Thanks to Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services an attack against America by Al Qaida operatives from Yemen was avoided. Yet, how does Saudi Intelligence really work? Is it all that different from Western intelligence services?
All intelligence services rely on different mechanisms and techniques to gather secret information which allows heads of state access to information that allows them to make appropriate decisions. Now that is a simplified statement on the work of an intelligence service and why clandestine methods are necessary to acquire secret information.
However, there are wide distinctions in just how intelligence services actually gather and acquire the secrets. Both services (both meaning East and West) have human sources which provide information. This is known as HUMINT or human intelligence. It is also of importance to have the ability to acquire information through other means which can further validate that which has been acquired from HUMINT intelligence. A favored method is through technical means which can include the intercepts of phone (landline and mobile) and data (internet, email) communications. This is known as SIGINT or signals intelligence.
Saudi intelligence has been widely known for its practice of buying necessary information. That’s not to say that Saudi intelligence does not spot, assess, develop and ultimately recruit HUMINT sources but that it is a newer practice of Saudi intelligence as compared to Western intelligence practices. While Saudi intelligence began to change its practices in 2003 after a series of bombings within Saudi Arabia which were targeted at Western compounds, Saudi Intelligence had a rude wake-up call in 2009. Al Qaida mounted a direct attack using a suicide bomber against HRH Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud not only in his own backyard but within the once safe confines of his own home in Jeddah!
As a result, Saudi intelligence has learned that using its vast wealth was not the most effective way to acquire actionable intelligence. It has since conformed and is now more in align with the practices of Western Intelligence agencies.
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