The British Military Open Encyclopedia - ARRSE-Pedia. Back to British Army Rumour Service Home


From ARRSEpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Spy vs Spy
Possibly the most famous spying partnership EVER! Apart from all the others, of course.


Espionage or spying is a practice of gathering information about an organization or a society that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. It is also the use of spies in a war. Unlike other forms of intelligence collection disciplines, espionage involves accessing the place where the desired information is stored, or accessing the people who know the information and will divulge it through some kind of subterfuge. Britain's overseas espionage activities are controlled by the Secret Intelligence Service; internally, they are handled by The Security Service and Special Branch.

What It Is

Espionage is usually part of an organised institutional effort (i.e. governmental or corporate espionage), and the term is most readily associated with state spying on potential or actual enemies, primarily for military purposes, but this has been extended to spying involving corporations, known specifically as industrial or commercial espionage. Many nations routinely spy on both their enemies and allies, although they maintain a policy of not making comment on this. In addition to utilising agencies within a government many also employ private companies to collect information on their behalf such as SCG, International Risk and others. Black's Law Dictionary (1990) defines espionage as: "...gathering, transmitting, or losing...information related to the national defence."

Alexander Litvinenko demonstrates why eating thalium (or rat poison) is a bad idea. Don't touch the sushi.

What It Isn't

While news media may speak of "spy satellites" and the like, espionage is not a synonym for all types of intelligence functions. It is a specific form of human source intelligence (HUMINT). Codebreaking (cryptanalysis or COMINT), aircraft or satellite photography (IMINT) and research in open publications (OSINT) are all intelligence gathering disciplines, but none of them are espionage.

Not all HUMINT activities, such as interviewing prisoners, reports from military reconnaissance patrols and from diplomats, etc., are espionage.