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Formatiunea Interventie Anti-terorista a SPP
- The Protection and Guard Service's Anti-Terrorism Intervention Formation -

Most countries have a specialized service who's only purpose is to protect the life and personal integrity of the President.

In the United States, that structure is called the Secret Service. In Romania, it is called Serviciul de Protectie si Paza, or SPP for short. The Protection and Guard Service of Romania is structured in a similar way as its US counterpart.

The agents of the two services train together and have frequent meetings and conferences. Furthermore, some of their employees are also graduating each other's selection courses.

SPP is split into two main divisions, Sectia Asigurare Misiuni (SAM) - the Operative section, and FIAT, which is a counter-terrorist team.

In this section, we will analyse the latter, which is considered by many to be one of Romania's most elite units.

US Equivalent: US Secret Service CAT teams

SPP History
Characteristics
Admission
Training
Weapons
Order of Battle
Exercises
Operations
Stories

 

History

During the 1989 Romanian Revolution, a decision was taken for the creation of a structure which would protect the lives of the National Salvation Front, a group created in the 22nd of december 1989, after the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

The group was activated on the 26th of december 1989 and comprised of only four people.

In the 7th of may 1990, the now expanded group received the name of USPP (Unitatea Speciala de Paza si Protocol or the Special Guard and Protocole Unit). The unit was under the command of the Ministry of Defense and was incorporated into the 30th Guard Brigade "Mihai Viteazul".

In 1991, the structure was renamed Serviciul de Protectie si Paza, or the Protection and Guard Service. SPP for short was created by law 51, on the 26th of july 1991.

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Characteristics

The very existance of FIAT is highly controversial. The unit was created in the idea that if a terrorist group would take the President or members of the Parliament as hostages, the FIAT teams would be called to liberate them.

That ideology falls in conflict with Romania's Constitution, which states that the only structure responsible for counter-terrorist intervention in the country is Brigada Antiterorista, or the Anti-Terrorist Brigade of SRI, the national intelligence service.

But this is only the start of a lengthy conversation regarding FIAT, its existance, its purposes, its members and so on.

This group is composed of members of somewhat opposite ideologies. On one hand, the very well trained ex-military members, which have transfered to SPP due to the low wages which came with their work in the armed forces, at that time. It has to be noted however that the situation has changed since then. On the other hand, some of its members are young, around 20 years old, and most people would say they do not belong in a counter-terrorist unit. Since the very existance of FIAT has come under questioning on a constant basis ever since its creation sometime in the 1990s, the fact that some, but not all, of its members come closer to street thugs than operatives is definetely not helping the image of their unit.

Incorporating such different characters, top notch ex-military operatives and young individuals who's capabilities pale compared to the ones of the ex-military ones, the unit attracted even more public scrutiny regarding its training methods.

Since the group is supposed to react to threats against the president himself, it is obviously that the men need to be well trained and equipped. However, training them for operations which regard combat divers, high altitude parachutists and other such categories has nothing to do with close protection duties.

It is of no doubt that some of the training received by FIAT operatives is unnecessary and represents money wasted down the pipeline - but there's a catch. The real reason for all that training was not that the chain of command doesn't know the requirements for the job, nor that they needed activities to justify their budget (although the latter can be said about SPP as a whole).

SPP training

Since most of FIAT operatives have transfered from the military, they held precious experience and capabilities which the armed forces weren't able to hold on to, due to financial reasons (the combatant's salaries). As those men transfered to SPP, the service got to hold, at that time, some of the best trained operatives in Romania, and turning them into mere bodyguards was not an option.

Therefore, SPP came as a sort of unexpected savior, offering its FIAT operatives a chance to continue all their training, maintain their capabilities and even evolve on a professional level. It is also interesting to notice that this strategy worked, and after a while, some of those people got back in the military, where things have improved with time, and are now on duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.

SPP training

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Admission

Admission into FIAT is quite a secretive process and little detail exists in public record about it. Their official website simply states that the individual must be healthy, willing to work under stress, have initiative and spirit of sacrifice.

Since many of its operatives used to come from the military, one could assume there was a very small failure rate in its admission process. Contrary to popular belief, according to which the failure rate is the uttmost important detail which sets special operations units apart, the reality is that the failure rate directly depends of the quality of the people who turn up to the selection. If, for example, one looks at the US military system, which allows civilians as young as 16 to apply for selection, a 75% failure rate doesn't mean the course was unbareable. However, if we are to consider, let's say, the selection process of the Polish GROM or Sweden's SSG, which only accept officers and operatives of other SF units in their country, a failure rate of 95% to 99% in those processes represents a totally different issue.

In recent years however, the issue of military operatives transferring to SPP has become a thing of the past.

SPP divers
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Training

SPP training
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entering a compound

As mentioned in some of the previous chapters, FIAT operatives go through a large variety of training procedures, which include airborne insertion, combat diving operations, close protection, counter-terrorist intervention, hostage rescue, CQB, etc.

Besides that, the operatives are also trained in gathering field intelligence prior to the president's visit to a location.

A very important mission for FIAT is surveillance, due to the nature of their job. A large part of FIAT operatives are trained snipers.

SPP training
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securing a compound

 

SPP training
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firing range
SPP training
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martial arts
SPP training
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boat operation
SPP training
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seaborne combat

 

SPP training
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skiing
SPP training
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rappelling
SPP training
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rappelling
SPP training
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counter-terrorism

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Weapons

The weapons employed by FIAT vary from mission to mission, however their arsenal is one typical for any counter-terrorist force.

The Hochler&Koff MP-5 is one of the main weapons employed by the fighters. FIAT was one of the first units in Romania to employ this weapon, together with Brigada Antiterorista.

A large variety of sniper guns is also used, as well as several models of shotguns. Several models of Steyrhaus sniper rifles have been spotted in usage by this unit, however the exact models and characteristics could not be identified as of now.

The PSG-1 however seems to be the weapon of choise for FIAT snipers.

MP5A2
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This is a foreign MP5A2
The particular weapon displayed in this picture is not employed by FIAT

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Oder of Battle

FIAT has its headquarters somewhere near Bucharest.

As you have already guessed from the pictures, they also use the training facility at Domnesti (SW Bucharest), same as DSPI.

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Exercises

SPP and the US Secret Service held a wide range of exercises together, some of them in Romania and some of them in the US. As such, we could also speculate that FIAT operatives and CAT operatives get a chance to train with each other as well.

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Operations

The daily mission of FIAT and SPP as a whole is to protect the president, his family, as well as other personalities as it is decided by the country's Supreme Defense Council.

Besides that, SPP has had operations abroad as well, one example would be president Traian Basescu's visit to Iraq in 2005. At that time, his protection was ensured by FIAT operatives which traveled with him to Iraq and got back to the country after his return.

SPP has also sent 23 FIAT operatives to Sudan as of early 2006. They will stay there for a period of 6 months and ensure the protection of UN personel in that area of conflict.

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Stories

Almost since its creation as a small detachment, SPP as a group started to have a mixed image in the collective memory of the Romanian public. On one hand, the black suit men with serious faces and sunglasses shadowing expensive German cars has somewhat of a good image in the public's mind, while on the other, numerous scandals related to violence, ciggarette trafficking, corruption and funds mismanagement have added a darker side to the service.

Throughout the 1990s, high ranking SPP officials have been involved in a series of scandals regarding contrabad with ciggarettes. Large quantities of black market imported ciggarettes were brought in the country using rented Ukrainian cargo planes, including Il-76, the Soviet equivalent of C-17 Globemaster.

Also since its creation, some of the younger operatives were involved in small scandals and skermishes with civilians, causing bad publicity and a negative press for the services. One of the most infamous cases is described below.

Young men, hot temper

Young FIAT operatives, which were just accepted in the group, have severely beaten up a Romanian senator and vandalized his car on the A2 highway from Bucharest to the seaside city of Constanta. They have also threatened and terrorized his wife and two young children. All that for the fact that he was not driving fast enough on the highway (he had over 100 km/h).

The action was not isolated, as young SPP employees, particularly from FIAT, have been known to lose control of themselves in public in a wide array of events during the past decade or so. The only detail which made this particular event come out in the light was the fact that the person they have terrorized this time happened to be a senator. The director of SPP at that time, Mr. Naghi, called that senator on the phone himself and tried to talk him out of filing a criminal complaint. He did not succeed, and fair enough death threats have started to be heard on the family's landline phone. After spending a couple of weeks in the hospital, needing dozens of stiches all over his face and parts of his shoulders, the senator returned to work in the Palace of Parliament and made a public speech in which he condemned the event and called for an official investigation.

After many delays, the perpetrators were finally identified: they were 4 young men, three of them 20 years old and the other aged 21, which were heading for Constanta in their personal jeep to celebrate their recent admission into FIAT. At first, the SPP chain of command declined repeated requests from the mass-media and the senator to fire the 4 new operatives. However, after pressure mounted and the scandal persisted, the 4 men were sacked.

It is obvious that only the fact that the person in case was a senator has helped bring this situation to an end. Even so, pressures were made for him to keep things quiet, including usage of death threats, sent, perhaps, by the very people meant to protect him!

This story is not an isolated one, as incidents involving SPP members, both from SAM as well as from FIAT (read above), continue to affect the Service's public image, as an outraged public opinion has repeatedly asked for an all-out disbanding of this entity.

While there is no doubt that some of the younger employees of this structure are short tempered, that is no reason to disband the whole structure, especially when we are talking about an entity which is, after all, a secret service.

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