Contratry to the legend, the Romanian secret police normally did not control dissidents through torture, imprisonment or midnight arrests. Rather, their methods were much more subtle - and more brutal - and involved their control of the society at large. The following is based on a long talk with a former dissident explaining to me, over a beer one night in a "terasa" in Bucharest, what he went through as a younger man:
Agent: Mihai, listen, you know there are these damn capitalists everwhere, even at your institute, right? And if one of them were to say something you would tell us, wouldn't you? I mean, it would be your duty as a member of the Communist party
Mihai Thinking mainly about getting away as fast as possible : Sure, sure, of course I will.
Weeks go by. Mihai is called in again.
Agent: Mihai, Mihai. (Sadly shakes head) I am very disappointed in you. I know for a fact that people were saying bad things about Ceaucescu in your laboratory. Now, you may not think that's important, but it's just that type of bastard that becomes a saboteur. Didn't you promise to help me?
Mihai: I didn't hear anything. They must have not...
Agent (cutting him off) : I expected more from you Mihai. Now look, you have a daughter, right? You want her to get into University, right? I'm the one they're going to ask, is her father a good citizen? And I want to say yes, because I think your heart is pure, but if you don't give me anything to go on...
Mihai refuses to become an informer. His daughter does not enter university and is assigned to working as a caterer for a road building brigade in the remote mountains. Mihai maintains his composure until...
Agent: (calling late at night) Mihai, listen. I have bad news for you. You're daughter has been raped. I'm sorry. I'm doing everything I can to move her to another work brigade, somewhere more civilized, but my higher ups wont help me...They say, what has Mihai done for us?
Mihai gives in, and becomes an informer.