Chile, Intelligence and Security

views updated

Chile, Intelligence and Security


Following a coup on September 11, 1973, Augusto Pinochet assumed power of Chile and for nearly two decades, the dictatorial Pinochet regime created and utilized various intelligence and secret police forces to ferret out and persecute political dissidents. The political prisoners seized by Pinochet's forces became known as the Desaparecidos, or Disappeared Ones. Little is known regarding the circumstances of their detainment and subsequent execution, but over 3000 Chilean citizens were killed or disappeared during Pinochet's rule. In 1989, Pinochet lost power in Chile. The subsequent government was left to deal not only with the public memory of the era, but also with a massive restructuring of government agencies, most especially within the intelligence community.

After Pinochet seized power, he established the Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia (DINA), or the National Intelligence Directorate in 1974. The agency oversaw military intelligence as well as the national police force. DINA had a paramilitary wing and operated a large secret police force. In 1977, the agency was replaced by the more powerful Centro Nacional de Información (CNI), the National Information Center. The CNI performed the same duties as DINA, but also wielded significant judicial powers. No distinction was made between military and civilian accused persons, and the agency directed military tribunals that prosecuted civilians. The CNI was chiefly concerned with internal security, espionage, and protecting the Pinochet regime. The agency maintained records on private citizens and organizations, often tapping phones and intercepting private wire and written communications. Agents also located and captured persons who fled persecution by escaping to neighboring countries.

After the end of the Pinochet regime, the new government dissolved the CNI in 1990. Many former CNI intelligence agents and members of the secret police were reassigned to military intelligence units or the newly created Dirección de Inteligencia de la Defensa Nacional (DIDN), the Directorate of National Defense and Intelligence. Unlike its predecessor agencies, the DIDN is chiefly concerned with defense, not internal intelligence. DIDN coordinates the operations of national intelligence forces, sometimes including military intelligence. Though not without controversy in its own right, the agency seeks to distance itself from the legacy of the CNI and DINA secret police forces.

The role of the Chilean national police forces also changed with government and constitutional reforms in 1980 and 1990. Chile has two main national law enforcement forces, both of which also have roles in the intelligence community. The Carabineros, the national uniformed police, are charged with public safety and border patrols. Under the operational direction of the Ministry of the Interior, the police force is actually part of the Ministry of Defense. The Carabineros also have a paramilitary units and a counterintelligence arm that combat drug trafficking and enforce border security. One branch of the special paramilitary forces, the Dirección de Inteligencia de Carabineros (DIC), or Intelligence Directorate, is a counter-subversive intelligence unit charged with fighting terrorism. While laws established protecting the rights of detained persons are largely followed by the police forces, several journalists, citizens, and even legislators have charged some of the Carabineros' paramilitary forces with human rights abuses, including arrest, prolonged detainment, and torture of political dissidents.

The second Chilean police force is the Investigations Police, which employs, among other law enforcement strategies, civilian plain-clothes forces that oversee surveillance and apprehension of suspected criminals and terrorists. The agency investigates serious crime, such as fraud, theft, and murder, and aids the Carabineros with intelligence and investigative work. The Investigations Police maintains airport security and operates the National Identification Bureau, which keeps biographical and criminal records of all citizens and issues national identification cards. Like the Carabineros, the Investigations Police has weathered public suspicion for alleged abuses of power.

Chile has two major advisory boards that address issues of national security, intelligence, and defense. The Consejo Asesor de Seguridad Interior (CASI), or Internal Security Advisory Council, is comprised of the Minister of the Interior and various military representatives. CASI advises the executive branch on matters of domestic security. A second committee the Consejo Asesor Político-Estratégico (CAPE), or Strategic Political Advisory Council, monitors defense planning and external security threats.

In the Chilean government, the executive branch has constitutionally granted control over the nation's military, intelligence, and police agencies. However, this power was severely checked by constitutional reforms in 1990. The Carabineros and various military branches are now more autonomous and the president must appeal to his National Security Council, Cosena, to remove and replace heads of the various departments and services.

Constitutional and governmental reforms enacted since the early 1980s have radically altered Chilean intelligence and security agencies. As past abuses and atrocities are investigated and brought to light by the international community, especially following the 1999 arrest and detainment of Pinochet on charges of human rights crimes, current Chilean intelligence agencies seek to distinguish themselves from the reputation of their predecessors, despite continuing to hold similarly broad powers with limited legal and administrative restraints.



Collier, S., and W. F. Sater. A History of Chile, 18081994, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.


The Government of Chile. <> (14 January 2003).

About this article

Chile, Intelligence and Security

Updated About content Print Article