Emilio Alonso Manglano, the father of modern intelligence in Spain




Emilio Alonso Manglano never imagined that he would become the third most influential person in the State. It all started in May 1981, when the Prime Minister of Defense after 23-F, Alberto Oliart, made his first visit to the troops. He went to the barracks of the Paratrooper Brigade (Bripac) in Alcalá de Henares, and was accompanied by the Captain General of Madrid, Guillermo Quintana Lacaci, who played an essential role in containing the coup and who a few years later would be brutally assassinated by ETA:

Do you see this lieutenant colonel?he asked the minister.

Yes replied Oliart.

It is one of the glories of the Spanish Army.

And what’s his name?

Emilio Alonso Manglano.

Oliart approached the officer and was pleasantly surprised: he was shocked by his way of speaking, because expressed himself differently from his peers, with great precision in language and showing a vast culture. He had a powerful voice and strong determination. While the lieutenant colonel spoke to him about the brigade, the troops, the parachute jumps and the uncertainties generated by 23-F, the minister listened attentively with his mind set on one of the most relevant decisions he had to make. in those first few months.

Lieutenant colonel -Told him-, I’d like to speak with you in my office.

That’s where the story begins. Oliart is going to do everything possible to convince the Prime Minister and the King that he must be the director of Cesid, a stagnant intelligence service that Not only has he not found out about 23-F, but in some way he has been part of it. What Oliart doesn’t know is that they both know him well: in his youth, Manglano has been a prominent Juanista, he has traveled with Calvo-Sotelo to Estoril and knows the King perfectly. Not surprisingly, when Don Juan Carlos was proclaimed, Don Juan asked him for a favor: “Now you have to take care of Don Juanito.”

I have already spoken with the King and the President and they are very happy with your next appointment, ”Oliart informed Manglano a few weeks later.

I accept it as an act of service.

Revolution in Cesid

With Manglano at the helm, Cesid experienced a real revolution. First, because since his arrival he opted for the professionalization of intelligence. Second, because it incorporated civilians, women and youth. Third, because it centralized a scattered service in a single building on the outskirts of Madrid. And fourth, and more importantly, because placed Spanish intelligence at the level of the most important in the world, establishing face-to-face relations with the CIA or the British, French, Israeli and Soviet services. With the passage of time, he managed to enter the international intelligence clubs, such as Berna or Medi, and after fourteen years at the Center he became the dean of European services.

Oliart’s mandate was clear: modernize Cesid, attention to terrorism and a lot of information about the involutionary movements in the Army and the Civil Guard, which are the germ of possible coup attempts. During the 1980s, these were the axes of his work, and the professionalization and international expansion of the Center paralleled the growth of the image of Spain and the King in the world: the culminating point is the 1991 Madrid Summit, in whose organization Manglano’s work as a link between Western and Arab intelligence services was key. The Cesid director established a personal relationship with Hassan II, Yaser Arafat or Muammar Gaddafi, among other international leaders, and forged close ties with the services of Latin America, North Africa and Eastern Europe: he was the first Western director in stepping on the KGB headquarters in Moscow.


However, the head of the intelligence of a modern state also attends unspeakable operations, and Spain is no different. From the 90s, Manglano was a prominent witness to the collapse of felipismo, of their strategies to hide their scandals and of the campaign of harassment launched by land, sea and air to overthrow a Prime Minister who at that time seemed eternal. Manglano’s attitude in those years was to worry about all matters that posed a threat to the stability of the State: from the Guerra case, the Ibercorp scandal, the Roldán flight, reserved funds or the dirty war. In those years, in front of the State that Manglano has sworn to protect, a powerful and growing threat rises with the banker Mario Conde, the financier Javier de la Rosa, the spy Alberto Perote, the journalist Pedro J. Ramírez and a whole series of characters influential in Spanish society. There is a cold war and Spain is the game board, so Manglano does everything in his power to protect the State from a threat that reaches the President of the Government and also the King, and that at times seems capable of overthrowing them. Its role is to obtain information and neutralize attacks, although sometimes this raises moral doubts in the face of events carried out by third parties linked to corruption, little or no exemplarity, the fraudulent use of public resources or even dirty warfare. .

Of deep religious beliefs, the man that was Manglano always walked on solid – and demanding – moral convictions. The son of a general, the military man that he was always fulfilled his mission with talent, effort and discipline. Thus, the trajectory that his life launched offers a constant double: doing the right thing and doing the duty.

The file

Throughout his life, Manglano was shaping a large personal archive with your personal agendas, notebooks, confidential documents, photographs, awards, correspondence, etc.. The notes that he took by hand every day during the fourteen years that Cesid directed is especially relevant: his audiences with the King, the meetings with the presidents of the Government, vice presidents and ministers, the crisis cabinets and the meetings with his spies and confidants. . From the study of all this documentation is born ‘The Chief of the Spies’ (Editorial Roca), a biography of General Manglano that will be published on October 14, of which ABC publishes a series of advances today.

The book contains two quotes that the Cesid director liked to use and that he himself wrote down when he resigned as director of the Center after the wiretapping scandal. The first reflection is a conviction of someone who cannot trust almost anyone: “Do not accept anything as true that he does not know it in an obvious way as such.” If everyone makes a big mistake in their life, Manglano’s was to blindly trust Perote, head of AOME and for many years one of his number two.

The second quote belongs to the epistles of Seneca: «Recte facti fecisse merces est. Seneca, Ep. 81,19 »,« the reward of a good deed is having done it ». At 69, Manglano resigned himself and agreed not to be rewarded for his actions, but did not doubt his behavior. From the moral point of view he was calm, but nobody, or very few, recognized his work.

Eight years after his death, it is time to highlight Manglano’s profile as a statesman and his legacy: he was the father of modern intelligence in Spain.

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