Legal Guide

Top Intelligence Agencies in the World in 2021

Intelligence agencies are government-backed agencies responsible for gathering, analyzing, and utilizing information. As vital defenders of national security, their aim is to achieve foreign policy objectives, enforce the law, and maintain national security.

There are two types of intelligence agencies; those dealing with domestic threats and those dealing with foreign intelligence. Serving their countries in numerous ways, one of their primary responsibilities is counterintelligence. To put it simply, they offer their country a strong line of defense against other countries' intelligence agencies. As part of crisis management internationally and locally, intelligence agencies provide warnings of impending crises in advance. In addition, they communicate and collaborate with military groups to support national defense planning. 

Those willing to work for Intelligence agencies must possess the skill sets necessary to uncover deeply hidden information. However, each intelligence agency has its own method for selecting applicants. For instance, having excellent educational credentials and being of a certain age are prerequisites for working at an intelligence agency. These organizations also administer various tests to gauge a candidate's intellect, emotions, and physical abilities. 

Having said that, let us look at the top intelligence agencies worldwide in 2021. 

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), USA

The CIA's primary responsibility is to provide intelligence to the Cabinet and President as well as to maintain U.S. dominance in the world. Since it was founded in 1947 and has its headquarters in Virginia, the CIA has no local law enforcement jurisdiction, and its primary mission is collecting international intelligence.

The CIA played a vital part in developing various intelligence agencies in several other countries. For instance, the German BND was created with help from the CIA. Furthermore, this American intelligence agency also provided support to various other governments and political groups. So, if you're considering a homeland security career and want to work at the CIA or any law enforcement agency, obtain the proper educational credentials to increase your chances of employment.

Mossad, Israel

Created back in 1949, with its headquarters in the heart of Tel Aviv, Mossad is one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world right now. They're responsible for conducting counter-terrorism, intelligence analysis, intelligence collection, and secret operations worldwide. The estimated employee count of Mossad is around 7000. However, such a figure might not be as accurate as people think. Chances are there might be more or fewer employees. Whatever the case may be, one thing is etched in stone; Mossad has protected Israel for many years and held multiple successful undercover operations against the country's opponents.

RAW (Research and Analysis Wing), India

Founded in 1968 with its headquarter located in New Delhi, RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) was formed after the Indo-Pak and Sino-Indo wars of 1965 and 1962. It is true that the evidence collected by the Intelligence Bureau after the battles outlined above was not totally reliable. So, the Indian government signed a policy that created an intelligence agency that could protect India before an attack hit the country. We know it as RAW today, and their primary role is to spy on neighboring countries and monitor their activities and movements.

MI6 (Military Intelligence, Sector 6), England

Founded in 1909, MI6 is amongst the oldest intelligence agencies in the world. This British intelligence agency was initially created back in 1509 by Sir Francis Walsingham. However, when this British official became Queen Elizabeth I's secretary of state, Commander Mansfield Cumming took charge and named it Military Intelligence, Sector 6 in 1909.

MI6 collaborates with other intelligence agencies from various countries and helps them with counter-terrorism missions. For example, it has strong ties with the CIA and usually collaborates with it on international missions against terrorism.

MSS (Ministry of State Security), China

The MSS, also referred to as Guoanbu, is amongst the most secretive intelligence agencies today. Founded in 1983 with its headquarters located in Beijing, this Chinese Intelligence agency is responsible for running foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, and ensuring the political security of China. 

MSS precedes China's primary intelligence agency, CID (Central Investigation Department), which was in commission from 1955 to 1983. The 1983 merger between counterintelligence aspects of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China and the CID (Central Intelligence Department) gave birth to the MSS.

DGSE (Directorate General For External Security), France

The DGSE (Directorate General For External Security) or Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure in French, is France's intelligence agency that operates under the direct control of the French Military of Armed Forces. Working alongside its domestic counterpart, the DGSI, the DGSE also helps maintain France's national security. It is carried out through intelligence collection and counterintelligence, and paramilitary operations worldwide.

ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), Pakistan

Founded in 1948 on January 1st, one year after Pakistan came into existence, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) is Pakistan's leading intelligence agency. They are responsible for collecting, examining, and processing information related to the country's national security. Its headquarters are located in Aabpara, Islamabad. According to the ISI's recruitment strategies, civilians and armed forces personnel can join the ISI.

CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service), Canada

The CSIS, also known as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, is responsible for addressing national security issues and problems that threaten the country's security as a whole. The CSIS reports directly to the Minister of Public Safety. Plus, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is amongst the few federal departments that hold the heraldic badge. In addition, the CSIS works closely with intelligence agencies from other countries like New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

FSB RF (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation), Russia

Preceded by the KGB after the fall of the USSR, the Russian FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) is responsible for domestic intelligence duties. These duties include counter-terrorism, border security, internal security, counterintelligence, and surveillance. The intelligence agency is so effective within Russia that it protected the country from 94 crimes of a terrorist nature in 2011 alone.


Creating this list of the world's topmost intelligence agencies was incredibly challenging since many of them remain highly secretive. Ranking someone at the top will always be challenging. However, the CIA employs the most field agents and has the most available resources. That does not mean that other countries' spy agencies are inept; in fact, they are unique in their own way.

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