Foreign Intelligence Entity (FIE) Threat Analysis: Pakistan’s Threat Analysis


Pakistan, also known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan اسلامی جمہوریۂ پاکستانis a sovereign South Asian country that had gotten its independence from the British on August 14, 1947.  Pakistan’s capital is Islamabad and it is located 330 40’ N, 730 10’ E.  Pakistan is the second most populous Muslim majority country and has the second largest Shiite population in the world (Ayres 1998, 63).  It is surrounded by China from the North, Afghanistan from the West, Iran from the South, and India from the East.  Pakistan’s official languages are Urdu and English.                        

          Pakistan is considered one of the quickly developing countries in that region besides India and Iran.  Because of Pakistan’s strategic location in the middle of all the nuclear nemeses, it has developed one of the world’s best intelligence services to defend its sovereignty, protect its national security and its territory.  The U.S. government depends heavily on the cooperation and information sharing with the Pakistani’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as the U.S. considers Pakistan to be a valuable ally to have in that region. This cooperation goes back all the way to the Cold War, when the ISI and the CIA sent a U2 spy plane into the Soviet Union (Raman).  In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) increased its dependency on the ISI’s cooperation and joint tasking. As result, ISI and CIA stepped up cooperation to kill or capture senior Al Qaeda leaders like Sheikh Younis Al Mauritan and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Khokhar 2011).  However, as the U.S. IC escalated its efforts on the Global War on Terror (GWOT), the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. began to crumble, and especially after the CIA’s agent Raymond Davis and the Koran burning incidents. Pakistan has a self-sufficient, highly capable, and a well-organized and trained intelligence service that carries out Pakistan’s intelligence operations domestically and abroad including the U.S, as it will be discussed later in this Pakistan’s threat analysis paper. So, should the U.S. government and IC be worried about this Foreign Intelligence Entity (FIE)? And if so, how much threat does Pakistan really cause towards the U.S. National Security, given that Pakistan already has conducted intelligence and counterintelligence operations against the U.S.?


1 – Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence:

            A – ISI Emblem:

isiPakistan ISI Emblem signifies Faith, Unity, and Discipline as it is written in Urdu on it.

B – Headquarters:

ISI headquarter is mainly located in Islamabad. The complex like facility has an unnoticeable entrance near a private hospital with no signs and an officer in civilian clothes carrying a weapon. The ISI undercover officer is in charge of coordination the entrance security and directs visitors and employees to check point like entrance with barriers, soldiers, and sniffer dogs (Walsh 2011).                    

isi 1

2 – ISI Structure:

Pakistan ISI is one the world’s most effective and well organized intelligence and security services. ISI was established in 1948; however, it was officially given the responsibility to protect Pakistani interests and national security domestically and internationally in 1950. The ISI comprises of over 25,000 employees mainly from the police, military, and specialized military units and it is under the direction of Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha (“Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),”). ISI conducts numerous tasks such as collection of foreign and domestic intelligence, co-ordination of intelligence tasks of the three Pakistani military services, conducts surveillance over its force, foreigners, media, political leaders, foreign diplomats and dignitaries, Pakistani diplomats overseas, intercepts and monitors communications, and engages in covert offensive and warfare operations (Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),”). All these duties are controlled by the designated 8 divisions within the ISI. These divisions are: Joint Intelligence X (JIX), which serves as the secretariat that co-ordinate with other ISI divisions. It prepares intelligence reports and estimates as well as threat analysis, which then sends to the other divisions. The second division within the ISI is the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB). This division is one of the largest and most powerful divisions of the ISI. The JIB observes political intelligence. This division has three subdivisions one is completely devoted to operations against India, one devoted to anti-terrorism operations, and the last one in charge of VIP security (“Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),”). The third division of the ISI is the Joint Counter Intelligence Bureau (JCIB). This division’s duties are to conduct intelligence operations abroad and especially in Russia, Israel, South and Central Asia, Afghanistan and the Middle East (“Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),”). The JCIB also is tasked with conducting surveillance on Pakistani diplomats abroad and in some case foreign diplomats as well. Another division of the ISI is the Joint Intelligence /North (JIN). JIN is entirely responsible for operations in the Jammu and Kashmir areas. The fifth division within the ISI is the Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous (JIM). JIM is responsible for conducting covert offensive intelligence operations and war espionage. The sixth ISI division is the Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau (JSIB). JSIB is the ISI division that handles all signal intelligence (SIGINT). It intercepts, monitors, and collects SIGINT from the neighboring countries as well as it supports the ISI operations. The seventh division is the Joint Intelligence Technical (JIT). JIT division staffs mostly military engineers and scientists that work on developing Pakistan’s science and technology to advance Pakistan intelligence collection and defend it against electronic warfare. The last division of the ISI is the SS Directorate. SS is believed to be the Pakistani version of the CIA’s Special Activities Division. SS is for covert actions and paramilitary special operations. The SS monitors and infiltrates terrorist groups that operate in Pakistan against the government of Pakistan (“Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),”).

3 – ISI Capabilities:

A – ISI Functions:

            Pakistan ISI intelligence functions are the same as any other intelligence service. ISI divided its intelligence functions into four sets which are Collection, Classification, Aggressive Intelligence, and Counterintelligence (CI). ISI implements both overt and covert techniques to collect and extract critical intelligence to Pakistan’s strategic interests and national security. ISI classifies intelligence as suitable after analysts have evaluated it and sorted through it, and then the intelligence is uploaded to the ISI network in the headquarters. ISI also practices aggressive intelligence missions to include espionage, sabotage, subversion, and psychological warfare. Lastly, ISI has a special section devoted to conduct CI operations against FIE’s collection efforts (“Directorate for Inter-Services,”). 

B – ISI Methods:

            ISI applies numerous methods and techniques to conduct its intelligence and CI operations at home and abroad. These methods are meticulously chosen by the ISI because they provide the cover necessary for ISI intelligence operatives to operate under the radar. Some of these tactical methods are working under diplomatic cover. ISI officers find diplomatic cover to be a perfect way to conduct tasks in the foreign target country without being detected. They also like to work in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because it conceals their activities. Furthermore, ISI officers work in international media centers because they provide the desired freedom of movement for the agents (“Directorate for Inter-Services,”). The ISI preserves an inter-agency cooperation with multiple FIEs like the British MI6, CIA, Chinese intelligence services, the Saudi Arabia intelligence services, and many more. This inter-agency cooperation and information sharing relationship allows ISI officers to enjoy some sort of tactical maneuver in the foreign host countries (“Directorate for Inter-Services,”).

4 – ISI Operations:

                        A – Against Foreign Nations:

            The ISI has a long history of undeniably impressive operational success. It has participated in several covert actions and operations in Afghanistan (with CIA &Mossad) as well as other solo operations in Bosnia, India, Israel, Libya, Iran, France, Russia, U.S., and within Pakistani homeland.

B – Against U.S.:

As one of the world’s most effective intelligence agency, ISI not only conducted intelligence operations against other nations but also conduct and still conducting multiple successful missions against the U.S. To analyze the threat that Pakistan causes towards the U.S. and its interests, one should first evaluate and assess previous intelligence and CI operations against us by the Pakistani ISI. Pakistan has been conducting aggressive intelligence operations against the U.S. as far back as the 1980s. During the Afghan-Soviet war, ISI officers successfully seized two American weapons’ dealers after they bugged and tracked (Brigiadier Tirmazi). It is also believed that the ISI is conducting CI operations against the CIA in Pakistan and Afghanistan after suspecting the CIA of collecting intelligence in uncontrolled Pakistani areas and attempting to penetrate Pakistani nuclear assets (De Young 2011). It is also believed that the ISI had some sort of push in the 1999 release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was convicted of the beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Jehl 2002). Recently, the FBI had arrested an ISI operative, Mohammed Tasleem, working as an attaché in the New York consulate after he threatened several Pakistanis residing in the U.S. to stop them from speaking openly about the Pakistani government and military (Mazzetti et al. 2011).


In order to arrive at the Pakistan Threat Analysis and have a complete understanding of the Pakistani intelligence structure, capabilities and operations to be able to accurately assess, evaluate and analyze the Threat Analysis, we had to conduct the complete comprehensive study above. There is no doubt by now that Pakistan is fully capable, skilled, and experienced to conduct intelligence and CI operations. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that Pakistan had in fact conducted and still conduct operations against the U.S. Given the estimative evidence, there is a high probability of threat from Pakistan against the U.S.

1 – Personnel, Installations, and Facilities:

            It has been established that Pakistan acquires the necessary tools and experience to target the U.S. and its interests. Pakistan could easily operate in the U.S. through some of the methods discussed earlier in this Threat Analysis paper. Operating under diplomatic cover, ISI agents would enjoy the amount of freedom desired to conduct their missions successfully. This will also provide them with access to classified materials pertaining to U.S. national security. ISI agents could then expand their spy network by recruiting other Pakistanis living and working in the U.S. as agents in place. Additionally, Pakistanis speak English so it will not be difficult for them to penetrate other desired political, economic, or military professions, fields, installations, and facilities as moles to supply their collection effects with raw, tactical and even strategic intelligence. This will bring us to the next and even more hazardous Threat Analysis.

2 – Technology, Defense Industry, and Communications

          Even though Pakistani ISI officers could in fact infiltrate U.S. strategic installations and facilities, and build network of spies and informants, there is a low FIE threat against the U.S. when it comes to targeting, penetrating, and collecting intelligence that concerns to U.S. technology, defense industry, and communications.  Even though Pakistan is proficient at conducting intelligence operations in these fields because of the many operational years of collecting against China, Iran, and India, and was one of the countries besides Russia, China, and Iran attempting to hack into the U.S. military computer systems searching for information and wanting to disrupt or destroy the networks (Nakashima 2011) , this threat is believed to be low because the U.S. possesses  much more advanced and sophisticated intelligence collection instruments as well as a well-seasoned CI corps. Every U.S. government department has its own CI branch. These CI capacities’ sole mission is to identify, monitor, and analyze the efforts of FIEs against U.S. persons, activities, and interests as well as to capture these FIEs and terminate their activities. This Threat Analysis brings us to another complicated one.

3 – Sensitive Military and Intelligence Operations (such as Collection, R&D,

Covert Action, and Identifying US Intelligence Personnel.)

          According to the estimative probability and the consistency of evidence, Pakistani threats against U.S. sensitive military and intelligence operations is estimated to low. Even though Pakistani intelligence officers may have a chance at recruiting collectors and informants, infiltrating facilities, and gaining access to strategic U.S. installations through employment and other means, it will be significantly challenging for ISI officers to gain access to sensitive military and intelligence operations such as Collection, R&D, Covert Action, and Identifying U.S. Intelligence Personnel. This will prove to be tough because of the tight security and CI measures the U.S. government have in place. Unless this FIE recruits, exploits, and uses an agent in place, an American-Pakistani with a security clearance that has access to military or intelligence documents and operations, and that is willing to betray his country for whatever reason, it will be near impossible for an ISI agent to pass a U.S. background check, polygraphs, and CI interviews.


After a lengthy evaluation and assessment of the Pakistani intelligence service ISI’s structure, capabilities, operations, and the threat analysis against the U.S. it would be safe to conclude that Pakistan does cause a threat and a reason to worry on part of the U.S. government and the U.S. IC. Pakistan has an exceptional intelligence service with an undeniably impressive record of operational success. The probability of Pakistan engaging in intelligence and CI operations against the U.S. is estimated to be realistically high, given the recent intelligence activities exercised in the U.S. Although it might be relatively difficult for Pakistan to penetrate the U.S. defense industry, sensitive military and intelligence operations, communication systems, and technology and practice direct intelligence collection, operating low key under diplomatic cover, creating a human network of moles and informants, and gaining access to strategic U.S. installations and facilities could be enough for their collection efforts. Because the U.S. is a democratic nation, people enjoy too much freedom. Some of those freedoms are the freedoms of speech and press. People publish anything they can get hold of. The more sensitive and national security critical, the better it is. Pakistan’s intelligence service does not need to look far or spend unnecessary funds on operations, when they can collect from open sources. The U.S. government can only classify and cover so much, which gives FIEs including the ISI the opportunity to collect, analyze, and evaluate U.S. intelligence, therefore concluding U.S. policy and interests. Pakistan is considered a valuable ally to the U.S. It is the sort of asset that you do not want to compromise.  Considering the strategic geo-location of Pakistan, surrounded by nuclear and dictatorship regimes such as China, Iran, and India and the close proximity to Afghanistan, the core of terrorists and terrorism, makes it prized asset  to the U.S. Pakistan’s ISI have the accessibility to Iran, India, and Afghanistan and enjoy operational success in those regions. This grants the U.S. IC total control and operational maneuverability required to conduct its intelligence operations against these hostile adversaries, thus protecting U.S. national security, foreign policy, interests and intentions as well as defending the homeland.


Ayres, Robert U. Turning Point: The End of the Growth Paradigm. James & James Publishers, 1998.

Brigadier Tirmazi, Syed A. I. “Profiles of Intelligence.” Combined Printers. Library of Congress.

De Young, Karen. “New estimates put Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal at more than 100.” World


“Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI].” Global Security.

“Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).” Pakistan Defense & Military.


Jehl, Douglas. “A NATION CHALLENGED: THE SUSPECTS; Death of Reporter Puts Focus

On Pakistan Intelligence Unit.” World (2002).


Khokhar, Khalid. “Pakistan’s anti-terror success.” Islamabad International (2011),

Mazzetti, Mark, Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage. “Pakistan Spies on Its Diaspora, Spreading

Fear.” Asia Pacific (2011),


Nakashima, Ellen. “Several nations trying to penetrate U.S. cyber-networks, says ex-FBI

Official.” World (2011),



Raman, B. “Crash of U2 Spy Plane- Iran Related?” South Asia Analysis Group.


Walsh, Declan. “Whose side is Pakistan’s ISI really on?.” The Guardian, May 12, 2011,



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