According to the Federation of American Scientists: "...Though sometimes compared to the US Defense Intelligence Agency, the GRU's activities encompass those performed by nearly all joint US military intelligence agencies as well as other national US organizations. The GRU gathers human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. It also maintains significant signals intelligence and imagery reconnaissance and satellite imagery capabilities." GRU Space Intelligence Directorate had put more than 130 SIGINT satellites into orbit. GRU and KGB SIGINT network employed about 350,000 specialists.
According to GRU defector Stanislav Lunev, "Though most Americans do not realize it, America is penetrated by Russian military intelligence to the extent that arms caches lie in wait for use by Russian special forces". He also described a possibility that compact tactical nuclear weapons known as "suitcase bombs" are hidden in the US and noted that "the most sensitive activity of the GRU is gathering intelligence on American leaders, and there is only one purpose for this intelligence: targeting information for spetsnaz (special forces) assassination squads [in the event of war]". The American leaders will be easily assassinated using the "suitcase bombs", according to Lunev. GRU is "one of the primary instructors of terrorists worldwide" according to Lunev Terrorist Shamil Basayev reportedly worked for this organization.
During the 2006 Georgian-Russian espionage controversy several officers (allegedly working for GRU) were accused by the Georgian authorities of preparations to commit sabotage and terrorist acts. GRU detachments from Chechnya were transferred to Lebanon independently of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict "to improve Russia’s image in the Arab world", according to Sergei Ivanov. Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated by two GRU officers. GRU officers have also been accused of creating criminal death squads.
Dmitry Kozak and Vladislav Surkov from the current Putin administration reportedly served in GRU. Two Chechen former warlords Said-Magomed Kakiev and Sulim Yamadayev are commanders of "West" and "East" battalions that are controlled by GRU (each battalion includes close to a thousand fighters).
In 2002, Bill Powell wrote Treason, an account of the experiences of former GRU colonel Vyacheslav Baranov. Baranov had been recruited by the CIA and agreed to spy for them, but was betrayed to the Russians by a mole in either the FBI or the CIA and spent five years in prison before being released. The identity of the mole remains unknown to this day, although speculation has mounted that it could have been Robert Hanssen.