List of intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom

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"British Intelligence" redirects here. For the 1940 film, see British Intelligence (film).

The Government of the United Kingdom maintains intelligence agencies within several different government departments.

Current agencies[edit]

Agency Description
Domestic intelligence Security Service (MI5)[1]
Mi5 crest and logotype.svg
Counter terrorism and counter espionage.
National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU)[2] Counter extremism and public disorder intelligence gathering and analysis.
National Crime Agency (NCA)[3]
Organised crime intelligence gathering and analysis.
National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NBIS)[4]
National Ballistics Intelligence Service logo.jpg
Illegal firearms intelligence analysis.
National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB)[5] Economic crime intelligence gathering and analysis.
Foreign intelligence Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6)[6]
Secret Intelligence Service logo.svg
Foreign intelligence gathering and analysis.
Defence Intelligence (DI)[7] Military intelligence analysis.
Signals intelligence Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)[8]
Government Communications Headquarters logo.svg
Signals intelligence gathering and analysis.
Joint intelligence Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO)[9] Joint intelligence analysis.


The Directorate of Military Intelligence was part of the War Office from the 19th century. Its sections were numbered and often referred to as "M.I. number". The names MI5, for the Security Service, and MI6, for the Secret Intelligence Service, retain wide currency, although the bodies are no longer within the Ministry of Defence.

The Naval Intelligence Division (NID) was the intelligence arm of the Admiralty from 1882 until the establishment of a unified Defence Intelligence Staff in 1964. During World War I the NID was responsible for the Royal Navy's highly successful cryptographic efforts, Room 40 (later known as NID25), which decoded the Zimmermann Telegram.

In 1919, the Cabinet's Secret Service Committee, recommended that a peace-time codebreaking agency should be created.[10] Staff were merged from NID25 and MI1b into the new organisation,[11] which was given the cover-name the "Government Code and Cypher School" (GC&CS).[12] During the Second World War, GC&CS was based largely at Bletchley Park working on, most famously, the German Enigma machine (codenamed Ultra) and Lorenz ciphers,[13] but also a large number of other systems.

The RAF Intelligence Branch dates back to 1939 following the outbreak of the Second World War, however personnel were employed in intelligence duties in the RAF since its formation in 1918.

The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation formed to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe (and later, also in occupied Southeast Asia) against the Axis powers, and to aid local resistance movements. It was operational from July 1940 to January 1946.

GC&CS was renamed the "Government Communications Headquarters" (GCHQ) in June 1946.[14] Wartime signals intelligence cooperation between the United Kingdom and the United States continued in the post-war period.[15] The two countries signed the bilateral UKUSA Agreement in 1948. It was later broadened to include Canada, Australia and New Zealand, known as the Five Eyes, as well as cooperation with several "third-party" nations. This became the cornerstone of Western intelligence gathering and the "Special Relationship" between the UK and the USA.[16]

In 1946 the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) was established.[17] The JIB was structured into a series of divisions: procurement (JIB 1), geographic (JIB 2 and JIB 3), defences, ports and beaches (JIB 4), airfields (JIB 5), key points (JIB 6), oil (JIB 7) and telecommunications (JIB 8).[18]

When the Ministry of Defence was formed in 1964, the JIB, Naval Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Air Intelligence were combined to form the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS).[19] The DIS focussed initially on Cold War issues.[20]

In 2009, the Defence Intelligence Staff changed its name to Defence Intelligence (DI).[20]

The National Crime Agency, established in 2013, gathers and analyses intelligence on serious and organised crime.[3] It was preceded by the National Drugs Intelligence Unit (1970s–1992), National Criminal Intelligence Service (1992–2006), and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (2006–2013). Three other domestic law enforcement intelligence units exist under the authority of the Home Office. The National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit dates back to 2004 and has been hosted by the Metropolitan Police Service since 2011; the National Ballistics Intelligence Service was created in 2008; and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau was established in 2010 by the City of London Police.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "MI5 - The Security Service". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  2. ^ "National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit". National Police Chief's Council. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "Intelligence". National Crime Agency. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  4. ^ "NABIS - National Ballistics Intelligence Service". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  5. ^ "National Fraud Intelligence Bureau". Retrieved 2014-11-10. 
  6. ^ "Home page – SIS (MI6)". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  7. ^ "Defence Intelligence - Detailed guidance - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  8. ^ "GCHQ Home page". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  9. ^ "Joint Intelligence Organisation - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  10. ^ Johnson, 1997, p. 44
  11. ^ Johnson, 1997, p. 45 and Kahn, 1991, p. 82
  12. ^ Macksey, Kenneth (2003). The Searchers: How Radio Interception Changed the Course of Both World Wars. Cassell Military. p. 58. ISBN 0-304-36545-9. 
  13. ^ Gannon, Paul (2006). Colossus: Bletchley Park’s Greatest Secret. Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-84354-331-2. 
  14. ^ Smith, Michael (1998). Station X. Channel 4 books. p. 176. ISBN 0-330-41929-3. 
  15. ^ "How the British and Americans started listening in". BBC. 8 February 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  16. ^ Adam White (29 June 2010). "How a Secret Spy Pact Helped Win the Cold War". Time. 
  17. ^ Dylan, p. xiii
  18. ^ Dylan, p. 31
  19. ^ Dylan, p. 184
  20. ^ a b "Defence Intelligence: Roles". Ministry of Defence. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2014.