The USIC and its FISS Cooperations

Intelligence is a crucial element for the United States to protect its national security, accomplish its foreign policy objectives, and counter asymmetric threats that face it today.  The United States collects its intelligence through a variety of methods and by multiple human and technical means. However, not all intelligence gathered and used by the United States come from its collection apparatuses.  The United States “relies on liaison arrangements and cooperative agreements with foreign intelligence and security services for a significant portion of its intelligence.”[1] This collaboration with traditional allies and non-traditional foreign intelligence and security services (FISS) through liaisons and joint operations, allows the United States to observe, conduct, and control events and operations in foreign countries that are deemed necessary to safeguard its national security. 

The United States has forged strong alliances with several foreign intelligence services, particularly Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Canada’s Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Australia’s Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), and New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS). This alliance is known by the “FIVE EYES”[2].  Besides the joint operations and collaboration with these traditional allies, the U.S. also shares intelligence and cooperates, to some degree, with other non-traditional allies such as Sudan, Jordan, Pakistan, Israel, Japan, Peru, Germany, and Mexico. The U.S. depends on these alliances around the world for a substantial amount of its intelligence and operationsto achieve its military, political, and diplomatic objectives to counter the asymmetric threats and transitional terrorism because of the many advantages these ally nations can offer.

Some of the advantages that aid the U.S. against asymmetric threats are the accessibility “to information of areas denied to direct U.S. penetration”, and “the ability to gather and disseminate crucial data, giving the U.S. the ability to respond to time-sensitive threats, greater cultural understanding into a particular issue that the U.S. may otherwise misinterpret.”[3]  This cooperation also provides the U.S. with the ability “to conduct direct military actions to solve a particular problem, usually within the ally’s home country”, as well as the ability “to mask U.S. actions as local ones, obscuring otherwise obvious U.S. behavior in foreign countries.”[4]

The advantages gained by the United States’ relationships with these allies to counter asymmetric threats are tremendously important to the overall U.S. mission success.  One of these U.S. partnerships proved to be invaluable and critical to the intelligence community.  The U.S. liaison with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is perhaps one of the U.S.’s most intricate intelligence alliances. The U.S. and Pakistan conducted joint operations “to fund, train and equip Afghans fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s.”[5]  Currently, the ISI continues to be an instrumental partner for the Intelligence Community “to help locate Islamic militants, Taliban operatives and top members of al-Qaeda.”[6]  Although, it is debatable that the ISI and Pakistan’s military “may be sympathetic to the Taliban”, without the ISI’s intelligence sharing and operational support U.S. operations “to apprehend or eliminate major terrorist threats around the world would suffer significantly.”[7]  Furthermore, The U.S. intelligence community’s reliance on the ISI to counter asymmetric threats was also evident by the amount of intelligence shared with Pakistan and the financial and operational support they receive.  The CIA provided Pakistan with a massive amount of imagery intelligence (IMINT) and communications intercepts as part of their joint operations against asymmetric threats.  Pakistan’s ISI also received “hundreds of millions of dollars paying for as much as a third of the organization’s budget…$10 million for its role in the capture of Abu Zubaydah and $25 million for the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”[8]

Similarly, the U.S. intelligence community’s dependency on Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) was paramount during the joint operations to hunt for Osama Bin Laden when he lived in Khartoum during the 1990s.  This dependency continues today on the issue of counterterrorism.  Sudan provides the U.S. intelligence community accessibility to intelligence and regions denied to direct U.S. infiltration.  Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services offers the U.S. the ability to collect and distribute fundamental information, allowing the U.S. to respond to time-sensitive asymmetric threats, greater cultural understanding, and the ability to analyze and comprehend how terrorist organizations operate in that region. Moreover, U.S. reliance on foreign intelligence services to counter asymmetric threats does not end with Pakistan and Sudan.  The U.S. relies on a number of foreign intelligence services such as Jordan’s and Israel’s to conduct its required counter-terrorism operations worldwide.  Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID) has been the U.S. intelligence community’s most effective counter-terrorism agency in the Middle East. The relationship between the U.S. and the GID for intelligence and operational support goes back to the 80s. The CIA and GID “conducted a joint campaign to subvert and cripple the Abu Nidal’s organization – at the time, one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups.”[9]  Besides the U.S. intelligence community’s cooperation and information sharing on counter-terrorism issues with the appropriate FISS, the U.S. also relies on cooperation with Mexico for a different asymmetric threat that threatens its national security.  The U.S. relies on Mexico’s Center for Intelligence and National Security (CISEN) for drug related issues.  The U.S. considers Mexico a strategic partner in the War on Drugs.  The two allies share a large amount of technical intelligence especially IMINT and satellite intelligence (SATINT) related to the drug cartels’ operations and production with correlation to the U.S. border security.[10]

In conclusion, intelligence is a crucial element for the United States to protect its national security, accomplish its foreign policy objectives, and counter asymmetric threats that face it today.  U.S. gathers its intelligence by several means.  One way the U.S. obtains access to foreign intelligence, otherwise unobtainable by U.S. apparatuses, is the cooperation and information sharing with foreign governments.  The United States relies on liaisons and partnerships with foreign intelligence and security services for a substantial amount of its intelligence. This collaboration with traditional allies and non-traditional foreign intelligence and security services (FISS) through liaisons and joint operations, allows the United States to observe, conduct, and control events and operations in foreign countries that are deemed necessary to safeguard its national security.  It also provides the U.S. intelligence community with several advantages over the enemy, otherwise inaccessible without foreign cooperation. Over the years, these joint operations and reliance on FISS proved very efficient and workable to thwart the rising asymmetric threats against the U.S. and secure its national security and foreign interests.


[1] Richelson, Jeffery T. The US Intelligence Community. Philadelphia: Perseus Books Group, 2012. p. 347

[2] Ibid, p. 348

[3] Rosenbach, Eric, & Peritz, Aki J. “Confrontation or Collaboration? Congress and the Intelligence Community.” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 2009. p. 50

[4] Ibid, p. 50

[5] Ibid, p. 52

[6] Ibid, p. 52

[7] Ibid, p. 52

[8] Richelson, Jeffery T. The US Intelligence Community. Philadelphia: Perseus Books Group, 2012. p, 363.

[9] Ibid, p. 362.

[10] Ibid, p. 362.

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