CIA. KGB. MSS. All acronyms that anyone familiar with the intelligence world would know. (For those who may not be familiar, they stand for: Central Intelligence Agency — United States, Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti — Soviet Union/Russia, and the Ministry for State Security — China). They are all well-represented in the modern media.

But what about the lesser-known, more obscure intelligence apparatuses out there and throughout history? Some had a definitive intel mission, while others were more of a “grey area.” But they all served the purpose of providing commanders and policymakers with a clear picture of a given situation.

This is the first of a series of articles that will introduce and discuss these units, from ancient to modern times.

Biblical Spies

The gathering of intelligence for tactical, strategic, and political purposes dates back to biblical times. According to the Old Testament (Joshua 2), in preparation for an attack on the city of Jericho: “Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.”