Intelligence and spy agencies are what makes for an engaging Sunday afternoon watch. After lunch, you can sit on the sofa, put your legs up on the teapot and watch the adrenaline-pumping action in the movie. But the presence of secret services is one of the most decisive in terms of a nation’s policy-making. Things like whom to let into the country and who should be allowed to work/ run a business are all often inspired by the information these agencies gather. But of course, they aren’t just about information. They also ‘indulge’ in counter-terrorism, assassinations and covert operations. Here are 10 of the most powerful spy agencies in the world. Note that the names listed here appear in no particular order.
Inter-Service Intelligence(ISI)- Pakistan
Founded in 1948, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence is Pakistan’s major intelligence service. The most important functions of the agency include collecting information that could be crucial for national security and also performing intelligence assessment for the Government of Pakistan. The ISI is considered as one of the best Intelligence agencies in the world.
Secret Intelligence Service(MI6)- United Kingdom
Fans of James Bond will be all too familiar with this one. The MI6 was formed before the 1st World War, primarily to curb the offensive activities of the German government. The main tasks of MI6 include acting as the watchdog for internal and external terror activities and also keep a watch on organizations and countries that pose a threat to national security. Though the MI6 has been involved in multiple conflicts during the 20th century, their involvement wasn’t acknowledged until 1994.
The Institute For Intelligence and Special Operation(MOSSAD)- Israel
The most active intelligence agency in Israel, MOSSAD has for its functions counterterrorism and covert operations. The agency reports directly to the Prime Minister. MOSSAD has gained appreciation in the political circles for the fact that they have emerged as a powerful agency even though they have a lack of resources compared to their peers. The most notorious(and popular) unit of MOSSAD is the Special Operations Division. Many are the assassinations that have taken place in the world carried out by this unit.
Federal Security Services(FSB)- Russia
Russia’s FSB is the successor to USSR’s. Although not as powerful as the KGB, the FSB is still considered formidable. The agency, though it was founded in the relatively recent past(in 1995) already has over 250k personnel working as undercover agents, foreign spies and secret officers. Tha FSB primarily focuses on fighting state crimes, acts of terrorism and drug trafficking.
Central Intelligence Agency(CIA)- United States
The CIA is widely familiar thanks to Hollywood. They are part of the trio that comes under the United States National Security Agency(NSA)-the other two being the Defense Intelligence Agency(DIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI). The primary tasks of the agency include procuring and assessing data about foreign nationals in the country and covert operations under the direction of the nations’ president. The CIA has its headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
The BND- Germany’s federal intelligence service was founded just before the Second World War for the purpose of spying to find out the enemies’ strategies. Headquartered in Pullach near Munich, the BND supposedly has the most modern technology which it uses to spy on the enemies. The major function of BND is surveillance for the sake of both domestic and foreign intelligence.
Research and Analysis Wing(RAW)- India
India’s own independent secret agency, RAW was founded way back in 1968. The powerful stature of RAW is evident from the fact that the agency reports directly to the Prime Minister and is not even answerable to the Indian Parliament- something of an exception when compared with how most secret services of the western world operate. RAW’s primary reason for existence is to acquire information about terror activities and of course, it’s main focus is Pakistan. Apparently, RAW even has a secret base in that country.
Direction Generale De La Securite Exterieure(DGSE)- France
With the recent Paris terror attacks, the DGSE has come under pressure. The agency is ‘young’ in that it replaced the Service de Documentation Exterieure et de Contre-Espionage(SDECE)- which was France’s earlier secret service agency. The DGSE, which has a workforce of about 5000 has been instrumental in preventing 15 terror attacks in France since it came into being.
Australian Secret Intelligence Service(ASIS), Australia
One of the oldest intelligence agencies on this list, ASIS pre-dates India’s RAW and was founded in 1951. The agency is also one of the world’s most powerful, having a firm foothold in almost all the world’s nations in terms of intelligence.
Ministry of State Security(MSS)- China
The intelligence agency of the People’s Republic of China has its headquarters in Beijing. The primary responsibilities of the agency include national security, counter-intelligence and acquiring intelligence info about foreign countries. When the task is related to non-state security matters, the MSS often works in conjunction with the Ministry of Public Security.
A democracy is a far better system than a monarchy in which decision-making is largely vested with just one individual. The irony though is that many of the systems-cogs in the wheel of democracy are things that existed or came into being during the age of monarchies. Like secret services. So, the crucial thing is whether we use these systems for democratic purposes or much like how an autocrat would use them. Overblown as that may sound, such decisions have a large impact on whether the common man falls or rises.