The Archive of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989

A Catch-22 December 1989, Groundhog-Day Production. Presenting the Personal Research & Scholarship of Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

Basescu (aka “Petrov”), the Securitate, and the Investigations of December 1989 (IV)

(purely personal views as always; not for reproduction or reuse without author’s permission)

In the wake of the CNSAS’ confirmation of Traian Basescu’s status as a Securitate informer, at least two scholars have recently unpacked what Tismaneanu stubbornly insisted throughout the 2010s was a “denigration campaign”: Bogdan C. Enache and the aforementioned Lavinia Stan. Below excerpts from their work (use of bold is mine, as they raise issues which are significant, interesting, or deserve further development in the rest of this series):

In the view of Traian Băsescu’s most prominent critics – mostly historians gathered around The Romanian Institute for Recent History (IRIR), who hinted at unconfirmed rumours regarding Băsescu’s collaboration with the Securitate since the middle of 2000 –, he was no less a man of the past and no less corrupt than the former Communist left-wing politicians he took aim at; a man with a dictatorial mindset and extraordinary versatility who embodied a neoconservative right-wing populism. His supporters, on the other hand, who are mostly philosophers among the Romanian intelligentsia, saw in his rough manners and socialist political career useful qualities to succeed against the “neocommunist” political “system” which, by his own admission, defeated the only previous right-wing Romanian President, Emil Constantinescu.


Media Investigations and New Revelations

As journalists pointed out when commenting on the 2019 verdict, this was the first time that Băsescu was officially declared a former secret police informer by both CNSAS and the courts. Yet, it was by no means the first time that his Securitate ties had become the subject of public controversy. Already in February 1992 Telegraf, a newspaper from Băsescu’s hometown Constanța, included his name on a list of Securitate informers recruited with the approval of the local Communist Party leaders (Registrul cu persoanele din rîndul membrilor PCR pentru care s-a dat aprobarea să sprijine munca de Securitate).[11] The list mentioned that Băsescu had been used by the Securitate as a source of information since 1977. Later that year, Băsescu admitted that he submitted information notes to the Securitate but claimed that he had nothing to feel guilty for.

In 2004, Băsescu’s past collaboration was again made public when Mugur Ciuvică revealed the name of Băsescu’s recruiter: Securitate Lt Mihai Avrami­des. In response, Băsescu declared that he never secretly informed on others but that during communism all ship captains, when returning to Romania from long voyages, had to provide details about the countries they visited, the persons they met, the order and discipline difficulties posed by their crew members, and the technical situation of the ship they commanded, but never the “people’s attitudes toward the [communist] regime.” Eager to clear his name, Băsescu sued Ciuvică for calumny, and the Romanian courts ultimately settled in Băsescu’s favour weeks before he won the presidential elections. When preparing the case, Ciuvică asked both the intelligence services and the CNSAS to clarify whether the presidential candidate was a former secret collaborator. The response was that he was not.

A document made public as part of that court case, issued by the Ministry of National Defense Archives, listed Băsescu as a collaborator with the Securitate’s Military Counterintelligence Direction. According to it, Băsescu had been recruited as a student of the Naval Institute to spy on his peers under the codename Petrov. The Securitate at the time closely monitored the regime loyalty of the Institute’s students and teachers because of their contacts with foreign citizens. While commenting on the document disclosed in 2004, Băsescu admitted that he provided information to the responsible Securitate officer immediately after he returned from his first sea voyage in 1972. But, he said, he informed on none of his peers and instead answered questions related to his own life, beliefs, and family – something that all Institute students had to do prior to 1989, he claimed. Journalists noted that no other student was included on that Securitate list, proof that Băsescu’s comments were untruthful. The CNSAS found that Băsescu’s denunciation infringed on the rights to privacy and mobility because they prompted the Securitate to ban one fellow student from taking a trip abroad.[12] Such human rights violations, more than the discovery of the secret information notes, warranted the labelling of Băsescu as a Securitate collaborator.

Băsescu’s comments were further disproved by former communist-era Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ştefan Andrei who, in a televised interview, reiterated the fact that during the communist regime no Romanian citizen could be stationed abroad without the explicit approval of the Securitate.[13]According to Andrei, appointments to jobs that required an individual to live outside of Romania for extended periods of time had to be approved by a committee appointed by the Communist Party personnel department, headed by Elena Ceauşescu, the dictator’s wife. The committee was subordinated to the Securitate, Andrei said. Băsescu’s appointment in the Netherlands required clearance from the Securitate, which in return asked Băsescu to assume unspecified responsibilities beyond those of the mere secret informer he once was as a student.

In a November 2005 interview, Avramides claimed that he met Băsescu only twice during the 1970s and denied any personal involvement in Băsescu’s recruitment as a Securitate secret agent. The interview contradicted Băsescu’s earlier claims that he never met Avramides but did not clarify Băsescu’s involvement with the communist state security.[14] As the president showed propensity to surround himself with known former Securitate agents, journalists continued to monitor the careers of the officers with whom Băsescu came in contact while abroad. Since those spying activities took place outside of Romania, the documents compiled on them are housed with the SIE, and therefore still inaccessible to the general public.

All of these revelations sparked the public’s interest. Journalists found out that, curiously, several Securitate officers who most likely came in contact with Băsescu, either in Romania or abroad, had spectacular careers after 1989. The newspaper Cotidianul (the Daily) alleged that most of these officers kept silent about Băsescu’s Securitate ties because, as minister and then president, he bought their silence in exchange for protection and promotion. According to these investigations, Dumitru Nicuşor and Constantin Decu, once with the Securitate Constanța branch, had used Băsescu as a source after Avramides was transferred to the Prison Department. After 1989, Nicuşor became head of the Ialomiţa branch of the SRI, while Decu led the Constanţa branch of the SRI. The former Securitate officer Silvian Ionescu who, in the late 1980s, supervised the Romanian spies stationed in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg was promoted by President Băsescu to head of the government’s Environmental Protection Department. Marin Antonescu, former head of the Securitate rezidentura in Brussels, was the PD vice-president of the Dîmbo­viţa party organization and a PD county councillor.[15] The list of former Securitate officers who benefitted from Băsescu’s political and economic connections goes on.

Băsescu, într-un registru cu cei pentru care s-a dat aprobarea să sprijine Securitatea, Cotidianul (18 January 2011), retrieved 30 November 2019. Gheorghe Iorgoveanu, Traian Băsescu, ‘turnator’ la Securitate, (23 September 2019), retrieved 2 December 2019. See Complicii turnătorului Băsescu – de la Securitate la CNSAS, Cotidianul (20 May 2019), retrieved 27 November 2019. See Ciuvica a mai scos un dosar cu care spera sa ii vina de hac lui Basescu, Ziarul de Iasi (10 June 2007), retrieved 30 November 2019. See Complicii turnătorului Băsescu – de la Securitate la CNSAS, Cotidianul (20 May 2019), retrieved 27 November 2019.

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