When we think of intelligence agencies, we often think of James Bond and Mission Impossible films. But despite scenes of debonair locations, Amazonian women and bottles of the most expensive Champaign, being a spy is not as glamorous as Hollywood would have us believe.
Intelligence agencies often carry out assassinations and allegedly gain information through torture, which have led many to question their morals. But all of this is still very much uncertain, as secrecy is every agency’s top priority.
However, since the War on Terror that eclipsed most of the Noughties, intelligence agencies have become a little more exposed, as controversy and failures are splashed across newspaper and websites. Most recently, Terror suspect Abdelhakim Belhaj demanded an apology over the way he and his family were tortured and mistreated in order to reveal information that they never had.
But in spite of the bad press, intelligence agencies have gained masses of success, which are often not made public until years later. Due to this, ranking agencies can be difficult, so one can only place them based on published knowledge.
5 RUSSIA: GRU
The Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije (GRU, which means “Main Intelligence Directorate”, has survived over the KGB that become defunct in 1995 by Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation. It was set up in 1981 by Marxist revolutionary and communist politician, Vladimir Lenin, and since then, has been handling all military intelligence.
But the agency’s claim to fame is considered to be their involvement in former Chechen President Zelimkhan Abdumuslimovich Yandarbiyev’s assassination. The controversial politician was accused of having links to the Al Qaeda by Russia and the US and was finally killed when a bomb blasted through his SUV in Doha, the Qatari capital.
4 UNITED STATES: CIA
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was founded in 1947 and aims to obtain and analyse information about foreigners, propaganda and public information, as well as changing operations on the president’s orders.
Although they engaged in assassination attempts in Chile, Congo and Cuba, their most intriguing project was the Bluebird from 1951 and 1953, which saw the agency conduct mind-control experiments to discover the creation of new identities, multiple personalities and false memories.
3 LONDON: MI6
The British equivalent to the CIA was formed in 1909, just before World War I to keep a close watch on the Imperial German government.
Regardless of its trouble in establishing a network in Germany during the Great War, it has since developed into one of the top spy agencies in the world.
Known for preventing leaks, their career high is considered to be putting a stop to further Westerners being taken hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s, by triggering an internal conflict between Lebanese paramilitary groups and thus, distracting them from taking more victims.
2 ISREAL: MOSSAD
Responsible for collecting intelligence and converting operations, which include paramilitary activities, the Mossad was formed in 1949 as the Central Institute for Coordination.
Since then, the intelligence agency has carried out a number of assassinations, sabotage, paramilitary operations and psychological warfare. In 1960, they discovered that a notorious Nazi criminal was living in Argentine under the pseudo Ricardo Klement. After that, team of Mossad agents tracked him down and smuggled him into Isreal, where he was tried and executed.
But the agency’s famous project came a decade later, when they took out a number of PLO operatives after eleven Israeli athletes were killed at the 1972 Olympic Games.
1 PAKISTAN: ISI
The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was created by the Pakistani government in 1948, after the army, navy and air force failed to share intelligence adequately.
Working in an “invisible” fashion, the ISI has worked with the CIA since the 9/11, taking part in counter-terrorism programme to stop further attacks from Al-Qaeda, Taliban militants and tribal terrorists in Pakistan.
But their most high-profile project came in 1980, when they managed to intercept an assassination plan against the President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. The plotters, whose aim was to replace the government with a more extreme Islamic one, were arrested days before they planned to carry out the attack.