What is Counterintelligence?

광주흥신소 Counterintelligence is a government program to oppose spying by other governments. It’s also called espionage countermeasures and the CIA has a counterintelligence division.


Defensive counterintelligence (CI) involves thwarting hostile intelligence services from penetrating your own agency. Offensive counterintelligence (counterespionage) involves exploiting human sources. This includes HUMINT and IM. The exploitation is designed to reduce the effectiveness of an adversary intelligence service or terrorists.


In the broadest sense, counterintelligence refers to any information or activity that opposes spying or terrorist threats. It involves activities that complement and support positive security measures, such as force protection (protection of field stations, forces and personnel from intelligence collection) and counterespionage (the practice of catching spies). Many countries will have multiple organisations that specialise in CI, including the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), while others may incorporate it into their police structure or separate it into a separate branch of intelligence like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Defensive counterintelligence focuses on denying access to sensitive information, protecting the privacy of DND and CF employees, and preventing exploitation by foreign intelligence agencies and organizations. It is a crucial component of national security.

Offensive counterintelligence, on the other hand, aims to disrupt the long-term ability of adversaries to gather intelligence through their respective intelligence apparatuses. This is achieved through a series of operations that may disinform, deceive, exploit or otherwise manipulate individuals associated with the enemy intelligence entity.

It requires an understanding of the adversary’s culture, sources, methods and resources, as well as risk assessment and risk management 광주흥신소 for friendly patterns, signatures, and vulnerabilities. It is also a matter of developing a clear definition of what constitutes a threat, ensuring all personnel are properly educated in OPSEC and organisational procedures, and being alert to any shift in the behaviour of colleagues that could indicate red flags.


Counterintelligence (CI) programs aim to prevent an adversary from obtaining information that would put them at a disadvantage. This is particularly important in the military, where a loss of advantage could potentially open the organisation up to attack from rivals or terrorist organisations.

CI also helps to preserve sensitive information that would be harmful to the national interest, such as secret CIA operations, or business-related data that could damage an organisation’s competitive edge. For example, a business that develops high-tech products is an attractive target for foreign espionage. The espionage may not involve actual penetration but rather gathering of technical details that would give an adversary a significant advantage.

The CIA defines defensive counterintelligence as “countering efforts by hostile intelligence services, organizations or individuals to penetrate the intelligence community.” This is distinct from offensive counterintelligence, which involves targeting the structure and personnel of enemy intelligence services. Canada separates its counterintelligence functions into general defensive counterintelligence, security intelligence and counter-espionage operations.

Offensive counterintelligence, like the other forms of the discipline, requires creative thinking and manipulation. For example, if an enemy spy can be convinced that a sleeper agent is compromised, the penetrator can lose confidence in his abilities and stop reporting to the intelligence service. This type of penetration can devastate the long-term capabilities of a national adversary.


CI methods are grouped into three overlapping categories: detection, investigation, and analysis. Detection includes the recognition of evidence of subversive activities, publicity (making citizens aware of a possible threat) and liaison with other government agencies. Investigation involves gaining a deeper understanding of the evidence and developing intelligence about it. Finally, counterintelligence analysis produces knowledge of the enemy and recommends countermeasures to be implemented.

Today’s counterintelligence activities are generally concerned with assessing the country’s vulnerability to foreign intelligence services, watching for sabotage and terrorist activity and infiltrating those groups. Clandestine HUMINT sources may provide the most valuable information but can also be difficult to trust, as many started out as agents of another nation and remain loyal to their former homeland.

Offensive CI involves disrupting the enemy intelligence service or terror organization by manipulation or disruption, often in the form of covert action. This can be done either by attacking the “structure and personnel” of an FIS or, as CIA Director Allen W. Dulles explained in his autobiography, by “using creative but vigorous attacks against hostile intelligence operations.”


The military has a wide array of resources to conduct Counterintelligence. Those include military intelligence, human intelligence, technical support activities and more. The 650th MI Group performs technical support activities governed by AR 15-6 and AR 381-5, such as TSCM (telecommunications security), countersurreptitious entry and intelligence polygraph. These are CI operations that support force protection programs and formal security programs of commanders at all levels.

The analytical tools of MDCI include C-HUMINT, C-SIGINT and C-IMINT analysis to produce CI products that convey the essence of the CI threat assessment to commanders at higher, lower and adjacent echelons. These products also provide critical information for OPSEC and deception planners.

Offensive counterintelligence is a powerful tool that can damage an adversary’s long-term capability by convincing them they are being compromised and must put large resources into protecting from a nonexistent threat, or by convincing them their own agents are unreliable and need to be replaced with new “sleeper” assets. Clandestine HUMINT sources are the most powerful tools for conducting offensive counterintelligence, but they can also be the most risky if not properly managed. Often, such persons started out as trusted employees in their own country’s services and may still be loyal to them. That is why it is important to understand the psychology of FIS, and to develop systems that can detect when someone is compromising themselves.