Achtung! Cthulhu: The Secret War
The British have, without a doubt, the longest history of using espionage to further their political, military, and even economic goals, with Sir Francis Walsingham’s Elizabethan network of foreign and domestic agents being one of the earliest examples. Operating on an essentially informal basis for the next few centuries, and using diplomats and military attachés as the main operatives, activity is largely restricted to periods of outright hostility.
In 1909, the War Office authorizes the establishment of the Secret Service Bureau (SSB) to coordinate the ever-expanding role of the intelligence community. Organized into a series of military intelligence departments and identified by a number with the prefix “MI”, the men (and later women) of the SSB are drawn from the ranks of the Army, Navy, and the Metropolitan Police, and serve with distinction during the Great War. Though several departments of the SSB are dissolved during the inter-war period, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, or MI6) and Security Service (MI5) continue their work.
It is only in the late 19th Century that the American intelligence services are formally established with the creation of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and the Army’s Military Intelligence Division (MID), although informal operations have existed since the birth of the nation. ONI continues to provide world-wide intelligence throughout the Great War and into the Second World War, while MID undergoes a number of reorganizations, eventually becoming the Military Intelligence Service and, one month before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Fourth Army Intelligence School.
Intelligence operations in the Third Reich follow a very different pattern from those of Britain and America. The Abwehr, the German military intelligence agency, is similar in structure to its Allied counterparts, but the operations of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Gestapo secret police focus on uncovering real or imagined enemies of state within their own borders. Unlike the Allied intelligence and security services, these two agencies operate with impunity, using fear as a key weapon in their repressive activities, which they make little effort to disguise.