Saudi Arabia, Intelligence and Security
The Middle East is the seat of some of the world's most ancient civilizations and ethnic groups. Ancient Persia (Iran) and Byzantium (Turkey), in different eras, both claimed the land corresponding to present-day Saudi Arabia. These civilizations had complex government structures, which included developed bureaucracies and some of the earliest intelligence communities.
Abd al-Aziz Saud established the nation of Saudi Arabia in 1920 when he captured the city of Riyadh. He and his forces then began a three-decade campaign to unify tribal lands and city-states in the Arabian Peninsula. The quest was aided by the discovery of oil in the region during the 1930s, which produced great wealth for the royal family and Saudi Arabia. Today, the royal family remains in control of Saudi Arabia and the daily operations of its government. Because of its strategic location and its vast oil wealth, Saudi Arabia maintains one of the largest and most sophisticated intelligence communities in the Middle East.
In recent years, the Saudi government and intelligence services have become more concerned with the influx of refugees and immigrants. Increasing global concern over Islamist terrorist networks, and international suspicion of Saudi officials for permitting the funneling of weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, prompted closer monitoring of Saudi national borders. Saudi intelligence and security forces erected video surveillance cameras, night vision and thermal cameras, and next-generation radar along national borders and the coastline. The electronic surveillance is meant to aid an extensive troop force, and free some military personnel for other operations. The government also offers incentives and high monetary awards for citizens who aid in the identification and arrest of illegal aliens.
Saudi civilian intelligence is directed by the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Interior Forces. The Directorate of Intelligence coordinates all civilian and some military intelligence operations. Both foreign and domestic intelligence information is collected and processed by the Directorate, which in turn works closely with Saudi Arabia's many police forces.
The Saudi government maintains several law enforcement agencies with ties to the intelligence community. The Directorate of Investigation investigates suspicious activity, conducts anti-terrorism and anti-crime surveillance, and has operational units to participate in security operations and political espionage. The Committees for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (religious police) enforce the nation's tough anti-trafficking and drug laws, as well as social laws on modesty of dress and media censorship. The Public Security Police is the main national law enforcement agency, dedicated to preserving public safety and national security.
In addition to civilian forces, the Saudi military has extensive intelligence forces. The main agency for military and foreign intelligence is the G-2 Intelligence Section. The Ministry of Defense coordinates military intelligence and security operations, most of which are secret. Saudi military forces utilize the advanced surveillance and espionage technology in the region, gathering a wide range of electronic, signals, communications, remote, and human intelligence information.
In 1990 Saudi Arabia permitted the Kuwaiti royal family to flee the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and establish an exile government in Saudi Arabia. In 1991 Saudi Arabia permitted the United States military to use its territory as a staging ground to launch an attack against Iraqi occupying forces in Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War. However, the Saudi government, at least publicly, opposed coalition military action against Iraq in 2003.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. "CIA World Factbook, Saudi Arabia." < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/sa.html > (March 29, 2003).