Almost all countries in the world have an agency that gathers, processes, and examines sensitive information from around the world. They are responsible for maintaining national security and protect national interests in all aspects. Generally, an intelligence agency is a government agency that helps governments in taking decisions related to law enforcement, military setup, foreign policy, and various internal matters. These secret agencies are involved in ethical hacking, espionage, communication analysis, cryptanalysis, collaboration with foreign agencies, and examination of diverse information sources. They also play a vital role in information dissemination and sometimes even carrying out sensitive and deadly operations. These agencies work discreetly and sometimes even governments have no idea what step they will take during any overt or covert operation. Below, you can find the most popular secret agencies in the world. They have important roles to play both during war and peace times.
Research and Analysis Wing
The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) (ISO: Anusandhān aur Viślēṣaṇ Viṅg) is the foreign intelligence agency of India. The agency’s primary function is gathering foreign intelligence, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, advising Indian policymakers, and advancing India’s foreign strategic interests. It is also involved in the security of India’s nuclear programme. Many foreign analysts consider the RAW to be an effective organisation and identify it as one of the primary instruments of India’s national power.During the nine-year tenure of its first Director, Rameshwar Nath Kao, RAW quickly came to prominence in the global intelligence community, playing a role in major events such as the Creation of Bangladesh and accession of the state of Sikkim to India.
Headquartered in New Delhi, RAW’s current chief is Samant Goel. The head of RAW is designated Secretary (R) in the Cabinet Secretariat, and is under the direct command of the Prime Minister, and reports on an administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary, who reports to the Prime Minister.
As with most other prominent intelligence agencies, details of its operations and organization are highly classified, and are therefore are not made public. RAW like the intelligence services of other countries has a record of both accomplishments and failures. RAW is considered one of best intelligence agency in the world.
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the United Kingdom, tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence (HUMINT) in support of the UK’s national security. SIS is a member of the country’s intelligence community and its Chief is accountable to the country’s Foreign Secretary.Formed in 1909 as a section of the Secret Service Bureau specialising in foreign intelligence, the section experienced dramatic growth during World War I and officially adopted its current name around 1920. The name “MI6” (meaning Military Intelligence, Section 6) originated as a flag of convenience during World War II, when SIS was known by many names. It is still commonly used today. The existence of SIS was not officially acknowledged until 1994. That year the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (ISA) was introduced to Parliament, to place the organisation on a statutory footing for the first time. It provides the legal basis for its operations. Today, SIS is subject to public oversight by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.The stated priority roles of SIS are counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, providing intelligence in support of cyber security, and supporting stability overseas to disrupt terrorism and other criminal activities.
Mossad, short for HaMossad leModiʿin uleTafkidim Meyuḥadim ( meaning ‘Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations’), is the national intelligence agency of Israel. It is one of the main entities in the Israeli Intelligence Community, along with Aman (military intelligence) and Shin Bet (internal security).
Mossad is responsible for intelligence collection, covert operations, and counter-terrorism. Mossad is separate from Israel’s democratic institutions. Because no law defines its purpose, objectives, roles, missions, powers or budget and because it is exempt from the constitutional laws of the State of Israel Mossad has been described as a deep state. Its director answers directly and only to the Prime Minister. Its annual budget is estimated to be around 10 billion shekels (US$2.73 billion) and it is estimated that it employs around 7,000 people directly, making it the second-largest espionage agency in the Western world, after the American CIA.
Federal Security Service, Russia
The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB RF; Russian: Федеральная служба безопасности Российской Федерации (ФСБ), tr. Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii ) is the principal security agency of Russia and the main successor agency to the USSR’s KGB (‘Committee for State Securityʼ). Its main responsibilities are within the country and include counter-intelligence, internal and border security, counter-terrorism, and surveillance as well as investigating some other types of grave crimes and federal law violations. It is headquartered in Lubyanka Square, Moscow’s center, in the main building of the former KGB. According to the 1995 Federal Law “On the Federal Security Service”, direction of the FSB is executed by the president of Russia, who appoints the Director of the FSB.The immediate predecessor of the FSB was the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) of Russia, itself a successor to the KGB: on 12 April 1995, Russian president Boris Yeltsin signed a law mandating a reorganization of the FSK, which resulted in the creation of the FSB. In 2003, the FSB’s responsibilities were widened by incorporating the previously independent Border Guard Service and a major part of the abolished Federal Agency of Government Communication and Information (FAPSI). The three major structural successor components of the former KGB that remain administratively independent of the FSB are the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Federal Protective Service (FSO), and the Main Directorate of Special Programs of the President of the Russian Federation (GUSP).
GRU (Main Intelligence Agency), Russia
The Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, abbreviated G.U., formerly the Main Intelligence Directorate and still commonly known by its previous abbreviation GRU (Russian: ГРУ, IPA: [ɡeeˈru]), is the foreign military intelligence agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Unlike Russia’s other security and intelligence agencies, such as the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Federal Protective Service (FSO), whose heads report directly to the president of Russia, the director of the GRU is subordinate to the Russian military command, reporting to the Minister of Defence and the Chief of the General Staff. Until 2010, and again from 2013 onwards, the GRU controlled the military intelligence service and the GRU special forces.
The directorate is reputedly Russia’s largest foreign-intelligence agency. According to unverified statements by Stanislav Lunev, a defector from the GRU, in 1997 the agency deployed six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR. It also commanded some 25,000 Spetsnaz troops as of 1997.
Central Intelligence Agency, USA
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA; ) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, officially tasked with gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). As a principal member of the United States Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and Cabinet of the United States.
Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is a domestic security service, the CIA has no law enforcement function and is officially mainly focused on overseas intelligence gathering, with only limited domestic intelligence collection. The CIA serves as the national manager for coordination of HUMINT activities across the U.S. intelligence community. It is the only agency authorized by law to carry out and oversee covert action at the behest of the President. It exerts foreign political influence through its tactical divisions, such as the Special Activities Center. The CIA was also instrumental in establishing intelligence services in several U.S. allied countries, such as Germany’s BND.
Directorate-General for External Security, France
The General Directorate for External Security (French: Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure, DGSE) is France’s external intelligence agency. The French equivalent to the United Kingdom’s MI6 and the United States’ CIA, the DGSE operates under the direction of the French Ministry of Armed Forces and works alongside its domestic counterpart, the DGSI (General Directorate for Internal Security), in providing intelligence and safeguarding French national security, notably by performing paramilitary and counterintelligence operations abroad. As with most other intelligence agencies, details of its operations and organization are highly classified, and are therefore not made public.The DGSE’s head office is in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. It engages in a significant amount of economic espionage.
ASIS ( Australian Secret Intelligence Service), Australia
The Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) is the foreign intelligence agency of the Australian Government. ASIS was formed in 1952, but its existence remained secret even within government until 1972. ASIS is part of the Australian Intelligence Community responsible for the collection of foreign intelligence, including both counter-intelligence and liaising with the intelligence agencies of other countries. In these roles, ASIS is comparable to the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
ASIS is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio and its head, the director-general, is directly responsible to the minister for foreign affairs. The headquarters of ASIS is within DFAT’s headquarters in Canberra. Its current head is Director-General Paul Symon.
Federal Intelligence Service ( Bundesnachrichtendienst),German
The Federal Intelligence Service (German: Bundesnachrichtendienst , BND) is the foreign intelligence agency of Germany, directly subordinate to the Chancellor’s Office. The BND headquarters is located in central Berlin and is the world’s largest intelligence headquarters. The BND has 300 locations in Germany and foreign countries. In 2016, it employed around 6,500 people; 10% of them are military personnel who are formally employed by the Office for Military Sciences. The BND is the largest agency of the German Intelligence Community.
The BND was founded during the Cold War in 1956 as the official foreign intelligence agency of West Germany, which had recently joined NATO, and in close cooperation with the CIA. It was the successor to the earlier Gehlen Organization, often known simply as “The Organization” or “The Org”, a West German intelligence organization affiliated with the CIA whose existence had not been officially acknowledged. The most central figure in the BND’s history was Reinhard Gehlen, the leader of the Gehlen Organization and later the founding president of the BND, who was regarded as “one of the most legendary Cold War spymasters.” From the early days of the Cold War the Gehlen Organization and later the BND had an intimate cooperation with the CIA, and often was the western intelligence community’s only eyes and ears on the ground in the eastern bloc. The BND is also regarded as one of the best informed intelligence services in regards to the Middle East from the 1960s. The BND was quickly established as the western world’s second largest intelligency agency, second only to the CIA. Both Russia and the Middle East remain important focuses of the BND’s activities, in addition to violent non-state actors.
Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office,Japan
The Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office (内閣情報調査室, Naikaku Jōhō Chōsashitsu), also known as Naichō (内調), is a Japanese intelligence agency under the Cabinet Secretariat. It reports directly to the Prime Minister.
The agency is said to be an equal to the American Central Intelligence Agency. However, it is often criticized as being rather ineffectual, spending most of its energy translating foreign publications rather than gathering any substantial intelligence, while being accused of spying on Japanese nationals on domestic soil.Like most intelligence agencies in Japan, its personnel are usually recruited from other agencies. Around 100 out of 170 CIRO agents are from other agencies/ministries with top positions occupied by career police officers.As of 2019, the CIRO has close contact with the National Security Council (Japan) as a communication channel to the prime minister. The CIRO is headquartered in Chiyoda, Tokyo, in a building called “H20”.
Ministry of State Security (China)
The Ministry of State Security (MSS), or Guoanbu , is the intelligence, security and secret police agency of the People’s Republic of China (non-military area of interests), responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security. MSS has been described as one of the most secretive intelligence organizations in the world. It is headquartered in Beijing.The MSS was preceded by the Central Investigation Department (CID), which was China’s primary intelligence organization from 1955 to 1983. The MSS was created in 1983 with the merging of the CID and the counter-intelligence elements of the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China.The network of state security bureaus and the Ministry of State Security should not be confused with the separate but parallel network of public security bureaus, administered by the Ministry of Public Security.
The logo of the MSS is unique among Chinese government agencies as it displays the party emblem instead of the state emblem.
The Inter-Services Intelligence ( abbreviated as ISI) is the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan, operationally responsible for gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world. As one of the principal members of the Pakistani intelligence community, the ISI reports to the Director-General and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the Government of Pakistan.
The ISI consists primarily of serving military officers drawn on secondment from the three service branches of the Pakistan Armed Forces (Army, Air Force, and Navy) and hence the name “Inter-Services”. However, the agency also recruits many civilians. Since 1971, the ISI has been headed by a serving three-star general of the Pakistan Army, who is appointed by the Prime Minister on recommendation of the Chief of Army Staff, who recommends three officers for the job. The ISI is currently headed by Lieutenant-General Faiz Hameed who was appointed Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence on 17 June 2019. The Director-General reports directly to both the Prime Minister and the Army Chief.
The ISI gained global recognition and fame in the 1980s when it supported the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet Union during the Soviet–Afghan War in then Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. During the war, the ISI worked in close coordination with the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States to train and fund the Mujahideen with American, Pakistani, and Saudi funds.