Overview

intelligence services


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Government organizations dedicated to the collection and evaluation of information, primarily about the intentions of other countries that are seen as adversaries. Such information can be economic, political, or military, and can relate either to general trends or to specific groups such as terrorists, individuals, and institutions. Much intelligence is gathered from public sources, but intelligence services have also developed extensive covert activities, designed to protect and enhance national security. They have also acquired functions in counter-intelligence, in order to safeguard their own operations and to manipulate those of adversaries. MI5 and MI6 are the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service in Britain. The sphere of MI5, founded in 1909, includes internal security and counter-intelligence on British territory while MI6, formed in 1912, covers all areas outside the UK. During World War II, MI6's successful cooperation with resistance movements overseas contributed considerably to the outcome of the war. Since then, however, it has received adverse public exposure through disclosures that some of its employees, notably intellectuals recruited in Cambridge in the 1930s, such as Philby, Burgess, Maclean, and Blunt, were double agents whose final allegiance lay with the communist bloc. Strong evidence emerged in the 1980s of MI5's extra-constitutional role during the years of the Labour governments (1974–79), which it was seeking to destabilize. A campaign for more liberal legislation, which would reduce government powers to keep secret matters that should be publicly known, has so far largely failed. Although a Security Service Act of November 1989 placed MI5 and MI6 on a `statutory basis', the accompanying Official Secrets Act increased government powers against ‘unauthorized disclosures’ of official information. Stella Rimington, director-general of MI5 from 1992 to 1995, was the first head of MI5 whose identity was officially confirmed. With the ending of the Cold War, MI5 and MI6 have sought a new role, and in 1995 plans to use them in the fight against organized crime were announced. Since September 11, 2001, increased priority has been given to combating the threat of terrorism. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a US government agency. It was established by Congress in 1947 and is responsible to the President through the National Security Council. Its work consists of gathering and evaluating foreign intelligence, undertaking counter-intelligence operations overseas, and organizing secret political intervention and psychological warfare operations in foreign areas. The CIA has acquired immense power and influence, employing thousands of agents overseas, and it disposes of a large budget that is not subjected to Congressional scrutiny. During the 1980s it was actively involved in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Iran. In 1986 the CIA was criticized for its involvement in the Irangate scandal (see Reagan, Ronald). During the 1990s it too sought to redefine its role following the end of the Cold War. The CIA was again criticized after the terrorist attacks of September 11, which it failed to anticipate; and for its role in events leading to the 2003 Iraq War, the case for which was largely based on its inaccurate assessment of Iraq's ability to develop weapons of mass destruction.

[...]

Subjects: World History.


Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »


Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.