A

Agent

A covert human source, recruited by SIS to provide secret intelligence or assistance to the Service, who has undergone a period of assessment and whose reporting to SIS has been validated. To be distinguished from a member of SIS' staff.


B

BSIS

Acronym occasionally used for SIS - British Secret Intelligence Service to distinguish us from others with similar acronyms - CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service), ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service) and NZSIS (New Zealand Security Intelligence Service).


C

'C'

Chief of SIS. Used in honour of the first Chief of SIS, Sir Mansfield Cumming, who habitually signed himself 'C'.

CABINET OFFICE

Central government department with responsibilities for co-ordinating the UK national intelligence machinery, including the Joint Intelligence Committee.

CBRN

Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear. This acronym describes weapons types.

CX

SIS intelligence reports as issued to other government departments (customers). These reports are generally "single-source", relating to the intelligence provided by one agent or source. Although the reports may include commentary from SIS and some estimate of its value to customers, it is not with SIS' function to analyse its importance or weight. They are composed according to a set format, providing details of the subject covered, and the reliability of the source. The acronym originates from the archaic security marketing 'Exclusive for C'.


D

DIS

Defence Intelligence Staff. Intelligence analytical organisation of the Ministry of Defence traditionally serving the UK armed forces but also serving wider government customers.


F

FCO

Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The UK ministry of foreign affairs, responsible for the formulation and delivery of foreign policy. The FCO works closely with SIS overseas. The Foreign Secretary is the Minster responsible for the Secret Intelligence Service, under the Prime Minister.


G

GCHQ

Government Communications Headquarters. The UK sigint (signals intelligence) agency, based in Cheltenham. One of SIS's two sister intelligence and security agencies also with the Security Service (MI5).


H

HMG

Her Majesty's Government. An alternative phrase for 'the British Government'.

HOME OFFICE

The UK ministry of the interior. The Home Secretary is the Minister responsible for the Security Service.

HUMINT

"Human intelligence", namely intelligence derived from human sources.

HRA

Human Rights Act of 1998. A key piece of UK legislation to which SIS is subject.


I

ISA

Intelligence Services Act of 1994. This act of parliament was the first time that SIS' function and role were defined in law. It sets out what the Service may do.


J

JIC

Joint Intelligence Committee. Part of the Cabinet office and the central body of the national intelligence machinery. It advises on the priorities for intelligence collection and assesses Agency performance against those priorities.

JTAC

Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. Sits within the Security Service to analyse all source intelligence on terrorist threats to the UK and UK interests. Staffed by members of all three intelligence and security agencies and the DIS, FCO, Home Office, the Police and other government departments.


L

Liaison

Foreign intelligence services with which SIS cooperates. It is SIS policy not to comment on its relationships with liaison services.


M

MI6

Commonly used but unofficial title for SIS dating back to before WWII.

MI5

Commonly used but unofficial title for the Security Service.


O

OFFICER

A member of SIS staff. Often confused in popular vocabulary with agent.

OPERATION

An intelligence gathering operation.

OSA

The Official Secrets Act (1989) prohibits the disclosure of sensitive information relating to security, intelligence, defence and foreign relations, and applies to all applicants to, and employees of, SIS. You can read more about the Official Secrets Act at the Office of Public Sector Information.


R

REQUIREMENT

Intelligence requirements set by the JIC.

RIPA

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000. Regulatory Act which established a Commissioner for Interception, a Commissioner for the Intelligence Services and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.


S

SIS

The Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6.

SOE

The Special Operations Executive. WWII clandestine operations agency absorbed into SIS towards the end of the war. Security-edited records from the period before absorption have been released by SIS to the UK National Archive.

SOURCE

Any source of information or intelligence. An agent may be a source but a source is not automatically an agent.

SIGINT

Signals intelligence. The primary task of GCHQ.

SECRET INTELLIGENCE

Information acquired against the wishes and generally without the knowledge of the originators or possessors. Sources are kept secret from readers as are the techniques used to acquire the information. Intelligence provides privileged insights not available openly.

SIA

Single Intelligence Account. The budget through which all three intelligence and security agencies are funded.