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Military Intelligence and Security Service
Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare
Emblem of Italy.svg
The SISMI coat of arms
Agency overview
Formed24 October 1977
Preceding agency
  • SID
Dissolved3 August 2007
Superseding agency
JurisdictionGovernment of Italy
Minister responsible
Agency executive

Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare (abbreviated SISMI, Military Intelligence and Security Service) was the military intelligence agency of Italy from 1977–2007.

With the reform of the Italian Intelligence Services approved on 1 August 2007, SISMI was replaced by Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (AISE).[1]


Since the end of World War II, Italian intelligence agencies have been reorganized many times (SIM 1900–49, SIFAR 1949–65, SID 1965–77) and last SISDE (civil) and SISMI (military) from 1977 to 2007, in an attempt to increase their effectiveness and bring them more fully under civilian control.

The agency was established as part of a broader reform of the Italian intelligence community, which represented the latest in a long string of government attempts to effectively manage Italy's intelligence agencies.

  • In 1977, with Legislative Act n.801, the SISMI was created after a former chief of the SID, Vito Miceli, was arrested in 1974 for "conspiring against the State" (See Golpe Borghese of the 1970). Thus the intelligence agencies were reorganized in a democratic attempt. This re-organization mainly consisted of:
    • The split of SID, the intelligence agency at that time, into two separate agencies with different roles: SISDE (the domestic one) and SISMI (the military one).
    • The creation of CESIS, with a coordination role between the two intelligence agencies and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.
    • The creation of the Parliamentary Committee, COPACO, to oversee the activities of the two agencies.
  • Since 1 August 2007, with Legislative Act n.124 of 08/03/2007, following the reform of the Italian intelligence agencies, SISDE, SISMI and CESIS were replaced respectively by AISI, AISE and DIS,[1] and the COPACO was granted additional oversight and control powers.[citation needed]

The first director of the service was Giuseppe Santovito (1978–1981), succeeded by General Nino Lugaresi was SISMI's director from 1981 to 1984; he testified on Gladio. General Nicolò Pollari was SISMI's second-last director; he resigned on 20 November 2006 after being indicted in the Imam Rapito affair, so Prime Minister Romano Prodi replaced him with Admiral Bruno Branciforte.[citation needed]

Admiral Bruno Branciforte was SISMI's last director, in charge until 3 August 2007.[citation needed] With the reform of the Italian Intelligence Services approved on 1 August 2007 the military intelligence was eliminated, and the Italian intelligence was divided into internal and foreign.[citation needed]


SISMI was responsible for intelligence and security activities involving the military defence of Italy and for the integrity of the Italian State.

SISMI reported to the Italian Ministry of Defense and operated both inside and outside of Italy's borders. It was feasible that domestic Intelligence and Security, which normally fell under SISDE's jurisdiction (since it reported to the Ministry of the Interior), also involved SISMI, unless the security threat came from organized crime.

Its duties included:

  • clearing activities with the Prime Minister;
  • nominating the Director of the Service and his assistants under CIIS supervision.

The directors[edit]


SISMI's motto, as seen on its logo, was "Arcana intellego" (Latin for "Understanding hidden things"). The verb "intellego", which literally means "I comprehend", was chosen because «it evokes the noble root of intelligence, a discipline aimed at unravelling mysteries and holds in itself a constant tension directed to its final goal: knowledge».[2]

Its coat of arms was granted by a decree of the President of the Republic dated 28 January 2004.

Recent controversies[edit]

Nicola Calipari and Giuliana Sgrena[edit]

In 2004, Nicola Calipari, a high-ranking SISMI hostage negotiator, was killed at a U.S. Army checkpoint in Baghdad by Mario Lozano, purportedly after a communication breakdown between the Italian intelligence community and the occupying forces.

Yellowcake forgery[edit]

In 2005, SISMI was implicated in the yellowcake forgery scandal. The forged documents purporting to detail an Iraqi purchase of yellowcake uranium from Niger were given to a "cutout" named Rocco Martino by a Colonel in SISMI, Antonio Nucera.[3] The head of SISMI, after claiming his agency received the documents from external sources, met with then-Deputy National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, on 9 September 2002.

Reportedly, the SISMI director vouched for the documents' authenticity at the meeting;[citation needed] as a result, the White House attempted to insert a reference to uranium from Africa in President Bush's upcoming address to the United Nations, scheduled for 12 September 2002. The CIA removed the reference 24 hours before the address was given. In bypassing the CIA, Pollari ignored the established protocol for contacts between Italian and American intelligence agencies.[4]

President Bush later used the same discredited information when delivering his January 2003 State of the Union address.

Imam Rapito[edit]

In July 2006, the Italian judiciary power issued arrest warrants for several SISMI officials involved in the joint CIA-SISMI operation resulting in the unlawful extraordinary rendition of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, which SISMI Director Pollari had formally denied in testimony before a committee of the national legislature. Among these were:

Nicolò Pollari himself would later be indicted on 5 December 2006 and sentenced to 10 years in jail on February 12, 2013. Marco Mancini was sentenced to 9 years in jail. They appealed against this ruling.

On 16 February 2007, an Italian judge ordered twenty-six Americans and five Italians (including Pollari) to stand trial over the case on 8 June 2007. [3]

As part of the judiciary investigation, a SISMI-run black operation targeting centre-left politician Romano Prodi and a vast domestic surveillance program was uncovered. Pompa prevailed upon the newspaper Libero to print allegations that Prodi, when serving as European Commissioner, had authorized the CIA prison flights via Italy. Targeted in the surveillance program were La Repubblica reporters Giuseppe D'Avanzo and Carlo Bonini, who broke the yellowcake forgery story.

Spying on magistrates[edit]

Italian magistrates searching the SISMI's headquarters in August 2007 found documents proving that the intelligence agency had spied over various European magistrates between 2001 and 2006, whom it considered carrying a "destabilization" potential. These included the Medel, a European association of magistrates, as well as three French judges, including Anne Crenier, former president of the Syndicat de la magistrature French union, who is married to Italian magistrate Mario Vaudano who works at the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Legislative Act n.124 of 08/03/2007, reported on the Official Gazette of the Italian Republic, General Series, n.187 of 08/13/2007. [1][permanent dead link].(in Italian)
  2. ^ The Italian Intelligence and Security Services Official website - SISMI's Coat of Arms Description [2].(in English)
  3. ^ The Italian Connection, Part II, archived from the original on 2 September 2012, retrieved 16 July 2015
  4. ^ Yellowcake Dossier Not the Work of the CIA, 26 October 2005, retrieved 19 May 2016
  5. ^ Paolo Biondani and Guido Olimpio. 11 July 2006 Corriere della Sera, "Un centro segreto Cia-Sismi" available here (in Italian)
  6. ^ Ecco i dossier del Sismi sui generali "di sinistra", La Repubblica, 6 July 2007 (in Italian)
  7. ^ Trois juges français espionnés par les services secrets italiens, Rue 89, 12 July 2007 (in French)

External links[edit]