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Intelligence




Saudi Secret Service (Istakhbarat)
Maslahat Al-Istikhbarat Al-Aammah
( General Intelligence Department)

The Directorate of Intelligence, which reported directly to the king, was responsible for intelligence collection and analysis and the coordination of intelligence tasks and reporting by all intelligence agencies, including those of the Ministry of Defense and Aviation and the national guard.

GIP is a security apparatus in Saudi Arabia that aims first and foremost to provide security and stability, and to work towards preserving the gains of the homeland inside and outside the kingdom. It is an administrative entity that has a specific organizational structure, and holds a set of clear strategies and goals that endeavors to achieve in accordance with firm principles and values which conform, in essence and content, to the unwavering fundamentals on which Saudi Arabia stands.

The main mission of the Presidency is to make every effort to “provide strategic intelligence, contribute to achieve national security, and provide timely information to the authorities, so that they can take rapid and appropriate actions,” in accordance with the basic charter on which the General Intelligence Presidency was founded.

To bring about this mission, the Presidency runs strategic and counter intelligence operations needed to maintain national security, plans the activities of national intelligence services, coordinates their activities that relate to collecting and producing intelligence, and carries out studies and research as dictated by national security, then presents these to decision makers in order to draw up internal and external policies built on sound and accurate information. The Presidency also establishes mutual relations with the security services of other brotherly and friendly countries.

The founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, king Abdul Aziz bin Abdurrahman Al-Saud had used the intelligence work in his historical wars to unify the country. He would not take a single military step without informing himself, through the scouts he sent out to the vicinity of the enemy, of the political and military situation of the other side, in order to put in place the appropriate plan to achieve victory.

He realized the importance of getting timely information, and used it to enhance the security and stability of the burgeoning Kingdom. Accordingly, his interest in modern communication increasingly grew until he set up the first radio communications system throughout the land, something which would have a prominent role in transferring information and news, to and from him. It had also played an effective role in determining many historical events that took place in the Kingdom.

As the political, international, regional, and local conditions improved, and in response to the needs of the period, as well as in recognition of the importance of the political, religious, and economical stage the Kingdom was witnessing, there appeared a need for setting up an apparatus that could provide information for the decision maker, participate alongside other security services in preserving the integrity of the state and its essential elements, and guarantee a high level of prosperity for the state and the citizen, while preserving all its gains in all fields. Hence the Kingdom thought of setting up an intelligence service, and began this with the opening of an office for intelligence in the year 1376 Hijra, corresponding to 1955, under the name of “Al-Mabahith Al-Aammah” or (General Investigations).

During the reign of King Saud bin Abdul Aziz, the General Intelligence was separated from the General Directorate of Mabaahith (Investigations). Intelligence was established officially as an independent security service with the issuing of the Royal decree number 11 in 1377 Hijra [1956] that ordered the setting up of a special department under the title of Maslahat Al-Istikhbarat Al-Aammah or (The General Intelligence Department). During this period two branches of the Presidency were set up locally, the western branch in Jeddah, and eastern one in Dhahran.

During the reign of king Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz, the Presidency witnessed great developments; namely, the opening of offices abroad in some countries of interest, and the setting up of a number of local branches to cover all the areas of the Kingdom, besides the expansion of the activities and missions the Presidency carried out.

During the reign of king Khaled Bin Abdul Aziz, the Presidency witnessed the issuing of its basic law by Royal decree number m-5, dated 4-3-1403 Hijra (December 19, 1982) which had set out its responsibilities, duties, and limits of activities. Also, many departments affiliated with the Presidency were set up and organized such as the General Department for Operations, the General Department for Administrative and Financial affairs, the General Department for Training and Planning, and the General Department for Technical Affairs. Set up as well were the National Research Center, and the Center for Media and International Communications (previously Center for Translation and Media). These developments came in response to the ever increasing needs of the Presidency and the expansion of its activities.

In 1418 Hijra [1997], the Office for External Communications was annexed to the Presidency after it had been part of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Its name was also changed to the General Department for External Communications, and it was strengthened with the addition of high-tech equipment and intelligence specialists in radio surveillance, quite an advanced method for collecting intelligence.

The period saw the expansion of the activities of the Presidency abroad with the establishment and development of more offices in Arab, African, Asian, and European countries, and through more effort to organize its work in line with what the general interests of the state dictated. The Presidency’s internal branches saw development during this phase as well with the restructuring and reorganizing of its offices and bolstering of them with new expertise and qualified personnel.

During the reign of king Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, a period may be called the phase of administrative development, a specialized committees for administrative development were set up. The Higher Committee for Development was set up and was chaired by the President of the General Intelligence; its membership consisted of the heads of the various departments of the Presidency. And during the tenure of His Royal Highness, the administrative structuring of the Information Center was approved.

During the reign of the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques, King Abdulla Bin Abdul Aziz, The GIP has gone through many stages of development and renewals that coincided with the needs and the nature of the circumstances of each stage. With the issuance of this Royal Order, the GIP is now braced for another period of development and rejuvenation that reflects the new ambitions of the Saudi government in its pursuit of implementing modern information technology in all domains of government. To realize these ambitions, His Royal Highness Prince Mugrin bin Abdulaziz directed, since his first day of assuming the leadership of the Presidency, for increasing the share of modern information technology in intelligence work.

He has also implemented a comprehensive program of enrolling all GIP personnel in advanced training courses in computer science so that they become well educated on and informed of its uses. This is the first step for the Presidency to be one of the first government agencies to become fully “electronic”. Contracts with private institutions have already been signed to train all personnel and qualify them for the international “driver’s license” ICDL in computer uses and applications.

Since assuming his office, His Royal Highness has been preoccupied with the project of developing, restructuring, and drawing the Presidency’s strategy. To this end, he has issued instructions for the studying of this new strategy to ensure its success and to maximize its benefits. Many committees have been formed for this task, and the expertise of other sectors in the Kingdom such as the security authorities, administrative and academic circles, has been called upon. Many of those involved in the strategy have been sent abroad to Arab, Islamic, and friendly countries in order to witness, first hand, the experience these countries enjoy in this field.

Obviously, the new administrative structure of the Presidency materialized in its orientation towards more organization and more specialization, in a way that guarantees the contribution of all in serving information, and enjoyed the maximum benefit of all the capabilities and personnel available at the General Intelligence Presidency. Such a state fulfills the wishes of His Royal Highness the President of the General Intelligence for disciplined commitment to high professionalism at work, bringing to life the GIP’s motto: “effectiveness, competence, professionalism.”

Again, the interests of His Royal Highness had not been limited to the internal issues. Believing that intelligence work is a comprehensive coordinated effort which cannot do without the joint contribution of all internal and external parties, he devoted his efforts to increasing the offices abroad in countries of interest and to widening cooperative horizons with other intelligence services in Arab, Islamic, and friendly countries. Therefore, the Presidency has succeeded in signing bilateral and multi-literal cooperation agreements with a number of countries and institutions inside and outside the Kingdom. It also held, a number of conferences and meetings at the level of neighboring and friendly countries to exchange opinions and expertise.

Prince Turki al-Faisal al Saud was the long-time Chief of Saudi Intelligence, Istakhbarat. Around 1995, the Saudi Secret Services (Istakhbarat) headed by Prince Turki, decided to give massive financial support to the Taliban. In 1996, according to a non published French intelligence report, a group of Saudi princes and business leaders met in Paris and agreed to continue contributing, sponsoring, aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.

In July of 1998, a meeting occurred in Kandahar, Afghanistan that led to an agreement between Saudi Arabia and the Taliban. The participants were Prince Turki, the Taliban leaders, as well as senior Pakistani intelligence officers of the ISI and representatives of Osama bin Laden. The agreement stipulated that Osama bin Laden and his followers would not use the infrastructure in Afghanistan to subvert the Saudi government and in return, the Saudis would make sure that no demands for the extradition of individuals, such as Osama bin Laden, and/or the closure of terrorist facilities and camps were ever met. Prince Turki also promised to provide oil and generous financial assistance to both the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. After the meeting, 400 new pick-up trucks arrived in Kandahar for the Taliban, still bearing Saudi Arabia license plates.

Prince Turki headed Istakhbarat until August 2001. Istakhbarat had served as Osama bin Laden’s nexus to the network of charities, foundations, and other funding sources. Prince Turki was instrumental in arranging a meeting in Kandahar between Iraqi senior intelligence operative and Ambassador to Turkey, Faruq al-Hijazi, and bin Laden in December of 1998.

The surprise departure of veteran head of Saudi General Intelligence Prince Turki Al-Faisal Bin Abdelaziz on 31 August 2001 came only four months after King Fahd had issued a Royal Decree reconfirming him in the post for four more years. As one of the sons of King Faisal’s favourite wife, an Abunayan descendent of Abdel Wahab and nephew of the creator of Saudi intelligence Kamal Adham, Prince Turki was a potential candidate for Crown Prince. Prince Turki’s links to Mullah Omar were soured by the Afghan leader’s insults to the Saudi Royal Family in 1998.



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