AFTER TEN YEARS OF DEMOCRACY:
THE CHALLENGE OF REFORM
AND CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT
Buenos Aires - Argentina
The intelligence community was one of the many state areas that suffered distortions as a consequence of frequent interruptions of democracy in Argentina during this century. Until 1983 it was virtually subordinated to the armed forces.
The considerable autonomy that intelligence has got from constitutional controls, either executive or legislative, began to reverse since then. Politicians began to be aware of the issue. Public opinion concerns, the trials to the military commanders and officers involved in the "dirty war" -the fight against subversion during the seventies- and several affairs related to intelligence that occured during these ten years of democracy were crucial for the developing of that awareness.
After so many years of military governments and secrecy, now there is a clear need of public debate and of legislative initiatives about the future of the intelligence system characterized by a considerable dimension, duplications, poor articulation and lack of adequate controls.
Undoubtly, the role of intelligence in a democratic society is too important to be left without any discussion. In this sense, a relevant topic is the prevention of abuses which can emerge as consequence of a lack of tight control on intelligence activities, or of politicization.
The dilemma of Argentina's democracy, a dilemma that is also a concern of other democratic countries, is how to reach a proper balance between the security and intelligence activities and the individual liberties.
The present day structure of the intelligence community of Argentina consists of the following components:
- National Intelligence Center (CNI)1 , a coordination and analytical body with some operational activities; created in 1972 is ruled by a secret Presidential decree. Although its name, it hasn't had a prominent role and since 1983 several efforts were done to reinforce its role as head of the community.
- State Intelligence Secretary (SIDE)2, charged with collecting and producing foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence, is the most important agency with delegations within our country as well as outside. It is subordinate to the President and is ruled by secret decrees and laws. Born under a different name in 1946, it suffered several changes until 1956, when adopted its present name.
- National Direction of Internal Intelligence, a coordination body of the intelligence effort related to domestic security within the Ministry of Interior. It was recently created and is ruled by the Internal Security Law of 1992 and by a Presidential decree (No. 1.273/92) related to that law.
- J-2 Intelligence, Joint Staff of the Armed Forces
- Army Intelligence, including a G-2 within the Army General Staff and a Military Intelligence Collection Center (CRIM)3, with several small units all over the country and formerly known as Army Intelligence Battalion 601 (Batallón de Inteligencia 601).
- Naval Intelligence Service, under the jurisdiction of the Navy General Staff.
- Air Force Information Service, a component within the Air Force Staff.
- An intelligence component of the National Gendarmery.
- An intelligence component of the Argentinian Naval Prefecture.
- Intelligence directions or units in provincial governments structure. An example is the Direction of Information under the Security Secretary of the Buenos Aires Province Executive.
- Intelligence elements of the Argentina's Federal Police (PFA)4 and of the police forces of the provincies.
- An intelligence element within the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice.
- The Federal Service Against Drug Trafficking (SEFECONAR)5, a small intelligence unit with police functions created through a secret Presidential decree (No. 717, April 18, 1991) under the jurisdiction of the Secretary for Coordination and Programming for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and the Fight Against Drug Trafficking. A matter of controversy, its existence has not been acknowledged by Menem Administration.
Indeed the armed forces exercised real control of the civilian intelligence agencies, being the domestic sphere their main interest. Hence, the intelligence activities were conducted fundamentally as support operations for internal security purposes.
Among the military intelligence agencies, the Army Intelligence Battalion 601 was a paradigm of the military involvement in domestic intelligence. This suffered a significant enhancement during the period of the fight against subversion, the so called "dirty war". The violation of human rigths during that period of military government (1976-1983) increased the fears of them.
With Argentina's return to democracy in 1983 there was general consensus about the need to rethink the role of the armed forces. The "military problem" was one of the major concerns related to the stability of the system. To some extent, the same happened with intelligence; the intention to establish limits and if possible to terminate the autonomy of those agencies as well as the involvement of the military in domestic and political intelligence began to increase.
A great effort was done to solve the military problem -through judicial, political and legislative actions. In comparison less was done about intelligence. Indeed discussions and debates of this issue have always been part of other fundamental issues under public and political consideration, such as national defense and internal security.
Although there have been improvements during these ten years of democratic rule, the challenge to fully adapt intelligence to democracy is still pending.
A primary goal of the new administration which took office in December of 1983 was to confine the intelligence agencies and elements within the framework of democratic principles. Three aspects summarize the efforts undertaken by Alfonsín administration (1983-89) in the field of intelligence.
One was the establishment of the civilian control over the area, through the appointment of civilian officials coming from the political sector, being this the first time it happened in the country's history.
The appointment of a civilian as head of the State Intelligence Secretary was one of the most important decisions. Since then, this practice has become an unwritten rule now accepted by politicians. In fact, President Menem appointed two civilians in that post, first a journalist and after his resignation a lawyer.
Another aspect was potentiating the role of the National Intelligence Center as the coordination body in charge of the production of strategic intelligence, decision made with the purpose of generating a centralized assessment function, gathering intelligence and assessments from other agencies, including the intelligence components of the armed forces.
The last aspect to mention is the delimitation of the fields of action, the jurisdiction of the various Argentinian agencies composing the national intelligence system. The National Defense Law, previously explained, established that the military intelligence agencies must not have domestic policy matters as working hypothesis.
This organizational framework remained fundamentally unchanged during the Menem administration (1989- ). Although the area was not at the top of the agenda of controversial issues, several measures undertaken by the new administration and problems around certain activities maintained the concerns.
The debate around the involvement of the military in domestic security and as consequence, in internal intelligence operations did not finished with the approval of the Defense Law. An unexpected ultra-leftist command attack to an army base in January 1989, induced several executive measures. The Alfonsín administration responded creating a Presidential Internal Security Committee including the military chiefs as members. The Decree 327/89 (March 1989) determined that the agencies integrating the intelligence system may be instructed by the President to assist in those tasks needed to prevent and neutralize destabilizing activities (article 7). In fact this meant an authorization for the military intelligence agencies to exercise their activities domestically.
The Menem administration changed this structure, placing the National Defense Council created by the Defense Law as an advisory body for internal security matters. The Decree 392/90 (February 1990) also gave authority to the Internal Security Council to require the assistance of all intelligence agencies to fullfil its mission. Although this measure created more confusion and concern about military involvement in domestic intelligence, it did not last too much. The Internal Security Law of 1992 filled the normative gap and confusion.
The use of intelligence for the fight against drug trafficking was another topic. Initial democratic government steps within the fight against drugs acknowledged a civilian, non-military, approach. The former National Commission Against Drug Trafficking created by Alfonsín administration served as a basis for the creation of the Secretary for Coordination and Programming for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and the Fight Against Drug Trafficking, under direct responsibility of the President6.
The Menem administration also approved a National Plan against Illicit Drug Trafficking7, which contemplated the creation of a Federal Service Against Drug Trafficking (SEFECONAR) under the also newly created National Operative Commission Against Illicit Drug Trafficking chaired by the head of the anti-drug Secretary previously mentioned. This federal service, considered as a small intelligence unit of approximately one hundred agents, was defined as "a sort of Argentinian DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)" and suppossed to develop field tasks, repressive actions and intelligence in order to support police and security forces operations8.
The National Operative Commission Against Illicit Drug Trafficking, intended to coordinate ground, maritime, fluvial and air anti-drug trafficking operations, as well as to order joint and combined operations of the twenty four provincial police forces and other federal forces and agencies9.
The controversy generated after the leak of the plan and this new intelligence element to the press forced the government to partially withdraw its intentions. Certainly, the federal service created was seen as a problem rather than a solution. The specificity of the drug problem implicates particular measures and actions. But the proliferation of intelligence agencies and of coordination bodies can lead to an enhancement of atomization, weakening the national effort. Several intelligence elements of different police and security forces are engaged in drug intelligence.
At present there is no clear knowledge about the structure, missions, functions, budget or activities -if they are undertaken- of the SEFECONAR. Affairs involving intelligence activities and agents of the anti-drug Secretary increased the debate not only about the intelligence element but also about the role of that Secretary, seen as too expanded by the UCR party.
The privatization of the national telephone company had repercusions on the intelligence field. Until recently judges were able to order phone interceptions to a relatively impartial technical element within that company. This assured independence among the constitutional powers. Now the situation changed and another controversial subject appeared in the scene.
The Direction of Judicial Observations, its activities, means and budget were transferred to the SIDE (Presidential Decree No. 1801 of 1992). Then, members of the Judiciary branch need to order those intervention to an element within the President's intelligence agency, being almost impossible to assure that the information obtained for the judicial investigation remained unused by the executive 10.
In the contents of the annual report of the President to Congress submitted the 1st of May (the beginning of ordinary sessions) the State Intelligence Secretary -SIDE- was not absent. Under the subtitle of: "Elaboration of specific directives for the development of the State Intelligence Secretary to be within the law and constitutional framework", a 69 line summary described the following items: the orientation of agency's activities, the rationalization of human resources and assets, the organic and functional reorganization, and the continuing search for more professionalism and operative efficiency.
When refering to the first item the report briefly states the intelligence priorities of the government and the mechanism to deal with them: "In the national sphere, through the coordination set up by the National Intelligence Center (CNI) and with the intervention of the National Intelligence System the efforts were principally centred on counter-espionage tasks and on intelligence production activities to support the prevention and fighting of terrorism and drug-trafficking"11.
A relevant decision for the future of the area was related to educational matters. A Presidential Decree (No. 1536 of August 9, 1991) which confered new faculties to the National Intelligence School (Executive Branch) was signed. This was a clear indication of an openness and transparence will. In this sense and since then, the school increased the activities seeking to qualify personnel from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches -this means to non-intelligence officials- through conferences, special courses for national and foreign officials, as well as other educational activities12. Also, since the first semester of 1992, the school began publishing an academic journal covering current issues, studies and opinions.
Secret budget was also a matter of concern of government officials and legislators. The new Congress significantly reduced the amounts of the secret budget and cut the number of departments receiving secret accounts. Eight secret accounts were suppressed by law in the 1985 budget. Only two accounts were left: for the Presidency and for SIDE. By 1986 they increased up to three secret accounts and in 1987 they reached the number of four - Presidency, SIDE, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was authorized by Law No. 23.410. The total amount for these accounts was $197.37 millions for 1993, a 33% more than 1992 and more than 100% of the highest annual amount spent by the previous administration (1988). For fiscal year 1994 the only figure available to congressmen was the one for SIDE (Jurisdiction 20-08 of the national administration budget) that reaches $191.8-13. This data shows a 19.93 % increase with respect to SIDE expenditures for 1993 and a 345 % increase when compared with the estimated figure for 1990 ($55.56 millions).
A top UCR party leader denounced a plan for collecting domestic political intelligence, a kind of "ideological surveillance" operation developed by certain intelligence elements. Buenos Aires provincial police and a National Gendarmery unit in Neuquen province were engaged in that operation. School students, teachers, syndicalists, politicians and journalists were the targets. The Undersecretary for Internal Security released a document stating the prohibition of "all informative pointing that, advancing on ideological aspects, may constitute anykind of persecution or violation of individual rights"14
As a consequence of this affair, one opposition Deputy, V. Bisciotti, a strong supporter of intelligence reform and oversight, introduced a bill to improve the controls already established through the internal security legislation in force. The proposed article specified the following:
"It is prohibited to collect information, as well as the production of intelligence, about citizens of the country on the basis of race, religion, political convictions, affiliation with trade unions, cooperatives, cultural or charitable organizations, as well as legal activities which they execute as members of organizations acting legally in the aforementioned fields
Under their respective domain, it must be an essential and direct responsibility of the Minister of Interior and the Internal Intelligence Director, as well as of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Internal Security agencies and activities, to adopt those measures necessary to assure that the prohibition stated in this article is in force".
It was not clear whether the order was given by government officials or it was a routine practice of the police forces. It is a paradox that those facts happened while the Internal Security Law of 1992 is in force. This make evident tha one important aspect to consider is the role of ministerial control over police agencies and intelligence units. The need of responsible and active exercise of the authorities grantes by law is essential for democracy. At the same time, the facts showed how important the congressional oversight function can be for a long lasting democracy.
Anyhow, it is clear then that there are still important problems in the manner intelligence activities are conducted domestically and in the controls that politicians must exert.
To overcome past influences and practices of the military regimes, in 1985 the issue of a new defense legal framework was brought up to public discussion. Among the most controversial topics were, first, the inclusion of internal security in the definition of the concept of national defense and as a consequence of it, the armed forces involved in such activities; and second, the involvement of military intelligence in internal political intelligence operations. As a result of the debates and through consensus reached between the two major parties -Unión Cívica Radical and Partido Justicialista-, the Defense law was finally approved in 1988, setting a legal framework and replacing former `national security doctrine' orientated de facto legislation.
National Defense Law No. 23.554 of 1988 included several aspects of innovation. The concept of National Defense was defined as follows: "The national defense is the integration and coordinated actions of all the forces of the nation for the solution of those conflicts which require the use of the Armed Forces, in a deterrence or an effective way, to confront external agression" (article 2).
Both the roles of the Ministry of Defense and of the Joint Staff as an advisory body on military strategy to the Minister of Defense were enhanced.
Article 4 clearly stated the difference between national defense and internal security, being the last one to be defined in a special law. One topic of great importance, specified in article 15, was the prohibition of the military intelligence agencies to conduct activities related to domestic political affairs. In the same article was established that the intelligence agency of higher level would be the one in charge of producing national defense intelligence. It also stated that the production of military intelligence would fall under an agency composed by the intelligence agencies of the Armed Forces and under the authority of the Minister of Defense.
The law also provided for the drafting of several bills related, incluiding one to govern the intelligence system with the addition of congressional oversight. Meanwhile, "until the pertinent law is passed and put into force, the intelligence agencies shall hold the mission, structure and functions determined by the National Executive." (article 47)
A very important concept already developed in Argentina is the security force, an intermediate force able to fill the gap between police forces -provincial and federal- and the armed forces. National Gendarmery and Argentinian Naval Prefecture were formerly within the structure of the Army and the Navy, respectively. This was changed during the first year of Alfonsín administration, and these security forces were put under direct responsibility of the Ministry of Defense. These forces have an important role in three functional areas: national defense, internal security and as federal police service, having territorial jurisdiction over border areas but with capabilities to intervene in any place of the country. Special forces, rapid deployment units, legal education, combat training, intelligence elements, are among the capabilities and characteristics of these forces.
The other important improvement has been the establishment of a legal framework for domestic security through the enactment of the Internal Security Law No. 24.059 of 1992. It is remarkable that this bill, based on two previous bills introduced during 1989, was approved with consensus of various political parties, including, once more, the two major ones: the Radical and the Peronist.
This legislation established, for the first time in Argentina, the basis of the system for planning, coordination, control and support of the national law enforcement effort devoted to guarantee internal security (article 1). This term is defined as the "factual situation under the rule of law in which liberty, life and property of the inhabitants, their rights and guarantees and the full validity of the institutions of the representative, republican and federal system established by the National Constitution are protected" (article 2).
To reach those objectives the bill establishes the Ministry of Interior as the main coordination level responsible for the political command of the national police effort, as well as for the direction and coordination of the activities undertaken by the intelligence components of the federal police and the security forces.
For the purpose of advising the Minister of Interior, it proposed the creation of an Internal Security Council, chaired by him and composed by the Minister of Justice, the Secretary for Drug Abuse Prevention and Counter-Drugtrafficking, the Undersecretary of Internal Security, the chiefs of the Federal Police, National Gendarmery and Argentinian Naval Prefecture, a certain number of provincial police forces chiefs, all of them permanent members.
To avoid uncertainty about the role of the intelligence components devoted to internal security matters, the bill provides for a National Direction of Internal Intelligence, a body under the control of the Undersecretary of Internal Security which constitutes "the organ through which the Minister of Interior will exercise the functional direction and coordination of the activities of the information and intelligence elements of the Federal Police, as well as those of the National Gendarmery and the Argentine Naval Prefecture, in these cases, exclusively for purposes of internal security..." (article 16). Another assistance and advisory body, in this case for commanding responsibilities, is the Planning and Control Center (article 15).
One fundamental provision of the Internal Security Law was the congressional oversight. Title VII incorporates five articles (33 through 37) devoted to the parliamentary control of internal security and intelligence agencies and activities. Article 33 created a congressional Joint Committee on Intelligence and Internal Security with the mission to supervise and control all internal security and intelligence agencies and organizations, and composed by six senators and six deputies. For the first time in Argentina a permanent congressional committee would exercise oversight of those matters.
Article 35 specifies that: "The committee shall verify that the performance of the agencies and organizations refered in article 33 is adjusted strictly to the constitutional, legal and regulating norms in force, stating the strictly observance and respect of the National Constitution individual guarantees, as well as of the measures contained in the Human Rights American Convention, known as "San José de Costa Rica Agreement" and included in our legal arrangement through the law No. 23.054".
More details are written in article 36: "The committee shall have all the authorities and functions needed to fulfil its assignment and especially to make those investigations which may be pertinent in the agencies and organizations mentioned in article 33. It shall be especially authorized to:
a. Require from any agency or national, provincial, or municipal public entity, as well as from private entities, all the information deemed necesary, which must be supplied.
b. Require the Judicial Branch to summon and make appear with public force assistance those persons which are deemed pertinent, in order to expose facts linked to the subject of the committee.
c. Require the pertinent judicial branch components to prevent that those persons subjected to investigations to be undertaken, leave the national territory without permission.
d. Propose to the Executive Branch those measures intended to overcome the deficiencies observed on the occasion of the investigations put forward."
A Presidential Decree (No.1273/92) signed in July 1992, containing a set of regulations related to the Internal Security Law, included some provisions for the parliamentary control established by it (Title VI, articles 23 and 24 of the decree). Also, article 5 part 3 obliges the Internal Security Council to submit an annual report on the results of policy formulation and implementation to the Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence.
Very recently, at the end of March 1993, Congress passed a new law No. 24.194, modifying article 34 of the Internal Security Law. It increased the number of members of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Internal Security from 12 to 16. This gives an idea of the raising political interest within Congress.
It is not clear yet what kind of oversight activity is going to carry on the new committee: an institutional -cooperative- or an investigative -aggressive- approach. The focus of this discussion was implicit in the drafting of the rules of procedure when they were under consideration. Article 34 of the Internal Security Law specified that the permanent committee can determine its own rules. This was the first task undertaken by the committee which began its work at the end of June 1993. A set of rules were under discussion for approval by August.
Article 40 of the new proposed committee rules set the following: "The committee shall make a study with respect to the following matters, taking into consideration with respect to each such matter, all relevant aspects of the effectiveness of the planning, gathering of information, use, security, and dissemination of information and intelligence:
1) the effectiveness of the internal security prevention;
2) efficiency of internal security coordination and its difficulties;
3) the work undertaken in the fields of training and equipment of the Security Forces and national and provincial Police Forces;
4) the work undertaken by the Internal Security Council and by the Planning and Control Center in the field of evaluation and planning, as well by the Direction of Internal Intelligence in the field of internal security information and intelligence;
5) the results obtained in the fight against crime through the Internal Security System established by law 24.059.
6) the quality of the analytical capabilities of the intelligence agencies and means for integrating more closely analytical intelligence and policy formulation;
7) the extent and nature of the authorities of intelligence agencies and the desirability of developing charters for each one of them;
8) the organization of intelligence activities to maximize the effectiveness of the conduct , oversight, and accountability of intelligence activities; to reduce duplication or overlap; and to improve qualifications and professionalization of the intelligence agencies;
9) the conduct of intelligence activities and the procedures by which Congress is informed of such activities;
10) the desirability of changing any law, executive decree or regulation, or rules of the Chambers or of this committee, to improve the protection of secrets, and provide for disclosure of information for which there is no compelling reason for secrecy;
11) the desirability of maintaining only a Joint Committee on Intelligence and Internal Security as it is established by Title VII of the Law No. 24.059, or of dividing the internal security and intelligence activities establishing separate committees for each matter within each chamber. in this last case, of establishing procedures under which both intelligence committees would receive joint briefings from the intelligence agencies and coordinate their policies with respect to the safeguarding of sensitive information;
12) the way in which intelligence agencies invest their funds and whether disclosure of the amounts of such funds is convenient;
13) the intelligence activities of other countries which are directed against Argentina or its political, military and economic interests."
There is also another problem. Although the wording of the law is clear enough about the mission and general functions of the committee, there is an obvious double assignment. Two spheres under the jurisdiction of a same oversight committee, intelligence and internal security, may turn out to be a matter of crucial attention. Indeed the committee may choose to exert its power mainly in one of the spheres and let aside the other one. Proposals to create a separate committee for each sphere intended to solve the problem. At the same time, other proposals called for the establishment of committee within each chamber to replace the joint committee already created by law. This means that it is necessary to amend the present law or to approve another law to establish those changes.
Meanwhile, the "ideological surveillance" affair served as an impulse to begin with an active congressional oversight activity by the newly created Committee.
All these facts allowed both legislators and politicians to gain a very important background. There were less preventions. With this panorama in mind, and with the idea to strengthen democratic controls and supervision of the intelligence field a number of legislators produced several bills. The desire was to establish a political and legal basis for the intelligence agencies and activities, and remove much of the ambiguity, automony, distrust which surrounded teir operations in society. The most important pieces were written after 1989.
Although not a charter legislation, a bill containing a set of provisions related to intelligence was an important contribution to the debate. Deputy José L. Manzano (Peronist Party) introduced it in 1986 and called it "Preservation of Individual Rights from Intelligence Agencies Law". Divided in three titles, the first one regulated the access of individuals to their intelligence files through the National Intelligence Center as the administrative authority. Those individuals were given the right to ask for the correction of wrong or false data within their files. Judicial intervention was a last resort the individuals could use.
A second title detailed new intelligence schools to be created, including one for the democratic preservation of domestic peace. The last title provided for the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Intelligence composed by ten senators and ten deputies. This part was used as basis for the drafting of Title VII of the Internal Security Law of 1992.
It is not surprising that legislative proposals to reorganize the intelligence system appeared after the transition between the two democratic administrations (mid 1989). In fact, although the necessity was clearly stated in article 46 of the National Defense Law, the main legislative efforts between 1988 and 1990 were made towards the sanction of the Internal Security Law. Then, with the defense law already approved and the security law under consideration by Congress, the next step was intelligence.
In June of 1990 Deputy Victorio O. Bisciotti of the Radical Party entered a bill under the name of "Information and Intelligence Organic Law". Summarizing the objectives and measures proposed in this piece of legislation, it can be mentioned:
- through the creation of three intelligence collection agencies, each one under the jurisdiction of the Ministries of External Affairs, Interior and Defense respectively, it intends to limit the number of intelligence agencies with own collection means and capabilities for special activities, as well as to establish the control by political authorities.
- it stipulates that only the Ministry of Interior will have, through the competent agency, the responsibility for counterintelligence and for intelligence related to protection of constitutional order and to internal security.
- to strengthen control and coordination, it provides for the creation of the Information and Intelligence Coordination Committee, under direct responsibility of the President; to assure parliamentary oversight, it proposes the creation of Committees on Regulation and Control of Information and Intelligence in both Chambers.
- it also sets the judicial control of activities such as interception of calls, with the purpose to establish limits to the intelligence function.
In September of 1991 Senator Eduardo Vaca of the Peronist Party -at present time Chairman of the Senate Defense Committee- entered a bill called "National Intelligence System". The following are the main provisions contained in the bill:
- it details the composition of the National Intelligence System, the mission, functions and composition of the National Intelligence Center (NIC) as head of the system, and creates a permanent council to assist the president of the NIC in the management of the National Intelligence System.
- it creates a Superior Analisis Cabinet, a non burocratic entity with the mission to prepare intelligence estimates for top decision-makers, and under the authority of the president of the NIC. This entity is similar to the National Intelligence Council created by the recently passed U.S. Intelligence Organization Act of 1992.
- it also establishes three undersecretaries within the NIC: one for sectorial intelligence, one for intelligence coordination, and one for technical and administrative affairs. It also creates the undersecretary for defense intelligence within the Ministry of Defense.
- it sets up a committee on intelligence within the Senate and also provides for the protection of the citizen's rights through the establishment of judicial control on certain activities.
Although there are significant differences in scope and emphasis, the general purposes of these bills were to adequate the intelligence function to the rule of law as it must be in a democratic society, as well as to enhance the efficacy and capabilities of this state tool so important for defense, internal security and external affairs.
More recently, another bill on intelligence was introduced on September of 1992. Deputy Luis Uriondo (Peronist) prepared a bill called "National Intelligence System". It includes a conceptualization of the term intelligence, the purpose, definition, composition and structure of the National Intelligence System, the mission and roles of the NIC, the role of a joint military intelligence system, as well as some provisisons related to legislative and judicial controls and responsibilities.
The last bill on this field was introduced in February 1993 by Deputy Bisciotti. Entitled "Information and Intelligence Control Law", the bill, essentially a modified and reduced version of the Information and Intelligence Organic bill, includes: basic definitions and principles; the creation of Committees on Intelligence in both Chambers; the judicial control of activities such as interception of calls to establish limits to the intelligence function. It also establishes a judicial observation office in charge of the technical operations of approved intercepts, and penalties for those violating the present law.
Until now these bills have not been considered by the full chambers. If we assume that they were drafted with the idea to begin with the legislative debate, it is clear now that they are seen as much more than working papers. Several steps forward toward a consensus have been and are being undertaken. If these facts are opening a window of opportunity for change, the simultaneous transformation processes in politics and economics that nowadays the world is suffering is a very important factor affecting future develoments in the field of intelligence
All these legislative initiatives and instruments in force are of great significance because they are the evidences of the new doctrinal approaches at present evolving in Argentina. These are supported by the continuous efforts of a small group of legislators, advisors and academics and by a not too large number of theoretical works published since the beginning of the democratic period in 1983, and developed within the framework of delicate civil-military relations15.
There is a wide consensus about the need of democratic controls on this particular agencies and activities. Nevertheless there is a considerable distance towards an effective capability of the new entities involved in the process. Indeed the various offices involved, the Internal Security Council of the Executive, the congressional Joint Committee on Intelligence and Internal Security, as well as officials, politicians and legislators, have a great challenge. Taking into account the recent history of political violence in Argentina, it is not an easy task. But the first steps, may be the most difficult ones, have already been taken.