN agents open fire on protesters which resulted in the deaths of two and the dismissal of Brigadier General Manuel Gregorio Bernal Martinez days later.[11]

Under the Nicolas Maduro presidency, a building that was originally intended to be a subway station and offices in Plaza Venezuela was converted into the headquarters for SEBIN.[11][12] Dubbed as "La Tumba" or "The Tomb" by Venezuelan officials, political prisoners are allegedly held five-stories underground in inhumane conditions at below freezing temperatures and with no ventilation, sanitation or daylight.[13][14][15] The cells are two by three meters that have a cement bed, security cameras and barred doors, with each cell aligned next to one another so there are no interactions between prisoners.[12] Such conditions have caused prisoners to become very ill though they are denied medical treatment.[15] Allegations of torture in "The Tomb", specifically white torture, are also common, with some prisoners attempting to commit suicide.[12][13][14] Such conditions according to NGO Justice and Process are to force prisoners to plead guilty to crimes they are accused of.[12]

Domestic actions[edit]


According to El Nacional, SEBIN had raided facilities of reporters and human rights defenders several times.[16] It was also stated that SEBIN occasionally intimidated reporters by following them in unmarked vehicles where SEBIN personnel would "watch their homes and offices, the public places like bakeries and restaurants, and would send them text messages to their cell phones".[16]

Following the Narcosobrinos incident which saw President Maduro's nephews arrested in the United States for drug trafficking, Associated Press reporter Hannah Dreier, who had been awarded for her reporting on Venezuela,[17] was detained by SEBIN agents in Sabaneta, Barinas. SEBIN agents threatened her during an interrogation, saying they would behead her like ISIL did to James Foley and said that they would let her go for a kiss. Finally, agents said that they wanted to coerce the United States to exchange Maduro's nephews for Dreier, accusing her of being a spy and sabotaging the Venezuelan economy.[18]

Public surveillance[edit]

A communication from General Director of CONATEL, William Castillo Bolle, giving the IP addresses and other information of Venezuelan Twitter users to SEBIN General Commissioner Gustavo González López.

In an El Nuevo Herald, former SEBIN officials and security experts state that the Venezuelan government has allegedly spent millions of dollars to spy on Venezuelans; using Italian and Russian technology to monitor emails, keywords and telephone conversations of its citizens; especially those who use the dominant, state-controlled telecommunications provider CANTV. Acquired information is used to create a "person of interest" for Venezuelan authorities, where only selected individuals could have been fully spied on and where a database had been created to monitor those who publicly disagreed with the Bolivarian Revolution.[19]

In 2014, multiple Twitter users were arrested and faced prosecution due to the tweets they made.[20] Alfredo Romero, executive director of the Venezuelan Penal Forum (FPV), stated that the arrests of Twitter users in Venezuela was a measure to instill fear among those using social media that were critical against the government.[20] In October 2014, eight Venezuelans were arrested shortly after the death of PSUV official Robert Serra.[21] Though the eight Venezuelans were arrested in October 2014, the Venezuelan government had been monitoring them since June 2014 according to leaked documents, with the state telecommunications agency Conatel providing IP addresses and other details to the Venezuelan intelligence agency SEBIN in order to arrest Twitter users.[21]

Surveillance on Jewish community[edit]

In January 2013, 50 documents were leaked by the "right-leaning" Analisis24 showing that SEBIN had been spying on "private information on prominent Venezuelan Jews, local Jewish organizations and Israeli diplomats in Latin America". Some info that was gathered by SEBIN operations included office photos, home addresses, passport numbers and travel itineraries. The leaked documents were believed to be authentic according to multiple sources which included the Anti-Defamation League, that stated, "It is chilling to read reports that the SEBIN received instructions to carry out clandestine surveillance operations against members of the Jewish community".[22][23]

Protest suppression[edit]

2004 Venezuela recall protests[edit]

In March 2004, Amnesty International stated in a report following 2004 Venezuela recall protests that SEBIN (then DISIP) "allegedly used excessive force to control the situation on a number of occasions".[24]

2014–17 Venezuelan protests[edit]

SEBIN agent at military ceremony in 2014.

Seven SEBIN members caused the first deaths of the 2014–15 Venezuelan protests on 12 February 2014 after shooting at unarmed, fleeing, protesters several times in violation of protocol, which resulted in the deaths of Bassil Da Costa and Juan Montoya.[25][26] Days later on the 17 February, armed SEBIN agents raided the headquarters of Popular Will in Caracas and held individuals that were inside at gunpoint.[27]

Following alleged human rights violations by SEBIN during the protests, U.S. President Barack Obama used powers granted from the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 and ordered the United States Department of the Treasury to freeze assets and property of the Director General of SEBIN, Gustavo Enrique González López and the former Director General, Manuel Gregorio Bernal Martínez.[28]

International actions[edit]

United States[edit]

In 2012, Livia Acosta Noguera and at least 10 other SEBIN agents that were allegedly operating under the guise of diplomatic missions left the United States following a controversy involving Acosta.[29] In a Univision documentary, while Acosta was a cultural attaché in Mexico, she allegedly met with Mexican students posing as hackers that were supposedly planning to launch cyberattacks on the White House, the FBI, The Pentagon and several nuclear plants.[30][31][32] After an FBI investigation and reactions from members of the United States congress, the United States Department of State declared Acosta Persona non grata.[30][31]

Despite the withdrawal of SEBIN agents, the government of Nicolás Maduro allegedly "maintains a network of spies in the United States, formed by supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution who are paid handsomely" according to former SEBIN officials.[29] The former officials also stated that the contributions of "spies" is maintained by members of the "Patriotas Cooperantes" and from open source contributions, such as from press reports or information posted on websites.[29] The Venezuelan government has used such tactics to reportedly observe government opposition organizations in the United States and has allegedly spied on United States government officials such as Cuban-American senator and representative Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), respectively.[29][33]


A SEBIN agent seen on a motorcycle in Caracas.

This federal entity could be considered the only security agency in Venezuela that never participates in any direct involvement with the general public. SEBIN doesn't patrol the public roads, arrest civilians or do regular law enforcement work like police departments, doesn't participate in any police raids, joint task forces or operations not related to the ministry of interior and justice. Is an agency that combines their counterparts of the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and US Marshal core work, such as counterterrorism, intelligence, counterintelligence, government investigations, background investigations and provides protection/escort for high-ranking government officials, among other federally mandated duties. Officers of this agency are rarely seen in public wearing their full black uniforms; you would possibly see them providing protection within few federal buildings throughout the country.


"Simón Bolívar" satellite[edit]

The communications satellite Simon Bolivar released in 2008 was intended to achieve "absolute and secure handling of information"[this quote needs a citation] in the areas of telephony, data transmission and access to Internet for the DISIP. This would be followed by the purchase of a second satellite for "territorial observation and monitoring". Both satellites are still in use today.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Krygier, Rachelle; Partlow, Joshua (June 24, 2017). "In Venezuela, prisoners say abuse is so bad they are forced to eat pasta mixed with excrement". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 26, 2017. The headquarters of the Venezuelan intelligence service is a vast pyramid-shaped edifice known as the Helicoide, a former shopping mall which now functions as an interrogation pen for political prisoners and protesters. 
  2. ^ "Posada Carriles and his self-exiled Cuban cohorts held top positions in the DISIP during the late 1960s and early 1970s, utilizing the Venezuela intelligence division as a platform to wage their war against the Cuban Revolution. Venezuela became home to the largest Cuban exile community outside of Miami, and the base of operations for numerous terrorist activities that resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of innocent civilians in Cuba and abroad." - Venezuelanalysis, 29 June 2005, Venezuela Rejects CIA, But Opens Doors to FBI & DEA
  3. ^ "CIA declassified document 926816, October 13, 1976" (PDF). Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  4. ^ "Human Rights Watch World Report 2001: Venezuela: Human Rights Developments". Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  5. ^ "HRW World Report 1999: Venezuela: Human Rights Developments". Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  6. ^ [ "Letter to President Hugo Rafael Ch�vez Fr�as (Human Rights Watch, 12-4-2004)"]. Retrieved 11 July 2017.  replacement character in |title= at position 35 (help)
  7. ^ 1997 AI Report Archived June 1, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ 1998 AI Report Archived June 1, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b c Zerpa, Fabiola (18 May 2014). "Abran la puerta, es el Sebin". El Nacional. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Venezuelan Disip to be now designated as Bolivarian Intelligence Service.[permanent dead link] ABN Accessed on December 4th, 2009
  11. ^ a b c "Un calabozo macabro". Univision. 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c d Vinogradoff, Ludmila (10 February 2015). ""La tumba", siete celdas de tortura en el corazón de Caracas". ABC. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  13. ^ a b "UNEARTHING THE TOMB: INSIDE VENEZUELA'S SECRET UNDERGROUND TORTURE CHAMBER". Fusion. 2015. Archived from the original on July 29, 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "Political protesters are left to rot in Venezuela’s secretive underground prison". 25 July 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "tatement of Santiago A. Canton Executive Director, RFK Partners for Human Rights Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights" (PDF). United States Senate. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 29, 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "Abogados denuncian que el Sebin realiza seguimientos para amedrentarlos". El Nacional. 19 May 2014. Archived from the original on 20 May 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  17. ^ "Associated Press announces 2017 staff awards". Associated Press. 23 June 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  18. ^ "Departing AP reporter looks back at Venezuela's slide". The Washington Post. 2 August 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2017. 
  19. ^ "El Nuevo Herald: Gobierno gasta millones en espionaje electrónico de sus ciudadanos". La Patilla. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "Venezuela: ya son siete los tuiteros detenidos por "opiniones inadecuadas"". Infobae. 1 November 2014. Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  21. ^ a b "Netizen Report: Leaked Documents Reveal Egregious Abuse of Power by Venezuela in Twitter Arrests". Global Voices Online. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  22. ^ Filar, Ray (5 February 2013). "Venezuela 'spying' on Jewish community". The JC. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  23. ^ "Venezuela spying on its Jews, documents reveal". The Times of Israel. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  24. ^ "VENEZUELA Protestors in civil disturbances". Amnesty International. Archived from the original on March 22, 2004. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  25. ^ Neuman, William (26 February 2014). "Venezuela Accuses Intelligence Officers of Murdering 2". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  26. ^ "Foreign journal provides identity of shooters". El Universal. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Gupta, Girish (17 February 2014). "Venezuelan security forces raid major opposition base". USA Today. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  28. ^ Rhodan, Maya (9 March 2015). "White House Sanctions Seven Officials in Venezuela". Time. Retrieved 9 March 2015. 
  29. ^ a b c d Maria Delgado, Antonio (16 November 2014). "El régimen de Maduro mantiene una red de espías en Estados Unidos". El Nuevo Herald. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  30. ^ a b "Expulsan a Cónsul de Venezuela en Miami mencionada en documental de Univision". Univision. 8 January 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  31. ^ a b "". BBC. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2014.  External link in |title= (help)
  32. ^ "U.S. expels Venezuelan diplomat in Miami". CNN. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  33. ^ Derby, Kevin (18 November 2014). "Nicolas Maduro's Regime Spies on Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen". Sunshine State News. Archived from the original on 4 February 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 

Coordinates: 10°29′43″N 66°52′57″W / 10.4954°N 66.8826°W / 10.4954; -66.8826