Security of its citizens remains the top priority of any government in the world and it, unquestionably, requires the alertness of both military and police. However, with the rapidly changing security dynamics, it has become equally important to keep a watch on activities within and outside the country so as to eliminate any consequent threat to the peace of the nation. It’s the mystery around the espionage agencies – their covert operations and sabotage missions – that make them institutions of fascination. Here we have compiled a list of nine most powerful intelligence agencies of the world.
Here we have compiled a list of nine most powerful intelligence agencies of the world:
1. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA):
When the CIA launched its official handle on Twitter, its first tweet carried the mystery and disassociation that its missions had been infamous for. It said,
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.
When it comes to the sheer scale of logistics and intelligence collection, the CIA stands unmatched in the entire world. It is said to have embarked on several audacious missions and has coordinated with most of the top secret entities in the world. Since its inception in 1947, the CIA has engaged in counter-terrorism efforts, resolving international conflicts and preventing the spread of nuclear and other forms of non-conventional weapons. The rivalry between CIA and USSR’s KGB in the cold war era has been the topic of interest of innumerable books. Having said that, the CIA had its fair share of controversies too. It is alleged to have staged coups, trigger wars and carried out assassinations in several countries across the world.
2. Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW):
The need of an external spy agency in India was necessitated by intelligence failures in the Indo-China war of 1962 and Indo-Pak war of 1965. Founded by India’s spymaster Rameshwarnath Kao in 1968, RAW was tasked to monitor the movement and activities of its hostile neighbours (China and Pakistan). The spy agency is said to have played a key role in the Bangladesh Liberation War. During the 1971 war, it successfully intercepted the communication between the Pakistan government and its army, thus availing vital info to India’s advantage. RAW also helped the government conduct nuclear tests with absolute secrecy.
The agency still keeps a close watch on political, military, economic and scientific developments in the country. It has been involved in various counter-terrorism acts and other covert operations. In India, Intelligence Bureau (IB) takes care of domestic intelligence handling while RAW monitors foreign operations.
Perhaps the mother of all intelligence agencies, Israel’s Mossad is known for its audacious undercover operations. Founded on December 13, 1949, at the recommendation of the then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Mossad deals in covert actions, counter-terrorism and bringing in Jews to Israel from those nations where they face persecution. One of the famous operations of Mossad involved elimination of all the conspirators of the terror attack at 1972 Munich Olympics that had claimed lives of 11 Israeli athletes. After the attack, Israel’s then Prime Minister Golda Meir secretly ordered Mossad to hunt down all those responsible for the planning and execution of Munich massacre. For the next seven years, over a dozen suspects and suspected terror masterminds were killed throughout Europe and the Middle East.
4. Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI):
Founded by Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, an Australian-born British Army general officer, in 1948, ISI is considered the embodiment of the army’s power in Pakistan. ISI’s responsibilities include critical national security and intelligence measurement to the Government of Pakistan. The spy agency is also notorious for providing safe havens to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is said to have played a key role in the defeat of USSR in Afghanistan. The spy agency is alleged to have trained members of the Taliban that toppled the Afghan government and is suspected to have sent militants to Kashmir to create instability in India.
5. Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR):
SVR is the successor of Russia’s premier security agency KGB after it was dissolved in December 1991. The spy agency is responsible for performing external intelligence vis-à-vis civilian affairs. Notably, Russia has a separate military intelligence entity focusing on external affairs called Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). After the end of the cold war, SVR is said to have created “a second echelon” of “auxiliary agents in addition to main weapons, illegal as well as special agents”, according to former SVR officer Kouzminov. These agents are legal immigrants and include scientists as well as other professionals. One of the modus operandi of SVR is to recruit Russian citizens who live in foreign countries.
6. Secret Intelligence Service (MI6):
UK’s MI6 is one of the oldest spy agencies of the world. It is relegated to the task of all overseas intelligence collection related to British security. The agency provided critical info regarding enemy activities in two World Wars. The code breakers of MI6 not only helped Britain avert Hilter’s annexation attempt but also helped in defeating the Nazi regime. Post World War 2, the agency worked closely with America’s CIA and even today, facilitates the latter’s covert missions. British intelligence is bound by the Intelligence Services Act 1994. Even the agency’s identity wasn’t made public until 1994. The agency has an annual budget of £2.6 billion.
7. Ministry of State Security (MSS):
MSS is China’s chief intelligence agency tasked to deal with internal and external intelligence gathering related to civilian affairs. It is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security of China. Founded in 1983, China’s law gives equal authority to the MSS as its regular police to arrest or detain people. MSS have acted swiftly against the elements of threat in the Greater China region as well as in Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong. Apart from security updates, MSS keeps a close watch on popular perception of the communist government. Over the years, it has played a key role in containing any threat to the government.
8. Bundesnachrichtendienst or Federal Intelligence Service (BND):
BND is Germany’s foreign intelligence agency. It directly comes under German chancellor’s office. With its top-notch surveillance system, the spy agency has averted terror attacks and has even eliminated various security threats. Created in 1956, BND is tasked to collect information on a variety of areas like foreign non-state terrorism and weapons of mass destruction proliferation. It is also said to have deeper access to the inside activities in the Middle-East and Latin America.
9. Direction Generale De La Securite Exterieure (DGSE):
Like other spy agencies, DGSE keeps a vigil on external threats to France. With over 5000 employees and latest surveillance technology to its disposal, DGSE has eliminated several threats from terrorist groups based in the Middle-East and Algeria. Known for maintaining a low profile, it works in tandem with DGSI, which is responsible for internal security. Founded in 1982, DGSE works under instructions of the French Ministry of Defence.