Counterintelligence (CI): side of Military Intelligence (MI)

Counterintelligence (CI) side of Military Intelligence (MI)

Counterintelligence (CI) is the counterpart of intelligence; it is defined as the security countermeasures taken to prevent espionage and sabotage by an enemy. The CI side of Military Intelligence (MI) includes counter-espionage, counter-propaganda, counter-insurgency, counter-spying, counter-subversion, counter-sabotage, and counter-terrorism.

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Counterintelligence functions are also responsible for conducting investigations into possible breaches or vulnerabilities in any classified information or material that could cause harm to national security.

This blog post will cover the history of counterintelligence, what counterintelligence actually entails, how it differs from regular military intelligence, and more!


History of Counterintelligence in the Army:

The history of counterintelligence in the United States Army can be traced back to the American Revolution. In 1777, General George Washington created the first U.S. Army intelligence organization—the Secret Service. The Secret Service was responsible for gathering military intelligence on British forces.

In 1885, the Army began to use a system of intelligence collection and analysis known as military intelligence that was independent of either command or logistics functions. This allowed for an organization consolidated under a chief signal officer responsible only for signals communication, rather than having communication managed by individual unit commanders who were also involved in managing operations and tactics.

One of the most significant developments in U.S. Army intelligence occurred in 1917, when the War Department created the Military Intelligence Division (MID) as the Army’s counterintelligence arm, which was later renamed to its current name- Military Intelligence Corps.

What Counterintelligence Entails:

Counterintelligence (CI) is a broad term that encompasses a variety of security measures taken to protect an organization from espionage and sabotage by enemies. CI activities include, but are not limited to:

– Counter-espionage: The detection and prevention of enemy espionage operations within an organization or nation.

– Counter-propaganda: The countering of enemy propaganda and disinformation efforts.

– Counter-insurgency: The countering of irregular or insurgent forces within a nation.

– Counter-spying: The identification and monitoring of foreign intelligence operations within an organization or nation.

– Counter-subversion: The prevention of enemy subversion (i.e., the undermining of an organization’s security and integrity from within)

– Counter-sabotage: The prevention of enemy efforts to sabotage or destroy an organization’s infrastructure or operations.

– Counter-terrorism: The countering of terrorist threats and activities.

How counterintelligence differs from regular military intelligence:

While the goals of counterintelligence and military intelligence are similar, there are several important differences.

– Unlike military intelligence, counterintelligence focuses on foreign threats to an organization or nation and those who support the enemy’s efforts.

– Military intelligence is focused on information about a particular area of operations as well as general military capabilities such as weapons systems and equipment used by the armed forces in that region.

– Counterintelligence is focused on the intentions and capabilities of the enemy within their own boundaries.

– Military intelligence often provides information about specific military operations to be conducted by friendly forces, whereas counterintelligence focuses more on identifying threats than it does in proposing courses of action that could result from those threats.”

Counterintelligence Activities:


Counterespionage is defined as “all actions involved in detecting and countering attempts by foreign entities to penetrate U.S. government agencies”. counter-espionage activities include the identification and investigation of foreign agents who are operating in the United States, as well as the development and implementation of countermeasures to protect U.S. government agencies from espionage.

In counteraction of espionage, countermeasures can include diplomatic, economic, or military actions such as sanctions, arrests, etc.; developing counter messages for use against opposing propaganda efforts both domestically and abroad fall under this umbrella.


Counterpropaganda is defined as “the practice of fighting propaganda with counter-propaganda”. It involves creating pro-government propaganda countermeasures to counter subversive propaganda.  One goal for counterpropaganda is to reduce vulnerabilities in your own system that have been identified by counterintelligence efforts. The process begins with the understanding of how your opponent thinks and what motivates them.

In counteraction to propaganda, a counter-message can be developed by disproving the false information, adding new information to offset the disinformation, or simply providing another perspective.

Counterpropaganda is an important part of counterintelligence because it is potentially easier for foreign governments to spread misinformation than the truth.


Counterinsurgency (COIN) is defined as “a broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations used in support of combatant commanders, U.S. government agencies, or international organizations to defeat an insurgency and stabilize a hostile territory”.

Counterinsurgency counters the organized subversion and insurgency by a government or non-state actor to protect the civilian population and infrastructure, while at the same time weakening the insurgent’s ability to fight.

There are many different aspects to COIN, including public affairs and psychological operations. One aspect of COIN is to counter the insurgent’s will and their use of propaganda, which includes radio broadcasts and leaflets distributed in the area-of-operations.

Public affairs officers work to build and maintain the trust of the civilian population, while psychological operations (PSYOP) specialists work to demoralize the insurgent forces and reduce their support.

COIN is an important part of military intelligence because it helps protect the population and weaken the enemy forces.


Counter-spying (CS) is the process of identifying, locating, and neutralizing foreign intelligence activities within the borders of the United States.

The goal of CS is to protect the nation’s secrets and reduce the ability of foreign intelligence services to gain information about U.S. government activities. CS is an important part of military intelligence because it helps protect the nation’s secrets and reduces the ability of foreign nations to gain information about the United States.

There are many different aspects to CS, including counterintelligence (CI) and counter-surveillance (CS). CI is the process of identifying, locating, and neutralizing foreign intelligence activities within the borders of the United States. CS is the process of detecting and preventing unauthorized surveillance activities.

Both counterintelligence and counter-surveillance are important aspects of military intelligence and help protect the nation’s secrets and reduce the ability of foreign intelligence services to gain information about U.S. government activities.


Countersubversion is defined as “actions engaged in counteracting ideological subversion by non-state actors who seek to overthrow or threaten a nation’s political system”.

The goal of countersubversion is to protect the civilian population and infrastructure from insurgent forces through the processes of identifying, neutralizing, and countering individuals or organizations attempting to subvert a government.


Counter-sabotage is defined as “measures taken to detect, counteract, and prevent sabotage.” counterintelligence activities include identifying foreign agents spying on US military installations; developing countermeasures against such activity; protecting the nation’s military technology from espionage or other intelligence methods used by these hostile forces. Additionally, counter-sabotage actions are utilized in counteracting sabotage by non-state actors who seek to destroy a nation’s infrastructure.

Counter-sabotage is an important part of MI’s mission because it helps protect the nation from insurgent forces trying to destroy our infrastructure and economy. It provides a critical security service that ensures we remain resilient in even the most difficult circumstances, safeguarding both civilian agencies and American citizens at home or abroad.


Counterterrorism (CT) is the process of preventing, detecting, and responding to terrorist attacks. This can include gathering information on terrorist organizations, tracking their activities and taking preemptive or countermeasures against them.

The goal of CT is to protect the nation from terrorist threats by identifying and eliminating the threats before they can harm civilians or government agencies. Military Intelligence plays a critical role in CT operations by providing intelligence about potential terrorist threats.


Military Intelligence’s counterintelligence function provides an important security service to our nation, helping us protect our government agencies and citizens from harm. It is a vital part of MI and plays a critical role in safeguarding our national security. 

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check out our other blog posts for more information on subject such as – PSYOPS: Propaganda, Censorship, and Disinformation and Military Intelligence: What You Need to Know.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army; Counterintelligence unit beefs up training for Afghanistan deployment


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