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Secret agent; two simple words that when combined together bring about glamorous images of adventure and excitement. With the release of the latest series of Spooks coming to DVD we have further adrenaline fuelled episodes of action to excite our government conspiracy appetites. But not many people know the solid facts about the real government departments that protect their country’s shores.

Derived from the Secret Service Bureau which was founded in 1909 as pre War hysteria began to build, our British intelligence is now split into two departments; MI5 and the slightly more infamous due to a certain Martini sipper, MI6. With MI standing for Military Intelligence and the number representing the certain section, we have had a total of 19 sections come and go over the years covering numerous variations of spy activity such as cryptology and clandestine operations, (escape and evasion).

The first director was Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, a lengthy name if there ever was one, which eventually lost the Smith and was shortened to the cunningly anonymous letter C, which he used to sign correspondence in green ink. This rather intriguing signing has now evolved as a code word, with following military intelligence directors continuing the tradition of signing documents with a green C to retain secrecy.

With national Headquarters currently located at Thames House on Milibank in London since 1995, MI5 focuses upon domestic intelligence and investigating threats in our country, with it being revealed in 2006 that they were holding secret files on 272,000 individuals, that startling statistic approximating to one person in every 160.

The sister department MI6, otherwise referred to as The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), is our foreign intelligence section. With headquarters located at Vauxhall Cross on the South Bank of the Thames, our very own MI6 came under attack in September 2000 from a Russian-built RPG-22 anti-tank missile, causing superficial damage and blame being laid upon Irish Republicans.

The American government has its own similar agencies also split into two departments, with them being two of the most famous government agencies out there; the CIA and the FBI.

With similar duties to our MI6, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has its main roles revolving around the collection and evaluation of foreign intelligence in relation to matters of National Security.

Forever a realm of secrecy, the memorial wall at the CIA headquarters of agents who have died in action, whether they were accidents are intentional hostile attacks, are represented by stars, many of them nameless so as not to reveal the identity of them even in death.

Although renowned for secrecy, the CIA has not always abided by other rules. When a front page article written by Seymour Hersh broke in the New York Times, controversy was abound as it claimed that the CIA had assassinated foreign leaders in the past and illegally conducted surveillance on 7,000 unsuspecting U.S civilians.

Doubling as a federal criminal investigative unit as well as an internal intelligence agency, the FBI is the second department in America, this one having more in come with our own MI5 in that it focuses on domestic intelligence.

Defending and protecting the laws of the U.S.A, the FBI is a huge force in America, with the headquarters located in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington D.C and a whopping total of 33,652 employees; 13,807 of those being special agents. That’s a lot of Jason Bournes.

Established in 1908, the FBI have had a hand in many periods of history over the years, one of those being their apprehending, and sometimes killing, of a handful of criminals in their 1930’s ‘War on Crime’, which included John Dillinger and ‘Babyface’ Nelson. Not only were they involved in this but they also sought to reduce the influence of the dreaded Ku Klux Klan organisation.

With equally colourful backgrounds, the secret agent worlds of Britain and America have more in common than you would assume, it would appear secret code words and leader assassinations populate our world as effectively as they populate our television sets. So next time you are eagerly flicking on that next episode of Spooks, just remember, maybe the events aren’t as fictional as one would first think.




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