Introduction - a short history of special services - Dagger and Cloak

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Introduction - a short history of special services

Collecting intelligence on domestic and foreign rivals, analyzing potential threats to national security and pursuing various secret operations both inside and outside the country has always been a necessity for almost every country. History of intelligence and secret services reaches as far as the times of ancient China, India and other civilizations – even then, in the context of limited military and technological capabilities, the rulers felt the need of such organizations.

Collection of intelligence went along with a wide range of illegal (if we treat intelligence gathering as a legal action, which is unlikely) actions – assassinations, kidnappings, sabotage acts and so on. For example, Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Maurya Empire, did not hesitate to rely on assassinations, spies and secret agents to reach his aims. Feudal Japan had the legendary ninjas, which were used to gather intelligence. Even ancient Egyptians, who didn’t have that many enemies, kept a thoroughly developed system for the acquisition of intelligence.

A more recent example could be the Elizabethan England. In the era of diplomacy, it was quite impossible to survive without maintaining a competitive intelligence agency – a lot more things were done “behind the scenes” than at the meetings of formal diplomats. It is also worth mentioning that many modern espionage methods were well established even then.

Two World Wars required an extensive use of spies and intelligence gathering in foreign (mostly rival) countries – it was especially relevant during the World War II, but there were a lot of interesting techniques used and operations carried out in World War I as well. The succeeding Cold War involved probably the most intense espionage activity ever – this time, it was a “spy war” between the United States of America and its allies and the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and their allies. The most important scene of this “war” was related to nuclear weapons secrets; however, a lot of much wider areas were covered as well (especially so at the Soviet side).

Recently, espionage agencies have targeted the illegal drug trade and international terrorism. This was a new shift and challenge to these organizations – since the current enemy is neither a state nor a particular person, new technology and methods are required. Furthermore, there is a noticeable rise of skepticism and various conspiracy theories, questioning the role of special services themselves, regarding, for example, the attack of 2001-09-11.

In this blog (article blog, to be precise) I will try to provide information about various special/intelligence services in the whole world, including related news, operations, equipment etc. Please be forgiving for accidental spelling/style mistakes - I will do my best to find and fix them, but since English is not my mother tongue, some may and most probably will slip through :-)

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