Life of spies excites the imagination by various adventures, exotic trips, luxury and everyday risk. As in the movies about James Bond. However, today the cult of spies seems to be declining: the attitude of media and society toward Bond‘s colleagues is mostly negative.
Although the roots of espionage or spying are very deep, it gained impetus only in 19th century. The role of spies has especially increased during the World War I, and the Cold War could be considered as the golden age of the military intelligence. Although today there are no global conflicts, local wars and international tension increases the importance of secret services. Though required to be more transparent and honest, these services at the same time must be more open to the society. Activities of the spies are no longer considered taboo for the media, therefore everybody must have heard about at least one scandal related to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the British Secret Intelligence Agency MI6, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) or Israeli „Mossad“.
The society‘s aspiration to influence secret governmental political spheres is mostly expressed in the struggle against terrorism when radical actions are taken against independent actors. There the intelligence plays one of the key roles. CIA is active participant of this struggle, but at the same time it is one of the most criticized agencies out of the four secret services mentioned above. The recent CIA‘s actions shocked the public when it became aware of the methods applied in the struggle against terrorism.
The tension which prevailed in the United States after events on 11 September 2001, as well as the attitude of society frightened by terror acts, indirectly empowered the CIA to take strict measures in the struggle with terrorists, especially with „Al Qaeda“. The U.S. secret services started acting especially aggressively in the fight with terrorism and rejected the international legal norms as disruptive. At the same time the CIA was given freedom of actions and methods.
The insofar used extraordinary renditions have become nearly the main tool for receiving information. Extraordinary renditions or tortures by proxy are used when a suspect is rendered for investigation from the jurisdiction of one state to the jurisdiction of another state. The main partner of the CIA in the above activity is the Egyptian Intelligence Service „Al-Mukhabarat Al-Ammah“ well-known for its especially brutal investigation methods, and relevant services of Morocco, Jordan and even Syria. During the extraordinary rendition the CIA seeks to „order“ torture services which are prohibited in the territory of the United States. Although the above practice violates provisions of the international law, after 11 September it has been applied frequently and the U.S. authorities were probably aware about that.
Another global scandal was related to the establishment of secret CIA jails. The most famous case of such a scandal was the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba: its territory doesn‘t belong (ostensibly) to the jurisdiction of the U.S., thus prohibition not to use torture is not applicable there. It is said that CIA had or still has similar jails in some countries-allies (including Lithuania), but the existence of the majority of jails was not proved. However, the jail scandal tainted the image of both, the CIA and the U.S.
The British Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6 is also skeptical toward the fight against terrorism. According to N.Inxter, one of its former officers, the danger of terrorism is exaggerated. He believes that invasion to Afghanistan which was assumed as one of the major elements in fighting terrorism, was one of the factors evoking the revanchist moods of the Muslims and a threat of terrorism inside his country.
MI6 could be considered as a model secret service: it was established in 1909 to spy upon the Imperial German Government and is not only the oldest of the largest services but is least mentioned in the media. The ability of the Service to adapt to the changing environment is obvious. By realizing the challenges of the information age, MI6 has become more open to the society: it stopped hiding the names of the majority of top authorities, launched the Internet portal and recruited public relations specialists. At the same time it manages to protect its privacy much better than the CIA or „Mossad“, which also started applying similar public measures.
The Israeli secret service „Mossad“ is also frequently mentioned in the global news: the most recent operation widely discussed in the media was the murder of Mahmoudo al-Mabhouho (one of the leaders of the Palestine terror organization „Hamas“) in Dubai. Although the operation was not successful because of its publicity, according to „Mossad“ officers their agents practically don‘t make mistakes.
„Mossad“ was established in 1951 and became known to the international community in 1960 after kidnapping A.Eichmann (referred to as “the Nazi architect”) in Argentina. Today „Mossad“ is responsible for the intelligence collection, covert operations and fight against terrorism, whereas the main object of observation are Arab countries and organizations. „Mossad“ also operates in Western and post-communist countries (even in the United Nations).
The Service has about 1200 staff members working in one of the eight departments. It provides information about six departments, and the most secret is the activity of the Special Operations Division „Metsada“ pursuing murder and sabotage tasks, and Lohamah Psichlogit Department responsible for operations of the psychological war and propaganda. Other units are more open, and two departments (Information Collection and Technology Department) even search for new staff members in the Israeli press through advertisements.
This decision was determined by several factors. First of all today „Mossad“ is more open to public since has to compete with the advantages suggested to workers of the private sector. The former ways of recruiting citizens (by sending letters or applying the method „a member brings a friend“, couldn’t convey the advantages of work in the secret service to society and attract gifted specialists. However, citizens of Israel care not only about the wages or guarantees of a stable workplace. They need to be aware that they accomplish an important mission for the country.
Patriotism is one of the most distinctive qualities of „Mossad“ workers. People of the Service consider themselves the Israeli‘s elite. Only the most bright, courageous, having quick and analytical mind can become members of the Service. The majority of „Mossad“ workers are very young, and people over 20 years of age take high posts. Agents are selected very carefully: the candidates have to pass many language, psychology, orientation and other tests. In comparison to other secret services „Mossad“ first of all seeks to circumvent its opponents: a typical operation of the organization is based not on the amount of agents or technical miracles, but on the exceptional subtlety.
Probably that‘s why „Mossad“ frightens the Israeli enemies so much. If you become a target of this organization, some day you might disappear on your way to the shop or might be found „after committing suicide“. You cannot trust anyone, since power of „Mossad“ is in its ability to infiltrate into the most inner circles of a victim. The name of the organization is related to numerous murders and kidnappings in the Middle East, the U.S., Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia and even in Oceania. Citizens of Israel are inclined to support the activity of own secret service based on the following logic: it doesn‘t matter whether the killed terrorist leader is replaced by a new one, the most important thing is to demonstrate to the enemy that you are ready for everything in order to destroy him. Such a unity is determined by historical, religious and cultural factors and an especially dangerous geopolitical situation of the country. It is also important to know that Western countries are inclined to tolerate many actions of „Mossad“, since they still feel guilty (from the World War II) for the injustice toward the Jewish nation.
Do the events in Dubai which frustrated the international community mean that „Mossad“ will start observing the accepted legal norms? There is a feeling that this secret service is not going to change its tactics in the near future.
Does the age of information technologies and increasing openness of the society endanger secret services? Or maybe the problem lies in the ambition of these agencies to expand their powers, and in the inability to pursue the conventional operational methods?