War of spies begins in Syria: Rebels set up own intelligence service
BEIRUT - Syrian rebels announced on Tuesday the creation of a security service to "defend the Syrian revolution" in a country that has been awash with feared intelligence agencies for the past five decades.
Its objective is "to be a powerful security shield to protect the sons of the revolution from attacks, arrests and killings," and to hunt down members of the opposition who have committed abuses, according to a video statement by the rebels.
The video, posted to YouTube by Free Syrian Army spokesman Fahad al-Masri, shows eight armed men wearing masks over their faces.
One of the men introduces himself as Colonel Ossama, agent 102, and announces the "formation of the Intelligence Services Administration of the Syrian Revolution-National Security Bureau."
"It must be one of the powerful arms of the revolution against the intelligence network of the government clique and its regional and international allies," Ossama says.
He lists the names and code numbers -- 100 to 118 -- of the 19 department heads, including a woman, Umm Aisha, in charge of logistics.
Interior and exterior intelligence branches will be established, along with branches dealing with local and foreign media. Offices will be established in the major regions of the country, and a brigade for special missions will be formed.
The goal is to "strengthen the capacity of revolutionary political and military forces by providing detailed information on the movements of the Assad occupation forces, shabiha (pro-regime militia) and agents" of the authorities.
The Intelligence Services Administration intends to "remain separate from the revolutionary forces in order to hold accountable those who have committed errors, whatever their position," Ossama added.
The message did not make clear exactly who would be in control of the Intelligence Services Administration or whether the newly-formed political opposition bloc, the Syrian Coalition, would be involved in its formation.
The Baathist regime of President Bashar al-Assad and his father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad, has used a multitude of intelligence services over the past half-century to ensure complete domination of the population.
Informants are so rife in the country that Syrians joke that while other nations have developed intelligence services, in Syria it is the security services which have created the state.
The four main branches of the government's secret services, each with a local branch, are gathered under the auspices of the National Security Bureau.
The General Security Directorate, which functions outside ministerial supervision, is responsible for civilian activities inside and outside the country as well as for Palestinians.
The Political Security Directorate, under the Ministry of the Interior, is responsible for internal and external political dissent.
In addition, the Directorate of Military Intelligence, the most powerful branch, monitors internal and external affairs, while the dreaded Directorate of the Air Force is responsible for the most sensitive operations inside and outside the country.