One of the most important players in the world intelligence community, the GRU or Glavnoye Razvedyvatel`noye Upravleniye or Main Intelligence Administration is Russia’s largest secret service.
Though not as famous as the erstwhile KGB, the GRU is the backbone of Russian defence intelligence service and concentrates on military espionage, especially away from Russian shores.
The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Federal Intelligence Service in English, is Germany’s premiere intelligence agency that acts as an early warning system to alert the German government about threats to its interests.
The main weapon in its armoury is electronic surveillance of international communications. BND agents are spread across the world, with one estimate putting the number at 4000.
The Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) is Australia’s intelligence watchdog which keeps a close watch on developments across the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Although Australia is relatively isolated from global terror, still ASIS works 24X7 to protect the country’s political and economic interests.
Interestingly, the existence of ASIS, founded in 1952, was a secret even from its own government for over twenty years.
Founded in 1968, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), initially, focused its activities in India’s immediate neighbourhood but with the changing profile of New Delhi’s geo-political interests, it has spread its wings to other regions across the world.
The agency is headquartered in New Delhi. Its chief directly reports to the Prime Minister and its operations do not come under the purview of Parliament.
Often termed as an effective instrument of India’s national power, the RAW is believed to employ more than eight thousand field agents spread across the world.
By Ajith Vijay Kumar
Established in 1948, Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is one of the most notorious secret service agencies in the world. Officially, the ISI is responsible for providing security intelligence assessment to the government of Pakistan; however, it is known to be involved in fomenting trouble in India.
Currently headed by Zaheer ul-Islam, the ISI is known to command immense power in the Pakistani establishment.
MI6, United Kingdom
The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), popularly referred to as the Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 6 (MI6), is known as the "the secret front line" of Britain`s national security.
A century old organisation, the MI6’s presence was not officially acknowledged till 1994. The agency is tasked with gathering foreign intelligence from across the globe that could impact political and economic interests in the UK.
One of the most powerful secret service agencies in the world, the Mossad, meaning Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, is the national intelligence agency of Israel.
Mossad, like the CIA, has active agents spread across the world and are involved in intelligence gathering, covert operations and ‘protecting Jews and Jewish interests’.
Famous operations: In 1960, Mossad discovered that Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was in Argentina. He was smuggled into Israel, tried and executed.
Mossad had played a major role in Operation Entebbe, the counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976 to rescue kidnapped Israelis.
If not the best, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America is indeed the largest secret service with the maximum reach. The CIA is known to play a pivotal role in helping the US maintain its status as the world’s sole super power.
More importantly, CIA has been playing a central role in exchange of intelligence between countries to combat global terrorism.
The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is one of the most powerful and most active Chinese intelligence agencies. Its main objective is to keep track and neutralise “enemies” of the Communist Party of China.
Patterned after the former Soviet Union’s KGB political police, the MSS aims “to control the Chinese people to maintain the rule of the Communist Party”.
The modus operandi of MSS is unique too - its most successful spies are agents stationed throughout the world posing as ordinary citizens.
The General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) of France was founded in 1982 to gather intelligence from foreign sources to assist in military and strategic decisions.
Not as famous as CIA or Mossad, DGSE claims to have prevented more than 15 terrorist attacks in France since 9/11, reports said.
The agency has a network of around 5000 agents spread across France and the world. Also, DGSE is said to have a huge force of voluntary correspondents (spies), who are not on the rolls but play a vital role in gathering intelligence.