Security and Intelligence Division

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Security and Intelligence Division
Divisyen Keselamatan dan Perisikan
பாதுகாப்பு மற்றும் புலனாய்வு பிரிவு
Agency overview
Formed17 February 1966[citation needed]
JurisdictionGovernment of Singapore
Parent agencyMinistry of Defence[2]

The Security and Intelligence Division (SID) is the external intelligence agency of Singapore responsible for gathering and analysing intelligence related to the country's external security.[3] Although it is within the Ministry of Defence, it has a certain independence in that it is not under the control of either of the Permanent Secretaries of Defence.[4] It is also highly secretive as most of its personnel are known only to Singapore's top officials.[citation needed]

The SID is led by a director, who holds the rank equivalent of Permanent Secretary and reports directly to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).[5] In the 1970s, the director reported directly to the Defence Minister. The SID had the post of deputy director, which was held by Lim Chye Heng in 1975.[6]

History and activities[edit]

The SID shared a similar background to its domestic counterpart, the Internal Security Department (ISD). In the aftermath of 1915 Singapore Mutiny, to collect the political intelligence, espionage, and the surveillance of potential subversives,[7] a political intelligence bureau was established in Singapore under direct command and control of Major General Dudley Howard Ridout, General-Officer-Commanding (GOC) Singapore,[8] which eventually became the Criminal Intelligence Department (Special Branch) in 1919.[9] Before 1965, Singapore's primary intelligence agency was the Malaysian Special Branch. After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the Ministry of Interior and Defence was directed to reorganise and consolidate all intelligence capabilities in January 1966. The SID was subsequently established in February 1966, with Tay Seow Huah as its first Director.[citation needed] In 1974, S. R. Nathan, who was then the SID Director, led a negotiation team to help resolve the Laju hostage crisis.[10]

As the SID is a highly secretive organisation, information about its activities is only released occasionally to the media. In 2001, Yap Chuin Wei, a reporter from The Straits Times, interviewed a former SID officer on the agency's work. The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the SID works in three main ways: collection of information, analysis of information, and informal diplomacy.[11] The SID was also mentioned in Lee Kuan Yew's book From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000, in which it is said to have played a role in providing weapons to anti-communist forces in Cambodian Civil War in the 1970s.[12] The SID also played a role in rebuilding Singapore's relations with Indonesia after the Konfrontasi ended in 1966.[11] Tim Huxley wrote a short history of the SID in his book Defending the Lion City: The Armed Forces of Singapore, which was published in 2000.[13]

The former SID officer interviewed by Yap said that SID officers rarely receive public awards due to security and political concerns. They are awarded a set of medals equivalent to the National Day medals instead but their names are not publicised.[11]

In 2004, the National Security Coordination Secretariat (NSCS) was set up under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to deal with security threats and terrorism. This meant that the SID and the ISD, which previously worked independent of each other, had to share information for the first time.[14]

In August 2013, it was alleged that the SID cooperated with the Australian Signals Directorate to tap the undersea fibre optic telecommunications cables that link Asia, Europe and the Middle East.[15]


The following is a list of known Directors of the SID.

Name In office Notes References
Tay Seow Huah ? [16]
Tan Boon Seng ?–1971 [17]
S. R. Nathan 1971–1979 [10][17]
Eddie Teo 1979–1994 [18][19][20]
Choi Shing Kwok 1995–2005 [11][21][22][23][24]
Chee Wee Kiong 2005–2010 [25][26][27]
Ng Chee Khern 2010–2014 [28]
Joseph Leong 2014-2019 [29]

In fiction[edit]

The SID has occasionally been depicted in fiction. In an episode of the fictional television series, The Blacklist, the SID is mentioned amongst other well-known intelligence agencies including the CIA, KGB, and MI6 as having contracted out hits on its own agents who have since become "liabilities". The episode begins with a Chinese woman (presumably meant to be a SID agent) being covertly assassinated in what appears to be a shopping mall in Singapore.[30][31]

See Also[edit]


  2. ^[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Reflections on Thirty-Five Years of Public Service: From Espionage to Babies" (PDF). Ethos. January 2006. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  4. ^ "Present at the Creation" (PDF). Defence Science Organisation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 May 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Video: Building Security Partnerships in Asia (Chee Wee Kiong)". Blip. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Chye Heng named ISD acting director". The Straits Times. 4 January 1975. p. 8. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  7. ^ Ban, Kah Choon (2001). The Untold Story of Special Branch Operations in Singapore 1915-1942. Raffles.
  8. ^ Comber, Leon (13 August 2009). "The Singapore Mutiny (1915) and the Genesis of Political Intelligence in Singapore". Intelligence and National Security. 24 (4): 529–541. doi:10.1080/02684520903069462.
  9. ^ Ban, Kah Choon (2001). The Untold Story of Special Branch Operations in Singapore 1915-1942. Raffles.
  10. ^ a b "S. R. Nathan". National Library Board Singapore. Archived from the original on 31 October 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d Yap, Chuin Wei (19 May 2001). "Examining the world's second-oldest profession". The Straits Times. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  12. ^ Lee, Kuan Yew (2000). From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000. HarperCollins. pp. 378–379. ISBN 0060197765.
  13. ^ Huxley, Tim (2000). Defending the Lion City: The Armed Forces of Singapore. Australia: Allen & Unwin. pp. 89–90. ISBN 1 86508 118 3.
  14. ^ Tor, Ching Li (21 July 2004). "United front against terror". Today. p. 6. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  15. ^ Dorling, Phillip (29 August 2013). "Spy agency taps undersea cables". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  16. ^ "Tay Seow Huah Book Prize". S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Archived from the original on 27 January 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  17. ^ a b "Civil service reshuffle". The Straits Times. 6 August 1971. p. 10. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  18. ^ "Mr Eddie Teo has extensive experience in public admin". AsiaOne News. 26 July 2008. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  19. ^ Backman, Michael (31 May 2006). "Downsides devalue Singapore Inc". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  20. ^[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Press Release: Changes in Permanent Secretary Appointments" (PDF). Public Service Division, Prime Minister's Office. 1 June 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Defence chief heads list of 653 officers to be promoted". The Straits Times. 28 June 1996.
  23. ^ "MAS to get new managing director". The Straits Times. 22 February 2005.
  24. ^ "Achievers in many fields". The Straits Times. 9 August 2000.
  25. ^ "New appointments for other permanent secretaries". The Straits Times. 13 August 2010.
  26. ^ "Press Release: Appointment of Head of Civil Service And Permanent Secretaries" (PDF). Public Service Division, Prime Minister's Office. 12 August 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  27. ^ Goh, Chin Lian (2 May 2013). "MFA Permanent Secretary Bilahari Kausikan retires". SingaPolitics. Archived from the original on 19 January 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  28. ^ Chua, Tony (14 June 2012). "Capitamall Trust appoints Ng Chee Khern as Director". Singapore Business Review. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  29. ^ "Joseph Leong to be appointed Permanent Secretary". Channel News Asia. Singapore. 28 January 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  30. ^ "'The Blacklist' Season Six, Episode 14 Recap: "The Osterman Umbrella Company"". Nerds and Beyond. 5 April 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  31. ^ "s06e14 - The Osterman Umbrella Company - The Blacklist Transcripts - TV Transcripts". Retrieved 4 March 2021.