1-What is an intelligence agency?

The secret agents of intelligence agency are smart. They drive fast cars and regularly save the world through their ingenious investigative work. At least that’s how Agent 007, James Bond, has conveyed it so far. In more recent productions like “Homeland”, the picture looks somewhat different. But what is there to the myth?

It is clear that intelligence agency is not mere fiction. Not only since the Nawalny case have they been reported on and speculated about. But what does reality look like? Which agents have changed the history of their country? And who gave them the licence to kill? This is exactly the question we are dealing with in this video.

What is an intelligence agency?

What is an intelligence agency?

Knowledge is power. People in ancient times already knew that. No wonder that secret agents have left their mark on human history for many millennia. After all, political, military and economic information has always been very valuable to the rulers of history and also to those of today.

Especially when the information is not publicly accessible. Secret knowledge can determine victory or defeat, wealth or poverty, and in the worst case even the life and death of a person or an entire people.

intelligence agency obtain and collect information, evaluate it and make it available to the government of a country or to another client. There are, of course, different types. Some obtain information from other countries. In other words, they are directed at foreign countries. Others gather information from people living in their own country who may want to do harm to that country.

What is an intelligence agency?

intelligence agency is supposed to detect planned crimes before they happen. And thus prevent them. They are also supposed to identify crises in other countries at an early stage, so that in the best case they can even be averted and do not come to a head.

All of these are noble goals, at least at first. I would be interested in your opinion on this. Do you think the work of intelligence agency is important? Or does the idea give you the creeps? Do you rate a secret service differently from others? Feel free to write it in the comments.

The first intelligence agency in history

According to the German Spy Museum in Berlin, the first great empires of antiquity already had official intelligence agency. The Egyptians hired spies around the time of the New Kingdom, from 1550 to 1070 BC, calling them the “eyes of the pharaoh”. But their opponents also used espionage methods. In the Battle of Kadesh in 1275 BC, the Hittites were able to ambush the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II with enemy spies and faked messages, thus winning the battle.

The Persian king Cyrus the Great is also said to have had quite a few eyes and ears. This refers to agents who gathered information for him. Even the Greeks and Romans rely on intelligence means. The Romans learned how important espionage work is, especially in 218 BC. At that time, Hannibal had the Roman camp scouted by spies in the Battle of Trebia and was thus able to win the battle against the Romans.

Another example from history: Although the Bible says “Thou shalt not lie.” In the Middle Ages, some clergymen did not take this very seriously. In addition to their work as priests or monks, they also worked as agents for the rulers of Europe. The conditions are ideal: the Church has a Europe-wide network of bishoprics and monasteries, all connected by a common courier system. Secret information can thus easily be brought across the border. And unlike the majority of the ordinary population, the clergy are able to read, write and speak several languages. Many secret doors and gates are thus open to the spies in priestly garb.

But these spy priests do this more as a sideline. Espionage as a full-time job? Until the 15th century, probably not. Most of the agents of that time had other professions and functions and spying was just a sideline. Besides priests, merchants and soldiers also spied. This is exactly what changes with Queen Elizabeth in the 16th century. To protect the queen from papal assassins, her secretary of state Francis Walsingham creates the first modern ring of agents.

İstihbarat teşkilatı

Through his sophisticated spy network, he foils several assassination attempts on Elizabeth I. For example, by intercepting and decoding coded letters from political opponents. But England is not alone.

In France, too, letters are being read. With the Cabinet Noir, Cardinal Richelieu monitored the correspondence of diplomats and politically suspicious persons, thus laying the foundation for professional postal surveillance. The so-called “Black Chamber”, a word many of you probably know from “Assassin’s Creed”, refers to a post office that is not very strict about the secrecy of letters. Information is collected and passed on. In Vienna, by the way, this system of espionage was perfected between 1716 and 1848 by the secret Numbers Office.

But intelligence agencies are of course not only about the post. But what other methods did agents actually use back then and how have secret services and their work changed throughout history? Clearly, you certainly can’t get that far today with just a black chamber.

Methods of the intelligence agency

The reasons for espionage activities have hardly changed over time. Then as now, as I have already said, knowledge is power. In order to maintain this power, almost all states on earth still rely on secret services and spies.

But intelligence agency is not only used to maintain power. One of their central tasks is to uncover planned crimes and prevent attacks. That has always been the case. What has evolved, however, are the agents’ methods. While secret agents used to eavesdrop on conversations, observe suspects and intercept letters at most, new technologies from the mid-19th century onwards change the work of the intelligence agency almost completely.

Telegraphs, telephones and photographs made it possible to gather information in a completely new way. For example, through imaging processes such as photographs. The transmission of data now also works in a matter of seconds. A short call to the intelligence centre is enough to thwart the planned attack. The human being as the only source of information thus loses some of its importance, if you will.

How effective these new working methods of the agents can be can be seen above all in the Second World War. In order to be able to send secret messages by radio unnoticed by their wartime enemies, the National Socialists used the infamous Enigma cipher machine. With this so-called rotor and key machine, the Wehrmacht succeeded in converting secret radio messages into codes before sending them and decoding them again after receiving them.

In this way, information vital to the war effort could be passed on without danger, even if the enemy were to overhear. The machine is considered invincible. And in the end, as we know, it is defeated.
The British intelligence agency initially underestimated the importance of the Enigma. The word is Greek, by the way, and simply means “riddle”. But even the British eventually realise the enormous power of the machine. Men and women then sat up day and night trying to crack the encryption of the German radio messages. In fact, the British managed to figure out the complicated coding system. The further course of the war is thus considerably influenced.

As we can see, people in the intelligence agency have of course not lost any of their importance. By decoding the Enigma, the British learn, for example, about the battle plans of the German Wehrmacht in Africa.

The Cold War

The Cold War as the heyday of agents. Now we are already in the Second World War. But the really “great” time of the intelligence agency only begins afterwards, during the Cold War. Time and again, agents of the superpowers USA and USSR launch massive espionage operations to thwart the plans of the opposing camp. On the one hand, the clients of the Western and Eastern spies are interested in finding out military strategies and weakening the other side.

On the other hand, the government powers want to use the information for one thing above all: to maintain and strengthen the power of their own political regimes. Both superpowers are prepared to sell one’s own grandmother, to stick at nothing. I have already said that some ideas about intelligence agency do not remain pure fiction in history.

Just one example. The US secret service CIA tried to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro at least eight times. To do so, the Central Intelligence Agency exploited Castro’s great weakness: Cigars. With the help of poisoned cigars, the Cuban head of state was to be eliminated. In addition, the CIA allegedly developed a contaminated diving suit that was supposed to infect Fidel Castro with a fungus. All assassination attempts failed. According to his own statement, the Cuban comandante survived a total of around 638 assassination attempts.

But Eastern intelligence agencies do not stop at murders either. The so-called “umbrella assassination” of 7 September 1978, for example, is sadly famous. On that day, the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was bumped into by a stranger with an umbrella at the Waterloo Bridge bus stop in London. Upon impact, Markov felt a small stitch on his right thigh and shortly afterwards developed a high fever. Four days later, Markov died of heart failure. What had happened?

The autopsy provided the grisly explanation for Markov’s death. In his thigh, doctors found an injected plastic pellet laced with the plant poison ricin. Experts suspect that the poison pellet was shot into Markow’s leg using a special technique on an umbrella. But who was behind it? Shortly before his death, Markov suspected the Soviet secret service KGB.

New evidence from Scotland Yard indicates that an entire assassination team must have been at work. The mastermind is said to have been the Bulgarian secret service, which eliminated Markov together with the KGB. And the poison umbrella? According to the latest findings, it is not a murder weapon. Instead, the Bulgarian-Russian secret agents probably used a small, handy weapon to kill Georgi Markov. That’s pretty whacky and opaque.

We can see from this example that a lot of the work of the intelligence agency remains secret, or rather unclear in the first place. There are often countless speculations about which secret service could be behind which assassination. Maybe it’s true, but maybe a rumour has been spread by another intelligence agency that is pursuing its own interests. The truth: difficult – yesterday as today.

In Germany, too, secret agents and spies were up to their tricks during the Cold War. An important spy theatre is Berlin, which was divided at the time. In the 1950s, more than 10,000 spies from different countries were supposed to be undercover in the GDR. The central hub is the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin. In the 1960s, agents are exchanged here. The Americans send spies they have caught back to the East and receive their own exposed agents in return.

After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the early 1990s, the tasks of the international intelligence agencies changed dramatically. Today, for example, economic espionage is considered one of the most important areas of the secret services. But the fight against international terrorism has also become one of the main tasks of the secret services since 11 September 2001 at the latest, and has moved strongly into the focus of public attention.

The agents’ working methods have also changed again. The internet arguably simplifies the work of the intelligence agency enormously. Never before has it been so easy to collect and store sensitive data on a country’s citizens. I won’t go into the legal basis for now. In 2013, former CIA employee Edward Snowden revealed that quite a few countries actually do this. The whistleblower revealed the automated mass surveillance of the National Security Agency, or NSA for short. And he caused a scandal worldwide. Many people first became aware of how far-reaching and influential the work of the intelligence agency still is today as a result of the revelation scandal.

This image is often negatively affected by scandals that come to public attention or investigative mishaps that become public. Of course, ideally, intelligence agency is supposed to prevent crime and avert crises.

I talked about spectacular individual actions and assassination attempts in this video. I don’t want that to go down. It is impossible to give a complete history of the intelligence agency in a video like this. That would be far too extensive. Therefore, I have limited myself to selected periods and actions.


Now let’s summarise the most important things: intelligence agency, spies and agents have been around for thousands of years. Even the Egyptians and Romans used agents to spy on their opponents and win important battles. In the Middle Ages, the rulers of Europe also used clerics as spies, for example, to protect their possessions. And of course also to thwart the plans of their opponents.

It’s about building up and maintaining power. But it is also about preventing crimes and uncovering secret plans. The methods are so versatile that they would blow up any video. And even today there are secret agents among us, that’s quite logical. Maybe you even know some without knowing it. Maybe you are one yourself. I don’t want to offend you now.

Related posts

Leave a Comment