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Secret Police

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Thought Police by Libertymaniacs
Used with permission.

In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the Police Patrol, snooping into people's windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.
George Orwell, 1984

If our protagonists are visiting Commie Land or a Banana Republic, they will never run into the Secret Police.

Why would they? You only need a police force if there is crime, and the country the heroes are in either has the lowest crime rate in the world or absolutely no crime at all. Any troublemaker just tends to "disappear" overnight; people who see their neighbors being taken away know it's best to look away and not guess why. And as there are no criminals, there's also no need for any court of law, jury by peers, or state prisons.

Common in Dystopian fiction. If the Secret Police existed and had their own military force, then it would be a State Sec. If they don't officially exist, they might be No Such Agency.

If the culture isn't so bad, or the police—while secret, or at least very quiet—aren't altogether evil or brutal, they may just be The Men in Black.


Compare Police State, where the police organization enforces a totalitarian regime openly.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Central 1st Brigade of the Military Police in Attack on Titan has the mission of eliminating "undesirable elements" within the walls for the King. They have eliminated not only political dissidents but also people who are too curious about the world outside the walls, question the official government's story and people who have discovered technological breakthroughs — thus enforcing the setting's Medieval Stasis (while hoarding for themselves, thus having anti-human 3DM gear). They are also sent in by the royal government to realise The Purge of the Survey Corps.
  • Section 9 in Ghost in the Shell. A rare case of members of such an organisation being the protagonists rather than antagonists, focusing on fighting dangerous criminals and terrorists, and are actually supposed to be secret (as in the public not knowing they officially exist). However, being the good guys doesn't mean they don't play this trope straight in all other respects.
  • In Samurai Champloo, there are couple of characters working for the shogunate's secret police, but they are all good guys. There is hardboiled detective parody, Manzou the Saw, as well as an Action Girl and her partner who work to bring down a prostitution/crime ring.
  • The "Cipher Pol No. 9" (CP9) of the universe of One Piece: they're the World Government's secret assassins, trained in infiltration and in the Rokushiki (six techniques) in order to complete their missions. They have the authority to kill any citizen that is presented as a threat to the World Government, including nobility.
  • Ratman has "S Security", the Hero Association's top enforcers who are dispatched to covertly eliminate threats to the Association like the eponymous Anti-Villain Protagonist.
  • In Naruto we had the ROOT organization which was a branch of ANBU that answered directly to Danzo Shimura instead of the Hokages.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, we have the Principality of Zeon's Secret Service,note  though they only exist in backstory. Their activities throughout Zeon's existence include killing off the Daikun family and their supporters to ensure the Zabis' rule, and disappearing One Year War protesters and suspected traitors (which is pretty much anyone they or the Zabis didn't like) in typical secret police fashion. Two of the side manga even describe how Side 3 suffered from rolling "blackouts", which in reality were whole neighborhoods being cleared out and left unpopulated; in other words, there was nobody left to turn houselights on over entire city blocks.
    • Notably in the novels, Ramba Ral (of all people) was a member of the Secret Service instead of being the badass Gouf pilot we all know him for. As opposed to the Officer and a Gentleman he was in the TV/Movie series, he was more a Gihren loyalist here, such that he harbored shame over his father saving Zeon Zum Daikun's children from extermination.
  • The Oprichnina are an example of this trope in Gate. Formed by Zorzal after his father, Emperor Molto, is poisoned, he uses this force to arrest any nobles and senators who are attempting to seek a peaceful resolution with the Japanese government. Despite their horrendous behavior, what they're doing is technically considered the Empire's internal affairs, preventing the Japanese Prime Minister from being able to house any Imperials attempting to seek refuge in their embassy, lest Zorzal uses this as an excuse to restart the war.
  • In Spy X Family, Yuri Briar is secretly an interrogator for the Ostanian government, and one of his goals is to capture Twilight, the rival nation of Westalis's greatest spy. Hilarity Ensues because Twilight is currently posing as his sister Yor's husband, Loid Forger.

    Comic Books 
  • The Fingermen in V for Vendetta - with the actual surveillance done by agents of the Eye and Ear, the agents of the Finger are the ones who do the black-bagging of political targets.
  • Black Panther: The Hatut Zeraze (Dogs of War) were the secret police of Wakanda until they were disbanded and exiled by T'Challa when he rose to the throne. Despite this, they still operate in Wakanda as unofficial mercenaries.
  • The Judges of Mega City One have the Wally Squad, who have the same powers as a regular judge but are free to blend in with the general citizenry. Since the citizenry of Mega City One consists largely of idiots, this means you get characters like Jack Point, a Hardboiled Detective archetype who has to dress like a clown.

    Fan Fic 
  • According to the narrator of Equestria: A History Revealed, Celestia has all sorts of different secret polices.
    • The Lemony Narrator fears the dreaded Fallacy Police. Apparently they're watching her, waiting for her to slip up. Good thing for her, Loose Change reasons that she's had no faults in logic in her essay so far so she should be fine. But given the absurdity of the statement, it stands to reason that their existence is highly questionable.
    • It is hinted that Celestia might have had a secret police during the Classical Era. But the name that the narrator gives the organization, "Celestia Watermelon Friendship Surprise", casts doubt into this validity of this claim.
  • Night's Favored Child has the Imperial Overwatch, led by the Inquisitor.
  • Four Deadly Secrets: The RSS, Vale's "secret happy fun-time people," who you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alleyway.
  • In Summer Crowns, the Second Sons are reorganized to serve as this function after the Dragonhunt-led alliance they're part of take over Myr and make it the capital of the newly established Kingdom of Summer.
  • In The Unabridged Memoirs of Darth Plagueis the Wise has the Political Security Service serving this role for the Rim Liberation Front, often carrying out purges in order to eliminate supposed "Republic spies".
  • Season 2 of The New Adventures of Invader Zim reveals that the Irken Empire has a secret police force called the Consulars. They're Irkens with rare psychic abilities, allowing them to search the minds of suspects, which makes them The Dreaded among the rest of the ranks. Also, they report directly to the Control Brains, which means that technically they don't have to be subservient to the Tallest.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 13 Minutes: Gestapo head Heinrich Müller is one of Elser's interrogators, with Kripo chief Arthur Nebe.
  • In a semi-Real Life example the movie The Bank Job features MI5 acting in a role similar to this when they blackmail a group of thieves to commit a bank robbery to steal blackmail materials against the royal family. Though the incident in the film has been alleged to be true, it is entirely unproven.
  • Closet Land: The Interrogator seems to be a member of the government political police, interrogating (i.e. torturing) suspected dissidents such as the Author. He says their job is to protect society through removing "negative elements"
  • The Grammaton Clerics of Equilibrium. Like the Firemen, the Clerics seek out and destroy anything that the state declares "emotionally dangerous." What separates them from other political police is that they know Gun Kata, making them far deadlier and much cooler.
  • Gold Through the Fire: Peter is threatened while in the US by KGB agents, demanding that he return or they'll hurt his family (who are imprisoned). After he refuses even so, they kidnap him. He escapes, so at the end an agent is sent to kill him. Upon hearing Peter speaking with his foster brother about what Russian Christians endure, the agent puts down his rifle with a smile, deciding not to.
  • Conal Cochran's robotic employees serve as this in Halloween III: Season of the Witch, killing anyone who poses a threat to their plans or simply hates Silver Shamrock. A drunk who falls victim to the robots warns Dr. Challis that Cochran has spies all over the place. Furthermore, it's impossible to make phone calls from outside Santa Mira, where his factory is located.
  • The Lives of Others is about the Stasi monitoring playwright Georg Dreyman and his actress partner Christa-Maria Sieland. The story focuses on Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler as he becomes disillusioned with the operation due to the ulterior motives of Minister Bruno Hempf and his increasing sympathies for the couple.
  • Night Train to Lisbon: They were the terror of Portugal under Porfirio Salazar, shown as ruthlessly torturing Joao for information. As resistance against the regime grows, the secret policeman who tortured him is then beaten up. Amadeu gets the brunt of the assailants' anger for treating him afterward.
  • Where Hands Touch: The Gestapo are the bane of Leyna's existence, constantly harassing and tracking her down, with the ever-present threat of her being sterilized or worse just because she's black.
  • In V for Vendetta, the Norsefire government has the Finger who serve them this way, with all the so-called "Fingermen" operating in virtual impunity. However, when the revolution happens, citizens turn upon them without mercy, as it's implied most secretly hated them (not surprisingly).

  • 1984: The dreaded Thought Police watch the population of Oceania for any sign of thoughtcrime. Citizens don't even need to have done anything contrary to Big Brother. They just need to be thinking about it. The famous slogan "Big Brother Is Watching You" threatens that the Thought Police could be inspecting your behavior at any moment, so you never get a moment's safety to be yourself. The Thought Police will even recruit your own family members to inform against you (this was a common tactic of totalitarian regimes, and is still used in dictatorial regimes today).
  • In the first Able Team novel, it's pointed out by the leader of a Puerto Rican independence group that Able Team fits this description — they receive the full cooperation of the police and FBI, yet don't admit to belonging to any official government agency.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathon Stroud has the Night Police. This trope, and they're werewolves to boot.
  • China Miéville's Bas-Lag Cycle: Perdido Street Station combines this with They Look Just Like Everyone Else! to the point of Paranoia Fuel. The city state that serves as the setting makes uses of its "militia" which has agents that can be anyone.
  • The City & the City, where the "Breach" spirits away any citizens of the titular cities caught trespassing into the other. Given the two cities occupy the same space, it's more difficult than it seems.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets we have the I.B.I. (not stated but probably Interplanetary Bureau of Investigation) which is the Federation's secret police. Their agents are Don Harvey's main antagonist.
  • Given this record, the trope is notably averted in the third of the most significant literary dystopias, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World... the people are too happy to care, so no police enforcement is needed. Though it should be noted that there is obviously a police force, as seen when John the Savage starts throwing out the soma rations.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch's Savage Wolves serves as the secret police. The Witch also has trees spying for her.
  • To a lesser extent in Pournelle's CoDominium series:
    • In the Falkenberg's Legion books, the CD Intelligence Services work to prohibit any scientific research to keep the peace. They have no problems with corrupting databanks, censoring publications, and exiling scientists to deadly prison planets.
    • The Kingdom of Haven's Secret Police of King David's Spaceship. Just as unscrupulous as their counterparts (they kill off an entire tavern and an landlady to preserve a secret they might have accidentally overheard). Unusual is that their goal is rather benevolent.
  • The Crisis of Empire series by David Drake and other authors had the Kona Tatsu, whose authority included rearranging a marriage — as in, "You're now divorced so we can have your wife make a political marriage to someone else" — to support their agenda. Also a partial subversion/aversion, in that the KT are not, as a whole, as horribly bad as they pretend to be. They're certainly ruthless and sometimes sociopathic, but as a whole they are one of the few forces keeping civilization intact, and they know it, and some of their people try to behave decently when they can keep it from being obvious to their victims.
  • Discworld: The "Cable Street Particulars" as seen in Night Watch are portrayed as an English version of The Gestapo. They mainly hunt out revolutionaries and are not picky about how they get their information. People have been known to enter their HQ and are never seen again. The scene where a time displaced Vimes breaks into the building is a disturbing scene by Discworld standards. In a chronologically later book, Commander Vimes revives them as an undercover division of the City Watch: "secret policemen for secret crimes" as he puts it. It's safe to assume that since they report to an honest Commander, the modern Particulars are a benevolent version. The one secret policeman we meet in Maskerade is essentially the same thing as an undercover officer and works under a temporary identity to investigate a specific crime, rather than lurking and spying indiscriminately.
  • The Firemen of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, who hunt and raze houses containing uncensored materials.
  • The alternate history novel For Want of a Nail gives us the Constabulary, an organization put together by the United States of Mexico during a time of civil unrest and guerrilla terrorist activity in the hopes of restoring order and stability. And while this works, it ultimately backfires, as the Constabulary's commandant, Benito Hermion, with the backing of Kramer Associates, stages a coup and takes control of the country.
  • In the later Garrett, P.I. novels, Deal Relway's Unpublished Committee for Royal Security becomes a covert law-enforcement force to be reckoned with in post-war TunFaire. Still marginally an agency of good, but likely to turn toxic if Relway ever runs out of genuine malefactors to target or gets replaced by someone less righteous.
  • Gentleman Bastard: The secret police of Camorr are known as the Midnighters. They are, in fact, so secretive that most people never have interactions with them. When the Bastards are posing as midnighters for a con, they don't even know what the badges should look like and have some custom made based on rumors they've heard, trusting that their targets also won't know any better.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The Republic's secret police are called the Eyes of God, or simply Eyes. The historical notes section does mention that lots of them were double or triple agents who spied for the Commanders but were also required to spy on them, and lots of them were also members of the resistance group Mayday.
  • The Seekers from The Heritage of Shannara are somewhere between this and State Sec. With their Black Cloaks and wolf's head pins, they are among the most feared people in the entire Federation.
  • In David Weber's Honorverse, the People's Republic of Haven had a number of secret agencies:
    • The Mental Hygiene Police and Internal Security.
    • When the Committee of Public Safety comes to power, it centralizes the secret police, and creates State Sec, whose initials SS is no coincidence.
  • In Shadow of Freedom, one bit character is introduced as the leader of the Mobius Secret Police, an agency whose existence is literally a state secret. Another bit character takes a moment to muse on whether or not the former realizes that in most cases, only a Secret Police's actions are kept a secret.
  • Likewise the Caretaker Service in Yulia Latynina's Inhuman, but so much more efficient (also, they can double as special forces).
  • In The Island of Crimea, OSVAG is the alternate Crimean-White Russian cloak-and-dagger outfit.
  • The MARZENA Series has the IJS (not to confuse with the US). They spy on people, sell their data to Neo-Nazis and use the Transhuman Army to clean up the mess left behind so that Tresisda pass out as heroes. Also there is their American counterpart, Section-C, a Private Intelligence Company contracted by Homeland Security to take care of dirty business that the American government don't want to get involved in.
  • In M. K. Wren's The Phoenix Legacy trilogy, there was the SSB, the Special Services Branch of the Concord Police. SSB personnel always wore electronic masks that hid their faces in apparent shadow. Their interrogation division was known as Psychocontrol.
  • Tom Sharpe's black farces of life in apartheid South Africa, Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure, centre on the criminally inefficient, incompetent, thuggish and racist Piemburg Police Force. This comes across as a version of Terry Pratchett's City Watch but lacking its redeeming virtues. A memorable character is the certifiably insane Lieutenant Verkramp, the Piemburg sector head of the dreaded Bureau of State Security (BOSS), the old South African secret police. Verkramp is a hysterical paranoid maniac who believes Communist subversion is everywhere, and that every despised black is ultimately plotting rebellion and the bloody downfall of white (Afrikaaner) power in South Africa. Verkramp is obsessed with miscegenation and racial purity, and with the aid of a Nazi-inclined German psychiatrist, is forever devising tests and measurements to precisely define the degree of black contamination in otherwise white people. He is also interested in aversion therapy to prevent white men from desiring black women, and vice-versa. In this he shares character traits with Terry Pratchett's Captain Findthee Swing and may well have been an inspiration for the character, who appears in Pratchett's Night Watch.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers used his position as Master of Whisperers to establish the paramilitary Raven's Teeth, which he led in the suppression of Daemon Blackfyre's rebellion. As Hand of the King, Bloodraven was accused of running the kingdom with spies and spells. These accusations are more or less true, since he's a powerful greenseer who can enter the mind of and control any animal or person, as well as receive visions of the future. Over 100 years later, he's hiding out beyond the Wall, teaching these tricks to Bran.
  • The Stars My Destination has a Secret Police which even has its own code language ("the Secret Speech"). They have a reputation for Cold-Blooded Torture and disappearing people, although one of their members asserts that they made up stories of atrocities themselves so as to scare people. They are all descended from Chinese tongs.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Imperial Intelligence (military) and the Imperial Security Bureau (political) are the Empire's two main secret police organs, often at each other's throats. The latter is also State Sec (unsurprisingly, given its name) with special ISB stormtrooper units.
    • The Emperor's Hands are a more informal version, Force-sensitive assassins who report directly to the Emperor, don't exist on any record, and serve as judge, jury and executioner.
    • The Espos (Security Police) of the Corporate Sector Authority straddle the line between this and Dirty Cop.
    • The Galactic Alliance Guard in the Legacy of the Force books, initially the Galactic Alliance's response to Corellian secessionist movements, quickly develops into this trope.
    • A few smaller-scale examples at the planetary level, like Corellia's Public Safety Service, which is the secret police of the local Imperial government and its successor state after it goes independent. It was a replacement for Corellian Security Force (or CorSec), which was a regular law-enforcement organisation broadly comparable to the FBI or the French Gendarmerie with a close working relationship to the local Jedi sect. One of the heroes in the X-Wing Series, a former CorSec agent, is very bitter about what happened to the organisation.
  • That Hideous Strength has the N.I.C.E. Institutional Police, which act like any other typical secret police. Oddly enough, the NICE also have a female police auxiliary, headed by a woman who loves to abuse female prisoners.
  • In South Africa-set novel The First Rule of Survival, set in post-The Apartheid Era SA, white Afrikaner policeman Vaughn de Vries comes to realise the new Internal Security department is as paranoid and repressive as the old BOSS that it replaced. Except this time, the dissaffected and possibly rebellious section of South African society whose actions and thoughts are being monitored are white.
  • In the Troy Rising series, the Kazi fills this slot for the Rangoran Empire.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Barrayar had the Ministry of Political Education in Emperor Ezar's time, and though things have improved by Miles' time ImpSec still enjoys a bit of a reputation, which they do little to discourage.
  • The main antagonists in Eric Frank Russell's novel WASP. The Kaimina Tempiti, or Kaitempi, serve this role for the Nazi-like Sirian Empire. The name is an obvious allusion to the Japanese Kempeitai during World War II. In the novel, the Kaitempi censor all media and use violence and intimidation to quell any opposition to the Imperial government. The protagonist, James Mowry, is sent to a remote Sirian colony in order to foment rebellion and sow chaos as preparation for the Terran invasion. To this effect, he creates (and officially registers) an anti-government (read: terrorist) organization called Dirac Angestun Gesept (Sirian Freedom Party). He also proceeds to hire contract killers to take out Kaitampi officials.
  • Watership Down: In Efrafa there is the Oswlafa, or Council Police.
  • The Brocade Guards (a nod to Jinyi Wei; see Real Life below) in Yulia Latynina's Wei Empire cycle would be this, except they are very numerous, highly public and often quite incompetent; some of the government characters have their own private intelligence services that can be much more like this, though.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played for Laughs in 'Allo 'Allo!, where the local Gestapo operatives are the incompetent bumblers Herr Flick and Von Smallhausen.
  • The Alliance Operatives in Firefly (and the Big Damn Movie Serenity).
  • The Handmaid's Tale: The Eyes of God, who even the Commanders are afraid of. A couple of them are seen grabbing a man straight off the street in broad daylight, then stuffing him into a van. Nick was one, working undercover as Commander Waterford's driver and tasked to spy on him. At the same time, he's a double agent serving in the resistance.
  • The Obsidian Order and Section 31 in Star Trek. Section 31 is notable because it (an amoral, covert agency) operates within The Federation (who typically acts in the open and does the right choice). However, Section 31 is more of a Secret Society than a Secret Police.
    • Section 31 is even more notable in that while all other said governments at least tacitly acknowledge their prospective organization's existence, even Section 31's name means little to nothing, as it could more technically be called Article XIV, Section 31...that is, of the original United Earth Starfleet Charter, that ambiguously allows an unspecified "investigative agency" to take "extraordinary measures" in cases of "extraordinary circumstances" which threaten Earth, and later on the Federation as a whole. As Luther Sloane makes clear in the Deep Space Nine finale about them...there are no centralized offices for Section 31, anywhere. Some admirals and other high-ranking officials seem to know of its existence, but Section 31 is held accountable to absolutely no one.
    • Star Trek: Discovery then reveals that in the mid-23rd century, Section 31 was a known and sanctioned division of Starfleet Intelligence, with certain admirals providing oversight. Then they lost control of a threat-assessment A.I. that tried to end all sentient life in the galaxy and it was decided that Section 31 had to be kept on a shorter leash. Apparently, that didn't go so well.
    • The Cardassian Obsidian Order is so powerful that they are effectively The Omniscient Council of Vagueness that runs the whole empire. Civilian politicians and military commanders do exist, but eventually all major decisions are made by them.
    • The Romulans' Tal Shiar behaves as both secret police and political officers aboard Romulan ships. Romulans are almost universally terrified of them. When Troi is posing as a Tal Shiar officer aboard a Romulan Warbird (long story), she mostly maintains her cover because the ship's crew doesn't dare question any of her actions. Near the episode's climax, she commandeers the ship from its rightful commander by threatening to summarily execute not just anyone who objects, but their entire family. The crew's reaction makes it clear that nobody doubts that a member of the Tal Shiar would follow through on that threat.
      • In Star Trek: Picard, Laris, herself a former Tal Shiar operative, points out that the term "Secret" Police, while not inaccurate, is redundant when applied to the Romulans. Every aspect of Romulan culture is effused with secrecy and deception, police included. The real Romulan Secret Police is the Zhat Vash, who are far older and supposedly use the Tal Shiar as a mask for their real mission to eliminate synthetic life-forms throughout the galaxy.
  • The Tripods from BBC has a group of soldiers called the Black Guard who are portrayed as the Tripods' emissaries in the outside world (though they aren't present in the books).
  • On one episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, Johnny is convinced that the phone company has their own secret police force - AND they're after him for destroying a phone earlier in the episode.
  • Blake's 7. The Terran Federation had Central Security, who have all the tools of a future dystopia to maintain order — ubiquitous surveillance, Government Drug Enforcement, undercover agents, brainwashing, memory alteration, Mind Probes, Torture Technicians, even their own military forces.
  • SS-GB: The Gestapo have set up shop in the building right next to the Metropolitan Police Service.
  • Das Boot: The Gestapo, who are in La Rochelle, France, to help enforce the German occupation and hunt down the French Resistance. Hagen Forster is a member and one of the main characters in the series.
  • The Man in the High Castle:
    • The SS's intelligence branch, the SD (Siecherheitsdienst) pops up in multiple episodes, especially in the Neutral Zone, where their agents murder and terrorize people with impunity.
    • Season 3 reveals that J. Edgar Hoover has remade the FBI into the ARBI, which adds yet another layer of secret-police oppression to the Reich's American territories.
    • The Nazi Gestapo (the Trope Namer) is naturally mentioned to still be around. Season 4 also introduces a female Gestapo agent, Martha Stroud-it's then referred to as the "Staatspolizei" (the second two words of its official title, Geheime Staatspolizei-Secret State Police), and she's assisted by male agents too.
  • World on Fire: The Gestapo investigate the Rosslers after Mr. Rossler killed a Nazi woman to protect his daughter, and interrogate them both harshly.
  • A French Village: The SD (the SS's intelligence service) is a menacing presence under Heinrich Müller in Villeneuve, ruthlessly hunting down and torturing resistance members. Conversely, the French RG were already around before investigating Communists, and continue their work into the war as collaborators.
  • Utopia Falls: The Authority, the city's police, detain and interrogate people simply for dancing or singing in unapproved ways, while having spies everywhere.

  • "California Uber Alles" by the Dead Kennedys mentions the Suede Denim Secret Police, who drag away the "uncool" for a "shower".
  • The song Secret Police, sung by Hatsune Miku, describes this trope to a T, with a bit of Paranoia Fuel to the mix, as is implies that the agents could be absolutely anyone, no matter their age or social status.
  • Parodied in Lost Twists's "Pensè que se trataba de cieguitos" ("I thought these were blind dudes!"), since the narrator is a super oblivious dude who spends three days in the hands of some secret police and doesn't even seem to notice who they are.
  • Mentioned in the second verse of Resistance by Muse
    Kill your prayers for love and peace
    You'll wake the thought police

  • Cecil mentions the Sheriff's Secret Police in nearly every broadcast of Welcome to Night Vale and they, for their part, seem to be completely unconcerned about their public visibility, even going so far as to host an exhibition baseball game against the Night Vale Fire Department (during which the fire department relief pitchers were found mysteriously dead by blow dart). Indeed, it seems that the Sheriff's Secret Police is Night Vale's only form of law enforcement.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The Inquisition of Warhammer 40,000, with three major branches, each specializing in fighting either heretics, aliens, or the forces of chaos. Also overlaps with State Sec. How secret their policing is can vary, considering some Inquisitors have become famous and well-known, but also depending on circumstances or an individual Inquisitor's preferred methods. While Inquisitor Lord Torquemada Coteaz maintains an extensive informant network throughout the Formosa Sector (said to be at least 2 in every 3 citizens), others such as Inquisitor Lord Fyodor Karamazov are more likely to descend on a planet with their own personal fleet and Chamber Militants.
    • For more mundane dangers, there's the Adeptus Arbites. The Arbites deal with organised crime, sedition, rebellion, and everything else outside the jurisdiction or ability of the local police forces. Essentially, they are the MVD to the Inquisition's KGB. One source describes them as having "crystal lenses and sound wave detectors ... that can watch citizens and listen to their conversations 100 leagues away, Imperial spy satellites watch what they can't see directly".
    • And most shadowy of all is the Officio Assassinorum. Their forte is stealth and secrecy, and as well as external threats, the Officio Assassinorum often deals with rogue planetary governors. So capable is the Officio Assassinorum that one Grand Master of Assassins, Drakan Vangorich, used the temples to slay the other High Lords of Terra and take over the Imperium himself. It took 400 Space Marines to defeat his army of 100 Eversor Assassins and the battle left one lone Space Marine of the Imperial Fists standing to claim the Grand Master's head. Since this event, deployment of even a single Assassin requires the authorisation of at least two thirds of the High Lords of Terra, and the lasting distrust means the Space Marines have conspiracy theories about them, suspecting the Officio Assassinorum of responsibility for unexplained misfortunes such as the Crimson Fists' fortress monastery being destroyed by its own defence missile.
  • The Gnome nation of Zilargo, from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting Eberron, all aspects of national security and law enforcement is handled by an order of spies, diviners and assassins known as The Trust. The Gnomes of Zilargo are mostly happy with this arrangement, since their nation has the lowest crime rate on the continent and their national pastime, intrigue, is not generally interfered with.
    • This, combined with the fact that they're actually rather democratic (Zilargo has the most lax censorship laws in Eberron) means that they actually seem like a mostly normal police force who just happen to be run by a culture where elaborate schemes are looked upon as a fun diversion.
    • To put it another way: in Zilargo, a gnome becomes paranoid if he thinks no one is watching him.
  • Kislev, being a Fantasy Counterpart Culture based on Tzarist Russia, has them. They are not nice.
  • In Traveller the Zhodani Consulate enforced behaviour with their Guardians of Morality. Given that the Zhodani embraced telepathy and psionics in their society, they were real Thought Police.
  • In BattleTech, each major faction in the Inner Sphere has at least one: The Federated Suns have the MIIO, the Draconis Combine the ISF, the Lyran Commonwealth has LOKI, the Free Worlds League has SAFE, the Capellan Confederation has the Maskirovka and ComStar has ROM. LOKI and ROM cross the line into outright State Sec, the former having enough military clout to all but take over the Commonwealth in The Coup during the backstory and ROM being heavily integrated with the ComGuard.
    • The Clans, meanwhile, have The Watch, which is more or less run independently by each Clan. As can be expected from Proud Warrior Race Guys who despise all forms of lies and trickery and had spent 300-odd years living in complete isolation from other humans, their competence leaves a bit to be desired. 'Clan intelligence' more or less starts and ends with 'looking it up on Chatterweb' (the Clan version of social media).
  • Internal Security or IntSec from Paranoia
  • For a while, Hantei XVI, better known as the Steel Chrysanthemum, instated the Steel Magistrates, which were meant to root out the many (mostly imaginary) conspiracies he thought were arrayed against him. This was seen after the fact as one of the many pieces of evidence that he was completely insane, and led to the sages striking most of the records of his reign from history.

    Video Games 
  • They're all over the place in Deus Ex.
  • Very practical to have one in Tropico 3. Stupid rebel bombings.
    • In Tropico 4, the secret police are formed by edict of the Ministry of the Interior. You assign it to an existing service building and they monitor dissent on the island, allowing you to discreetly head off subversive activities and assassinate undesired civilians. They are more effective if they are allowed to tap the island's telecommunications.
    • In Tropico 5, the secret police cannot be formed until the Cold War. They monitor the island's inhabitants to discover faction leaders and rebels.
  • Appears to be a large part of the Turks' job in the Final Fantasy VII setting, although it's not their official job and they combine it with CIA-type external functions. And dress like Men in Black. Another variant of theirs on the archetype is having only first names and a great variety in appearance and fighting style.
    • They pulled at least one of their members out of an orphanage and trained her from childhood. This is not standard Secret Police fare; there's a certain ninja vibe to the whole thing and they apparently take lead in most covert ops, even if SOLDIERs are assigned as supplementary muscle.
    • Before Crisis winds up being largely about being a rebel Turk faction trying to Screw The Rules And Do The Right Thing. Interestingly, the ringleader of this little caper, the stoic softy Tseng, is still head Turk during Advent Children, when Shinra has lost most of its control, and is one of Rufus Shinra's personal guards.
    • And please everyone note that these are the secret police not of a country, but of a power company. Though said company is the government.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • In addition to being an Ancient Order of Protectors who have served as the Praetorian Guard for the emperors of Tamriel, the Blades have also branched out into other areas including espionage and diplomacy, essentially being Tamriel's CIA. The highest ranking Blade in each province is referred to as The Spymaster and the Blades often engage in covert operations. Following the Great War, the Blades were decimated and a term of the White-Gold Concordat officially disbanded them. The survivors were forced to flee underground to avoid being ruthlessly hunted by the Thalmor. Since then, the Pentius Oculatus has risen up to replace them in service to the Emperor.
    • Speaking of the Thalmor, this is one of their roles in Skyrim, mixed with, essentially, Church Police. One of the reasons everyone hates them so much is because they have a nasty habit of dragging off dissenters and making them disappear; a right they gained within Imperial territory from the Empire as part of the White-Gold Concordat to end the Great War no less. Their enforcement of the ban on Talos worship is one of the many motivating factors of the Stormcloaks in the Skyrim Civil War.
  • The Dominion from WildStar has the Imperial Corps of Intelligence (ICI), run mostly by the Mechari. This has the effect of making them terrifyingly effective and extremely cool.
  • The Federation's Bureau of Internal Investigation in Escape Velocity Nova was founded as this (with a special focus on counter-intelligence). By the time the game actually starts, they've not only (at least de-facto) absorbed all intelligence functions (Federation Intelligence is only mentioned in the past tense), or even just went full-blown State Sec with elements of the Federation Navy answering directly to them: they've gone so far as to to all practical purposes have taken over the Federation.
  • In Total War: Rome II, the Eastern Empires factions share a trait called Secret Police, which grants them extra defense against enemy agents.
  • Arstotzka from Papers, Please has the Ministry of Information's Special Investigation Division, which focuses on rooting out any and all possible enemies of the state. As if to drive the point home, M. Vonel, the agent that the player encounters throughout the game, looks nearly identical to the trope image.
  • Inspired by the above, Beholder has you taking on the role of secret policeman yourself. Although player-character Carl Stein is just a landlord and not a member of any such organisation, he is tasked by the state to spy and report on his tenants by such means as searching apartments and installing cameras in their smoke-detectors without the tenants knowing.
  • The Secret Police in Dictaror is one of the factions to appease.
  • The port city of Limsa Lominsa in Final Fantasy XIV has its own heroic version of Secret Police known as the Rogue's Guild. Formerly the Upright Thieves, the Rouge's Guild works directly under Admiral Merlwyb to uphold the original Lominsan Code from the shadows while the Maelstrom (military) and Yellow Jackets (police) focus on other tasks.
  • The Suppression Bureau from Cultist Simulator has inspectors, courts and laws that are themselves secret, and they can punish crimes that were literally only committed in dreams. Convicts are not given visiting rights or even a finite release date. They do still need evidence to arrest or convict, though.
  • The Ben-Hassrath are the intelligence agency and secret police of the Qunari in Dragon Age. In addition to gathering intelligence on other lands, they also enforce political loyalty and philosophical orthodoxy among the qunari population, and are responsible for "re-educating" those who have gone astray. One of the potential companions in Dragon Age: Inquisition, Iron Bull, is a Ben-Hassrath operative who is surprisingly open about it, and he talks about some of their tactics they use to control the population.
  • The Agent in Star Wars: The Old Republic. As Imperial Intelligence is the Sith Empire's equivalent of the KGB, your remit covers internal security too, which is most prominent in the Prologue segment on the capital planet, Dromund Kaas. Your companion Kaliyo Djannis even points this out when you visit the Sith Sanctum as even Sith Lords fear your authority.
  • Plays a role in the central mystery of The Great Ace Attorney. The Reaper is not a serial killer, avenging ghost, supernatural curse, or a macabre string of coincidences, but rather a small, covert contingent within Scotland Yard organized by Lord Chief Justice Stronghart to extrajudicially assassinate big-time criminals that can bribe or threaten their way out of legal consequences and Make It Look Like an Accident.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Spoofed in the Empire of Blood, where the Death Squad marches in a celebratory parade like any other civic institution:
      Bob: Now Judy, I'm not familiar with this next group. Can you shed some light on this for me?
      Judy: Why, that's the Death Squad, Bob!
      Bob: Really?
      Judy: Yes, they're marching in a parade for the first time, but this elite order of assassins has been around for longer than you'd think. They play a very important role in curtailing our personal liberties and maintaining the regime of the current fascist—Unnnh! [killed by assassin]
    • Bonus points for said assassin taking her job.
  • Tower of God: The the Royal Enforcement Division is an Internal Affairs Agency that overlooks the loyalty of Jahad's followers from the shadows, especially his princesses. Ren, the youngest member, is strong enough two wipe the floor with the two strongest fighters of Bam's clout.
  • Girl Genius: Played for Laughs. One of the old Heterodynes realized that his town needed a police force, but he didn't want to be bothered by actually seeing them going about their work. So he invented a way to make police that would be impossible for normal people to notice, and even if told about them, the people would forget in a few minutes. They can see each other, of course, as can the Castle and the Jaegers, but no one else ever notices them.
  • Drive (Dave Kellet), despite it's overall Spanglish culture, has the Jinyiwei (see the Real Life section for the group that inspired the name). Many of them are pretty unpleasant people, though in most cases it's more "ruthless" than actually "evil".
  • UnOrdinary: EMBER turns out to be a secret government agency, that murders superheroes and other powerful dissidents to the Authorities' power by framing it as the murders being done by a mysterious person/group which the news never has any new information on no matter how many people they kill, in order to scare the populace into keeping in line.

    Web Original 
  • Open Blue has two, with Sirene's's Kolpo, and Avelia's Office of Counter Intelligence, which is basically a Secret Police exclusively for its (bloated) military.
  • The United Federation of People's Republics in the Gemini Galaxy of Imperium Nova has the State Security Commissariat, and in particular the Domestic Intelligence Bureau.
  • The Protectors of the Plot Continuum have the Department of Internal Security, possibly influenced by the Cable Street Particulars, who started out benign but eventually shifted to the Mysterious Somebody's secret police and began a reign of terror until they were thrown out in a Civil War. Their existence was obviously public knowledge, but their corruption and methods weren't, with even most Guards not seeming to know just how rotten the department had become. The later Department of Internal Operations is a more literal example, as in theory only the DIO itself and the Board of Department Heads know they even exist; their role is to root out Suvian infiltrators of HQ and dispose of them, and anyone who encounters them is promptly neuralysed. In practise, there are rumours of their existence, but nobody knows for sure; according to one of the DIO's agents, the department's discovery would be disastrous, resulting in the deaths of the DIO's members at best and a full-scale rebellion against the Board of Department Heads at worst.
  • In A More Personal Union, the Inquisition Real serves this role in the Golden Roman Empire, eliminating everyone who politically opposes the Emperor.

    Western Animation 
  • The Dai Li of Ba Sing Se from Avatar: The Last Airbender. They have an official charge: to preserve the city's cultural heritage. They have an unofficial charge: to keep order within the city walls. Their three modes of operation are through establishing a Panopticon effect where you are always being watched and know it, deploying terrifyingly consistent brainwashed PR operatives, and physically assaulting any remaining problems with intensely trained earthbenders, who apparently also are the main intelligence officers, since they're only supposed to fight when the system has sprung a leak. While they officially answer to the Earth Kingdom royalty, in practice they are loyal only to whoever keeps them in power; at the start of the story this is Long Feng, by Book 3 its Azula, and in the sequel show they've somehow warped back around to the Earth Queen, who unlike her father is a power-hungry despot. Perhaps the scariest thing about them is that they were founded by an Avatar; they were one of Avatar Kyoshi's pet projects.
  • Beast Wars features the Predacon Secret Police (PSP), who serve the shadowy bidding of the Tripredacus Council. Tarantulas is secretly an agent of their’s who was sent to infiltrate Megatron’s crew before the events of the series. Interestingly, they’re not portrayed as necessarily being evil; some of them seem halfway decent, especially in comparison to Megatron’s fanaticism, though others (like Tarantulas) are definitely sinister.

    Real Life 


For a variety of reasons, Russia is the historical king (or tsar, if you will) of secret police. Russia has had some kind of secret police-like agency for most of its history:
  • The first—dating from the 16th century—was Ivan the Terrible's Oprichnina. They were almost like a monastic order, where the Oprichniki were the "monks" and Ivan was their "abbot". The Oprichniks had free rein to terrorize the Russian population, and not even the nobility were spared. One of the scariest things about them was the banners they flew during their raids—severed dog heads mounted on spears.
  • The Oprichnina was dissolved before the end of Ivan the Terrible's reign, but the Russian Crown always had informal networks of domestic spies to keep an eye and a lid on dissent. In 1826, Emperor Nicholas I systematized and expanded these networks under the "Third Section of His Majesty's Own Chancellery." The Third Section was a great boogeyman in Russia for the middle part of the 19th century, as for all the spying of earlier regimes, the Third Section's ability to catch you talking politics one day and send you to Siberia the next was spooky and new. However, by the 1870s it was undone by its own shortcomings—mostly that it was an Oddly Small Organization (it never had more than 40 fulltime agents and a few hundred gendarmes at its disposal) and developed some bad habits (in particular, it never realized that it needed to spy on anyone other than nobles and bureaucrats). This led it to be replaced in 1881 by...
  • The Okhrannoye otdeleniye (Security Section), better known in the West as the Okhrana (technically, it was usually called Okhranka, at least in Russia—an ironic "cutesy" diminutive for a terrifying organization). Much larger than the Third Section, and better organized, most late-19th and early-20th-century secret police organizations across Europe took notes from the Okhrana's playbook.
  • The Okhrana was (understandably) abolished after the February Revolution of 1917. However, the Bolsheviks established a new security agency, the Cheka, less than a month after taking over. The Cheka was even bigger and more efficent than the Okhrana, and its exploits—particularly those of its leader, Felix Dzerzhinski—were legendary (and legendarily frightening). Due to ongoing shakeups in the structure of the Russian and then Soviet government, the Cheka was reorganized and renamed several times between the Revolution and the death of Joseph Stalin. Its most famous incarnation during this period is probably as the General Directorate of State Security (Glavnoye Upravleniye Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, GUGB) under the umbrella of People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (Narodniy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, NKVD), which existed 1936-41. It was during this period that the secret police agencies first got involved in foreign intelligence, as well.
  • After Stalin's death, there was a power struggle over who would control the secret police and how it would be managed. In 1954, Khruschchev's faction won out and established the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (Committee for State Security), more commonly known as the KGB. The KGB was by this point the premier Soviet foreign intelligence agency in addition to being the secret police domestically, which led to some weirdness.
  • The New Russia inherited the Soviet security apparatus. While it underwent several reorganizations, around early 2000s it mostly came to the shape reminiscent of the old days.
    • After the fall of the Soviet Union, the KGB's foreign and domestic functions were split between the Foreign Intelligence Service (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, SVR) and the Federal Security Service (Federal'naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, FSB). While the FSB was originally envisioned as the kind of domestic counterintelligence-cum-law-enforcement agency that exists in Western democracies (e.g. the FBI), it never really gave up its old ways and is now pretty much Vladimir Putin's KGB (or, if you like, his Okhrana). Some intelligence world wags have commented about the FSB, "New name, same friendly service!"
    • The secret police a modern Russian citizen is the most likely to run afoul of is the MVD E-Department, or the Center for Counteracting Extremism, or Center E (there is no established translation). This political police handles most of the low-profile dissidents and Internet badmouthers, while the FSB only works with high profile cases.

Europe (except Russia, pre-20th century)

  • Some scholars have suggested that the Spartan Crypteia played this role: they were ordered to spy on the helot (slave) population, and were given permission to kill anyone who were suspected of conspiring to overthrow the government.
  • The Roman Empire had the Frumentarii (lit. 'foragers') who were spies tasked with infiltration of foreign groups and collecting information about the situation in various regions. Together with Speculatores (the military scouts) they were also conducting arrests, interrogation and elimination of the most dangerous traitors, dissenters and troublemakers.
  • The Council of Ten in Venice during the days when Venice was a sovereign state. It had a fearsome reputation, (which it probably didn't mind) but according to at least one writer it focused mostly on those who were actually powerful enough to pose a threat. Thus it was a more downplayed version.
  • Until it became defunct, The Spanish Inquisition was basically this for the Spanish crown. Quite possibly the Ur-Example... Which explains why no one expected it. Unlike the Inquisition in most other countries, the Spanish Inquisition was unique in that the Spanish crown had usurped the Church's authority in Spanish territory to collect tithes, appoint bishops, and prosecute Church-related crimes (at its height, the Spanish Empire was that powerful). The Inquisition in Spain became the political police as much as (if not more than) ecclesiastical police. By contrast, the Inquisition in most other Catholic countries was separate from (and usually more fair and consistent than) the secular legal authorities of the time.
  • All over the place in Napoleonic France, one of the most ruthlessly efficient police states of the period (especially towards the end). In addition to the "regular" force under the Minister of Police (Fouché, later replaced by Savary, although Fouché retained a vast and powerful network of informants and assorted thugs), there was the gendarmerie (a section of the army), Davout's military police (another section of the army), the Palace's police under General Durocnote ... mutual suspicion was rampant and even encouraged between all of these.
  • The Austrian Empire and then Austria-Hungary had one that (fascinatingly) went from hypercompetent and scary to incompetent and woefully underfunded. They went from being able to intercept and copy almost all correspondence into and out of Vienna during the Congress of Vienna (1814) to a service so badly overstretched that a staff of 20 people was expected to monitor all postal traffic in the nation post-Metternich, including clerical assistants and servants. Despite this, it was still treated as some monolithic instrument of repression and censorship, generally by people not actually within the nation. Its history is interesting, in that Metternich was insistent on keeping it funded and capable, while his rival, the Finance Minister Kolowrat, argued that the organization (1) was too expensive for the Empire's limited budget and (2) wasn't even particularly effective at preventing the spread of subversive ideas. The later ineffectiveness of the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian secret police was basically because Kolowrat was right—Metternich's secret police was unable to prevent the Revolutions of 1848 from breaking out across the Empire, and even though the Habsburgs were able to reassert central control, they decided that investing in police-state repression wasn't worth the expense (especially with other tools at their disposal).
  • While there is no real consensus on what body did what, the Imperial Germany and the Manchu Qing Dynasty of Imperial China all had some form of this. In the case of Germany, each constituent state maintained its own service, the most notable of which was the Preußische Geheimpolizei (Prussian Secret Police) established by Karl Ludwig Friedrich von Hinckeldey following the 1848 revolution — which would later become the basis for Gestapo.

Europe (except Russia, 20th century)

  • For sheer notoriety, nothing tops the Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police Service), much better known as The Gestapo, from Nazi Germany. Prior to them was the Trope Namer in the Prussian Secret Police. Most other similar organizations did not use the word "secret" in their names or descriptions. There was even a junior Gestapo, called the Hitlerjugend Streifendienst (Hitler Youth Patrol Force), middle-school kids who spied on and reported other kids for setting up unlawful youth organizations... or their parents for opposing the regime.
    • For all its infamy, the actual efficiency of Gestapo depended significantly on other security organizations in the area — most notably the SD headed by Reinhard Heydrich — due to being constantly underfunded and understaffed. After their takeover, top-ranking Nazi officials continuously worked to undermine the Gestapo in favor of the Nazi Party-aligned SD, due to mistrust of the previous agency that harassed the Nazis among others before, and a desire to keep internal security in the hands of a home-grown entity.
  • The East German Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Ministry for State Security), known as The Stasi, were far worse than the Gestapo. While they were privately mocked for their use of Incredibly Obvious Bugs, they were also feared for their ability to get people to rat out their friends and neighbors. Estimates of the prevalence of informers range from 1 in 50 to 1 in 7, essentially turning East Germany into a Police State. The Stasi was also infamous for gaslighting political undesirables by messing up their private lives so they'll have a mental breakdown and have no stomach to challenge the government. The biggest advantage of Zersetzung was that its subtle nature enabled Plausible Deniability.
  • Most other Eastern European communist regimes had their notorious units: the Czechoslovak StB, the Romanian Securitate, the Hungarian ÁVH... (although none of them took mass surveillance to quite the same extremes as the Stasi).
  • The O.V.R.A. of Fascist Italy, who are the subject of The Conformist and who harass the title character in Porco Rosso. Secret enough nobody's sure what O.V.R.A. meant (there are various possible meanings) or even if it actually existed (there are rumours that Mussolini invented it to scare political enemies and distract everyone from who actually did the job, namely the MVSN (the original Black Shirts) and the Public Safety Agents Corps (the normal police).
  • Great Britain:
    • A secret cell within London's Metropolitan Police Special Branch - the Special Demonstration Squad. From 1968 to 2008, these elite policemen would go on deep-cover 'tours' in political activist groups; mainly to provide information to the regular police ahead of any protest or illegal activity, but also to smear and discredit them. A tactic they found useful was to get into a relationship with a high-ranking member of a group - the end of a tour saw the operative vanish from the group and the person's life, which had a side-effect akin to the Stasi's 'Zersetzung', especially when one officer left his partner in the group with a baby.
    • The British Army's 14 Intelligence Company a.k.a 'the Det', a secretive special forces unit tasked with covert surveillance in Northern Ireland with gadget-strewn 'Q cars'. Along with their parent regiment, the Special Air Service, they faced accusations of torture and brutality up to and including murder levelled by Irish republican groups. Bear in mind that the IRA are not necessarily the most impartial source when it comes to the British Army. It isn't impossible, however.

Europe (except Russia, present)

  • In Belarus, the KGB remains, under the same name. Given that Belarus sadly is still a Soviet-esque dictatorship, this likely is not surprising.

Middle East

  • Iraq:
    • Iraqi Secret police, which was notoriously known for torturing and silencing Shias and Kurds who opposed the Iraqi government. This worsened by the Saddam Era, where hundreds of Iraqis ranging from teenagers to the elderly were sent off to be killed. Secret Police would perform extreme methods of torture, from rape to the gouging of eyes to extract evidence. They would even wiretap homes and then send off anyone in the night if they were suspected of anything slightly off place.
    • The Republican Guard was also notorious in silencing dissent, though not a secret police and more of an actual military orginization, their atrocities are associated with actual military operations performed during the late 80s.
  • Iran:
    • The Basij, a plainclothes militia, is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who sometimes act as a political secret police. Consisting mostly of male volunteers, the Basij are known for their fanatical devotion to the Ayatollah of Iran. Although it's a semi-decentralized force with many local bands, they have armed battalions controlled directly by the Revolutionary Guards. For most volunteers, their job is to enforce Islamic laws on the population, like making sure the women in the streets wear head scarves. And they have long been criticized by human rights organizations-the most recent controversy was during the "Twitter Revolution" in 2009. The Basij broke up mass protests by shooting into the crowds, killing at least a hundred. During their nighttime raids on universities, they broke into dorms and beat up the students, and several female protesters were taken into custody and gang-raped. The most disturbing part is that the Basij have adolescent members, called Puyandegan. Apparently, the Basij went so crazy on the protesters that the Ayatollah himself had to step in and curb them.
    • The SAVAMA is another secret police under the Islamic Republic. After the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the Islamic government inherited the intelligence apparatus of the old SAVAK (Which was also pretty bad), the secret police during the previous regime.
    • SAVAK, being the original originization under Imperial Iran, was on the same level due to imprisoning and torturing anyone from religious clerics to human rights activists. It never got as bad as the revolutionary period, but was notorious and despised throughout the country.
  • The Mabahith in Saudi Arabia.
  • Egypt's State Security Investigations Service proved to be remarkably like the Stasi after revolution revealed its piles and piles of documents, indicating (according to some sources) that as much as 1 or 2 percent of the country's population of 80 million was on its payroll (mostly as informants). It also proved to have had a taste for Electric Torture, although that was well-known beforehand (1975's The Karnak Cafe, one of the greatest Egyptian films ever, depicts torture under the 1953-1970 regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser in graphic detail).

Eastern and South-Eastern Asia

  • The Joseon Dynasty's Amhaeng-eosa (Secret Censors), specially appointed by the King to keep tabs on his own administration and yangban nobility, but never as fully institutionalized as some others on this list. Oddly, or perhaps not when one considers their preferred targets, they also tend to be viewed positively today as agents opposed to government corruption.
  • The Ming Dynasty's Jinyi Wei ("Brocade-Clad Guard") and the Dongchang ("The Eastern Commission of Investigations"). This is the first incarnation for the modern concept of "secret police". The Ming Dynasty Jinyi Wei originally begin as bodyguards to the emperor, but later evolved to a full-blown intelligence agency. They blended into the public and were responsible for thought-policing, domestic-espionage, political assassination, and during times of war, acted as political commissars. The Jinyi Wei were often judge, jury and executioners without any concerns for due-process.
  • The Shinsengumi, pro-Shogunate and their pro-Meiji rivals/counterparts, the Ishin-Shishi. Most of the Ishin-shishi later became advisers to the emperor.
  • Prewar Japan had two of these forces; one for overseas territories, and one for the Japanese mainland.
    • The former was known as Kempeitai (憲兵隊), or "military police corps", and was the IJA's military police. It also doubled as a Gestapo-esque secret police for conquered Japanese territories during the 1930s and 1940s, up until the end of World War II.
    • The latter, lesser-known Japanese secret police was the Tokubetsu Koto Keisatsu (特別高等警察), or "special higher police". In modern times it's often referred to as Tokko (特高) for short. Tokko carried out similar acts of repression that the Kempeitai did, but was a purely domestic force. Tokko inspired the term "thought police" ('shisou keisatsu', 思想警察), but during its time, it was often referred to as 'chian keisatsu' (治安警察)—the Peace Police.note  IJN admiral Takeo Takagi, who commanded the Imperial fleet during the 1941 invasion of the Phillippines, said about Tokko: 泣く子も黙ると言われた恐怖の「特高」。note 
    • Due to the brutality of prewar Japan's secret police, modern-day Japanese intelligence and security servicesnote  have far more limited powers of surveillance compared to even their modern western counterparts (in the case of PSIA, the efforts to keep it in check arguably went so far that it is seen by some as the most redundant security organization of the present day).
  • Modern-day China has several secret police units, as one would expect from a country that has managed to keep over 1 billion people in line, even more than 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Most of them are organs within the dreaded Ministry of State Security (国家安全部) and the Chinese Communist Party, but the Ministry of Public Security (公安部), responsible for day-to-day law enforcement in China, also contains secret police units. These include the Enemy Investigations Bureau (敵偵局), and Office 610 (610弁公室). The latter is tasked with disappearing Falun Gong activists (and, allegedly, harvesting their organs).
  • Taiwan boasted two oddly-named versions, which operated at the same time: (1) the General Department of Political Warfare, which maintained both political officers and general high-ranking commanders in every military unit, down to the company or battery level, as well as in many police units — and (2) the Taiwan Garrison Command, commanded by a three-star general, which acted to suppress political activism and ensure political orthodoxy, and was tied to various unsavory political murders or assassinations, and kept a hand in influencing society, economics, culture and education. These were the descendants of secret police organizations in pre-1949 China, in which the present Taiwan has institutional continuity with-the Central Bureau of Investigation and Statistics, and the Military Bureau of Investigation and Statistics. It also showed some influence from the Russian system of political commissars.
  • Pakistan has the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), which notably helped train the Afghan Mujahiddin during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and later the Taliban following Soviet withdrawal. They also have proported connections with Islamic militant groups and helped anti-Indian insurgents in Kashmir. Following the The War on Terror, many US intelligence officals began to preceive that the ISI is an unoffical terrorist organization akin to Al-Qaeda, while India accused them of helping the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
  • The National Intelligence and Security Authority was the Philippines' most notorious intelligence agency responsible for cracking down on anti-Marcos opposition in the 1970s and 80s under the command of General Fabian Ver. Formerly replacing the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the NISA was rebranded to its current name after the EDSA Revolution.
  • North Korea's version of the KGB was called the State Security Department, widely considered to be one of the most repressive police forces in the world, as it's been noted to have been involved in countless human rights abuses, including forced disappearances and public executions. And unsurprisingly, North Korea is a totalitarian Police State, where the government controls every aspect of its citizens' private lives, including the clothing they can wear and the TV shows they can watch, making it the perfect example of an Orwellian Dystopia. Dissenters and their immediate family members are sent to concentration camps, where they are subject to harsh and brutal Gulag-type conditions, including slavery and torture.
  • For its part, South Korea had the KCIA (Korean Central Intelligence Agency) that oversaw intelligence activities, investigations, and occasional kidnappings at home and abroad, and wielded nearly absolute power in the country, to the point where in 1979 the KCIA director assassinated then-president of South Korea, Park Chung Hee. Several decades and two major reorganizations later, the organization is still functioning as the National Intelligence Service — though its powers were obviously cut back in the years of democratization.
  • It is said that the Singaporean intelligence services (the Internal Security Department and the Security and Intelligence Division) work much like this.


  • In The Apartheid Era, the South African Bureau for State Security note  fulfilled this function for the white government. BOSS was notorious for its general paranoia, for enthusiastically interrogating black suspects and facilitating their "suicides" from very high windows, and invented the euphemism "care package" for letter bombs — on the grounds that receiving one of these really takes care of people. This was replaced in 1980 by the National Intelligence Service (NIS), and following the end of apartheid, a revised and re-educated version persists as the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
  • The hideously inappropriately named "State Research Bureau" of Idi Amin's Uganda.


  • The Chilean DINA (National Intelligence Directorate) under the rule of Augusto Pinochet. Actually, all of the various organizations of this type during Operation Condor would qualify, but the DINA is perhaps the most infamous.
  • Nicaragua during the Sandinista period (1979-1990) had the DGSE, the General Directorate for State Security, which was modeled after the East German Stasi.
  • Haiti during the Duvalier dictatorship had the Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale/Volontè pou Sekirite Nasyonal (VSN, "National Security Volunteers"), a rather terrifying organization that specialized in murdering and disappearing opponents of the regime. Their adeptness at disappearances lent them their nickname, the Tonton Macoute—literally "Uncle Gunnysack", the Haitian/Vodou version of The Krampus. Many Tonton Macoute officers were fully-fledged Vodou leaders, and fully exploited the popular impression they had supernatural powers to terrorize the public.
  • During Mexico's Dirty War, which lasted roughly from the 1960s until the early 1980s, there were many versions:
    • The Brigadas Blancas (White Brigades) were a combination of Mexico City police, Federal District police, and Mexican soldiers with the aim to dismantle the September 23 Communist League, a Marxist-Leninist urban guerrilla group that opposed the Priista government. While they had been active in several Northern and Central Mexico states since the early 1970s, it wasn't until 1976 when then-President Luis Echeverría would sign his approval for operations in Mexico City. Every agent working for the Brigada Blanca received a monthly wage of 3,000 pesos and "as much as needed" for general expenses (not bad for 1970s Mexico).
    • Los Halcones: Prior to the White Brigades, Los Halcones was a paramilitary group created to sabotage popular movements, repress demonstrations and prevent big movements from arising. Also, the general public was told they were going to be "to ensure security in the (then-recently inaugurated) Metro".
    • The Olympia Battalion: A mixture of many security forces (presidential guards, mayor presidential state officers, policemen and soldiers) intended to bring security for the Olympic games. They were identified by a white glove or handkerchief in their left hands. Since the Student Movement of 1968 was deemed subversive and a threat to national security and could damage Mexico's view in the upcoming Olympic Games, the security forces were turned into a shock group and repressed, beat, tortured and killed/disappeared many of the movement's sympathisers (including Ana María Regina Teuscher Krueger, who was going to be an aide-de-camp for the Olympic Ceremony).
    • The Dirección Federal de Seguridad (Federal Security Direction) was a Mexican intelligence agency created in the late 1940s. It was infamously corrupt and tortured many people they considered "criminals"; they even assassinated a journalist for reporting on their ties with the DEA, CIA, and high-ranking corrupt officials.
  • From 1950-1983 the Canadian government operated a secret program called PROFUNC which spied on suspected Communists and Communist-sympathizers. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police developed dossiers on 16,000 Communist party members/supporters and over 50,000 suspected sympathizers including details on their families, exact movements, and including pre-filled arrest documents. In the event of war with the Soviet Union (the so-called Mobilization Day), the RCMP would immediately round up everyone on the PROFUNC list and send them to internment camps.
  • Even in the mostly democratic United States, a few agencies have at least approached this status:
    • During the Civil Rights Era, after the Brown v. Board ruling banning school segregation, several Deep South states set up agencies to fight "racial agitators;" Mississippi, with its Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, is the most known example. Its mission was to "protect the sovereignty of the state of Mississippi, and her sister states" from "encroachment thereon by the Federal Government" (read: prevent integration and the demise of Jim Crow) and, to do this, they had an extensive network of spies and informants. Both White and Black, in fact. Although murder was discussed by some agents but never actualized, methods such as assaults, blacklisting and intimidation were used against "racial agitators" and their allies; for example, Clyde Kennard was railroaded to Parchman after attempting to integrate the White-only Ole Miss. They also broadcasted pro-segregation propaganda. Founded on 1957, they lasted until 1973, by which time they had shifted their focus to target anti-Vietnam War "subversives".
    • Historically, the FBI were very close to becoming a straight example under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, focusing on the suppression of political dissent at the expense of a worsening organised crime problem and amassing large files of potential blackmail material on radicals... and elected officials, according to some sources.
    • The Department of Homeland Security as a whole is often accused of this ever since its founding in 2002 following 9/11. Issues included data mining, using fusion centers to infringe on civil liberties, wrongful deportations and arrests, sexual abuse of women and separation of families at the border, and kidnapping citizens in Portland during the George Floyd protests. As a result, critics describe them as this and acting as the National Police.