Nearly every country in the world has an intelligence agency that is charged with espionage in order to protect its own interests in all aspects, including economic, political, and military interests. While some of these agencies have agreements to share information with others for greater impact, others are very secretive and make it a point to share with no one. It is widely known that many countries have spies in other areas of the world for the purpose of gathering intelligence data. Who these spies are and exactly how they operate is more secretive in nature.
1: ISI (Pakistan)
The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (more commonly known as Inter-Services Intelligence or simply by its initials ISI), is Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, responsible for providing critical national security intelligence assessment to the Government of Pakistan. The ISI is the largest of the three intelligence service agencies of Pakistan, the others being the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI).
It is the successor of the IB and MI formed after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 to coordinate and operate espionage activities for the three branches of the Pakistan Armed Forces. The ISI was established as an independent intelligence agency in 1948 in order to strengthen the sharing of military intelligence between the three branches of Pakistan’s armed forces in the wake aftermath of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, which had exposed weaknesses in intelligence gathering, sharing and coordination between the Army, Air Force and Navy.
2: U.S. Intelligence Agencies
The United States of America’s intelligence community is made up of sixteen different agencies. Most notable and recognizable on that list are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
While in the past these agencies operated in mostly isolated states, the sharing of intelligence information has increased considerably since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The CIA is the largest of the intelligence agencies and is responsible for gathering data from other countries that could impact U.S. policy.
The NSA is the country’s intelligence agency responsible for intercepting and deciphering foreign signals while protecting the information systems of the United States. The DIA gathers intelligence information that is pertinent to military operations around the world while the FBI is the link between the intelligence and law enforcement communities in the country.
3: CSIS (Canada)
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is responsible for intelligence gathering on a domestic level.
The agency does not have the authority to work on foreign intelligence and its main objective is to protect Canada from national threats.
It works closely with intelligence agencies from other countries, including the United States.
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4: ASIS (Australia)
The Australian Secret Intelligence Service was founded in 1952. For more than twenty years, the existence of the agency was a secret even from its own government.
Its primary responsibility is gathering intelligence from mainly Asian and Pacific interests using agents stationed in a wide variety of areas.
Its main purpose, as with most agencies, is to protect the country’s political and economic interests while ensuring safety for the people of Australia against national threats.
5: Mossad (Israel)
The Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks is the intelligence agency of Israel.
Also widely known as Mossad, it was founded in 1951. The agency has always operated in a secret state and, until the mid-90s, the identity of the director of the agency was even regarded as a secret.
Mossad is responsible for gathering intelligence data using human field agents throughout the Middle East. While other countries are also included, their main focus is on countries in their own region. Current estimates number their force at just over one thousand agents.
6: BND (Germany)
The Federal Intelligence Service of Germany is referred to as BND. The agency sees almost the entire world as an opportunity for intelligence gathering with agents stationed in more than one hundred countries.
BND is widely known for sending agents in as undercover embassy workers to gather intelligence data. The agency employs more than four thousand worldwide.
7: DGSE (France)
The General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) of France has a rather short history compared to other intelligence agencies in the region.
It was officially founded in 1982 from a multitude of prior intelligence agencies in the country.
Its primary focus is to gather intelligence from foreign sources to assist in military and strategic decisions for the country. The agency employs more than five thousand people.
8: GRU (Russia)
The Main Intelligence Administration or GRU, largely came into play after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Its main task is gathering military intelligence data both on domestic and foreign levels. Even though its staff size is smaller than the intelligence agencies under the Soviet Union, the GRU still remains an important player in the world intelligence community and is regarded as a professional force.
Russia and China have a signed treaty for the sharing of intelligence information between their agencies.
9: MI6 (UK)
The Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom, also known as MI6, has a long history dating back to 1909.
The agency’s main office is in London and it is responsible for gathering information from across the globe that could impact political and economic interests in the UK.
MI6 has a strong focus on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and crimes of a serious nature that have the potential to impact the entire region.
10: MSS (China)
The current intelligence agency of China, the Ministry of State Security, was founded in 1983. Its main objective is to gather intelligence on those that could be seen as enemies with the goal of overthrowing or otherwise dismantling the socialist government of China.
The MSS has agents stationed throughout the world posing as ordinary citizens. The MSS has a primary interest in the United States and has many agents posted throughout the Silicon Valley in California.
11: RAW (India)
India’s intelligence agency is known as the Research and Analysis Wing or RAW. It is sometimes also abbreviated as R&AW.
RAW was founded in 1968 with its main objective to gather intelligence about its neighbor, Pakistan. Throughout the years, Pakistan has continued to be a primary target of its intelligence gathering efforts.
It is estimated that RAW employs more than eight thousand field agents in various locations throughout the world.
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