An Overview of the Polish Intelligence Community

1.0 Introduction

The Polish Intelligence Community (PIC) is an expansive and unique set of agencies and government departments aimed at countering both domestic and foreign threats. The PIC presently consists of Agencies focused on domestic, foreign, military and economic intelligence. With a history going back to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, it has a deep and integral role in intelligence operations both in Europe and abroad. Overall, the PIC is a grouping of varying agencies aimed at defending the Polish nation and its people.

2. Mottos & Phrases, Symbols, Patches and History

2.1 Mottos and Phrases of the Polish Intelligence Community

The variety of Intelligence agencies under the umbrella of the PIC have a variety of mottos and phrases, all found on their respective websites.

“Służyć Polsce w cieniu” – “Serving Poland in the shadows”

The Agencja Wywiadu (AW) (Foreign Intelligence Agency) [Source]

“Zawsze w interesie Polski” – “Always in the interest of Poland”

The Centralne Biuro Antykorupcyjne (CBA) (Central Anticorruption Bureau) [Source]

“Bóg, Honor, Ojczyzna” – “God, Honor, The Homeland”

Służba Kontrwywiadu Wojskowego (SKW) (Military Counterintelligence) [Source]

“Profesjonalizm, Patriotyzm. Polska” – “Professionalism, Patriotism. Poland”

Służba Wywiadu Wojskowego (SWW) (Military Intelligence Service) [Source]

2.2 Symbols of the PIC

The varying intelligence agencies and their subdivisions all use the Polish white eagle, which is prominently featured on the national coat of arms. This eagle chiefly symbolizes “bravery, strength, and the nation’s deep-rooted sense of identity.” The legends surrounding this eagle trace back to Poland’s era under the Piast dynasty. According to legend, the founder of the dynasty, Lech, encountered a white eagle against a white setting sun during a hunting expedition. Interpreting this as a divine sign, he settled in the area. [Source]

Polish Coat of Arms/Herb
Polish Coat of Arms/Herb [Image source]

2.3 Patches and emblems of the PIC

The PIC and its constituent agencies all have a variety of patches and emblems which are displayed below.

2.4 History of the Polish Intelligence Community

The Polish Intelligence community has a history which dates back to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The PIC has undergone several transitional periods, fundamentally changing the organisation’s missions and directives.

2.5 Commonwealth Intelligence Services

Poland did not establish its first recognised government secret intelligence service until 1918. However,  a network of envoys and informants of the Kingdom of Poland and the later Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth was capable of gathering intelligence. Jan Andrzej Morsztyn, a Polish poet, was one of the prominent agents.

Different Polish and Polish-Lithuanian rulers and generals maintained intelligence-gathering systems. Polish merchant-spy Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki obtained a pledge of military support for Vienna in 1683 during the Battle of Vienna. He allegedly opened Vienna’s first coffee shop after receiving the coffee beans supply from the defeated Turkish troops.

2.6 1914-1918 

Józef Piłsudski established the Polish Military Organisation in 1914 as a special operations and intelligence unit that coordinated with the Polish Legions. Therefore it was faithful to Piłsudski, a future independent Poland, and was independent of Austro-Hungarian control.

2.7 1918 Independence and the Establishment of the Polish Armed Forces

Immediately upon gaining independence, the Polish armed forces were established and the Polish General Staff was divided into several divisions.

  • Oddział I (Division I) – Organisation and mobilisation
  • Oddział II (Division II) – Intelligence and counterintelligence
  • Oddział III (Division III) – Training and operations
  • Oddział IV (Division IV) – Quartermaster

[Source]

2.8 Oddział II (Division II) – Intelligence and counterintelligence

Division II (Dwójka – Two) was formed in October 1918 (before the official declaration of independence) and was initially called the “General Staff Information Department” and split into several sections (sekcje):

  • Sekcja I – Reconnaissance and close intelligence;
  • Sekcja II
    • IIa (East) – Offensive intelligence
    • IIb (West) – Offensive intelligence
  • Sekcja III – General intelligence and surveillance abroad
  • Sekcja IV – Preparation of a front-line bulletin
  • Sekcja V – Contacts with military and civilian authorities
  • Sekcja VI – Contacts with attachés in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Moscow and Kiev
  • Sekcja VII – Ciphers 

[Source]

2.9 Polish-Soviet War and the Biuro Wywiadowcze

Polish defences with an M1895/14 machine gun position near Miłosna, during the Battle of Warsaw, August 1920
Polish defences with an M1895/14 machine gun position near Miłosna, during the Battle of Warsaw, August 1920 – [Image Source]

Poland’s survival against a considerably superior enemy depended heavily on intelligence from the east once the Polish-Soviet War broke out in early 1919. Throughout the war, a newly established division took on the majority of Polish Intelligence’s responsibilities. This was an Intelligence Bureau, or Biuro Wywiadowcze, with seven departments:

  • Organisation
  • Offensive Intelligence “A”
  • Offensive Intelligence “B”
  • Offensive Intelligence “C”
  • Defensive Intelligence
  • Internal propaganda
  • Counterintelligence

Offensive Intelligence “C” stood out as the most developed among all departments, simultaneously executing all duties related to frontline reconnaissance, long-range intelligence gathering, and surveillance operations. Offensive Intelligence “B” controlled an intelligence network in Soviet Russia. [Source]

2.10 1921-1939 Polish Intelligence Community

After the Polish-Soviet War, the Polish Intelligence Community was restructured to deal with new threats. By mid-1921 Sekcja II (Section II) was restructured into three main departments each of which oversaw several different offices and subdivisions:

  • Organisation Department
    • Organisation
    • Training
    • Personel
    • Finances
    • Ciphers and codes, communication and foreign press
  • Information Department
    • North
    • South
    • East
    • West
    • Nationalities and minorities
  • Intelligence Department
    • Intelligence technology
    • Central agents bureau
    • Counterintelligence
    • Foreign cryptography (Biuoro Szyfrów)
    • Radio intelligence and wire-tapping
One of the early locations which the PIC operated from, the General Staff building (Saxon Palace), destroyed in World War II where from 1932, the Cipher Bureau (Biuoro Szyfrów) broke the German plugboard military Enigma
General Staff building (Saxon Palace), destroyed in World War II where from 1932, the Cipher Bureau (Biuoro Szyfrów) broke the German plugboard military Enigma – [Image Source]

Up until the late 1930s, Poland’s principal enemy and the most likely aggressor was thought to be the Soviet Union. Section II established a vast network of operatives throughout Poland’s eastern neighbour and other surrounding nations.

Beginning in the early 1920s, Polish intelligence established a network for “offensive intelligence.” Additionally, the Eastern Office (Referat “Wschód”) encompassed numerous bureaus, the majority of which were attached to Polish consulates situated in Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, Kharkov, and Tbilisi.

Polish intelligence created realistic intelligence of the capabilities of the Soviet Union and Germany, Poland’s two biggest possible enemies. Nevertheless, when war broke out in September 1939, this knowledge was mostly useless. The overwhelming advantage of the German and Soviet military forces could not be overcome by good intelligence. 

The conquest of Poland took only four weeks, leaving little time for intelligence services to play a major role. Subsequently, after Poland was conquered, its intelligence agencies were compelled to relocate to France and Britain.

2.11 1939-1945 Polish Intelligence Community

The Polish intelligence community did not explicitly collaborate with other powers except with Japan and also France, who was Poland’s closest ally. When war was certain in 1939 Britain and France entered into a formal military alliance with Poland and this resulted in the sharing of the techniques and equipment for cracking the German Enigma machine ciphers. 

After the 1939 invasion of Poland, almost all of the General Staff Section II (Intelligence) command escaped to Romania and then to France and Britain. They began collaborating more closely with French and British Intelligence and after the subsequent fall of France, most of Section II ended up in Britain.

Polish spies documented the German atrocities at Auschwitz and furnished crucial intelligence to the British regarding Germany’s V-1 and V-2 rocket programs. Consequently, the British were able to bomb these facilities, thereby delaying the production and development of these weapons.

[Source]

2.12 1945-1989 Polish Intelligence Community

After the Soviet Union took over the administration of Poland post-1945 they went about setting up both military and civilian intelligence branches. They actively participated in intelligence and counter-intelligence operations aimed at securing both Poland and the broader Soviet Union.

2.13 Military Branches

As part of the Polish military in the USSR, the first military special services were established in Poland following World War II in 1943. The leader of the Polish Army, Wojska Polskiego, designated the organisation that dealt with military counterespionage the Directorate of Information (Zarząd Informacji Naczelnego Dowódcy Wojska Polskiego, or ZI NDWP). 

General Michał Rola-Żymierski, the Polish Army’s supreme commander, changed the ZI NDWP into the Main Directorate of Information of the Polish Army (Główny Zarząd Informacji Wojska Polskiego, or GZI WP) on November 30, 1944, because of his 95th order. Starting on November 30, 1950, the GZI WP underwent a name change and became known as the Ministry of Defense’s Main Directorate of Information (Główny Zarząd Informacji Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej, or GZI MON).

General Michał Rola-Żymierski in the uniform of the Marshal of Poland
General Michał Rola-Żymierski in the uniform of the Marshal of Poland – [Image source]

In September 1955, GZI MON’s name changed to the Main Directorate of Information of the Committee for Public Security, or GZI KdsBP, upon its integration into the Committee for Public Security (Komitet do spraw Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego), the successor of the Ministerstwo Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego, also known as the Urząd Bezpieczeństwa, or UB.

The GZI Kds.BP broke away from the Committee for Public Security in November 1956 and subsequently assumed its former function as the Ministry of Defense’s Main Directorate of Information. 

Following Władysław Gomułka’s 1956 reform and the involvement of the GZI in repressions and executions, the Ministry of Defense’s Main Directorate of Information was abolished in 1957 and replaced by the Military Internal Service (also known as Wojskowa Służba Wewnętrzna, or WSW).

Up to Poland’s communist collapse, the WSW served as the primary military police and counterespionage agency without interruption.

[Source, source, source]

2.14 Civilain Branches

After the invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union and the imposition of a puppet regime it accordingly went about and established new Polish intelligence and internal security agencies. Polish officers had been trained by the Soviet special services as early as 1943 and simultaneously in Kuybyshev (now Samara), over 120 Poles had started training at an NKVD academy that year. Simultaneously, hundreds of Germans, Romanians, Czechoslovaks, and Bulgarians received the same training in NKVD-NKGB schools around the USSR to get ready for jobs in their respective nations’ future special services.

2.15 Polish Committee of National Liberation

In July 1944, a provisional Polish puppet administration called the Polish Committee of National Liberation (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego), or PKWN, was established in Moscow. There were thirteen departments (resorty) within the PKWN. Among them was the Department of Public Security (Resort Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego, or RBP), which was led by Stanisław Radkiewicz, previously a longtime communist in Poland. 

Stanisław Radkiewicz in 1946
Stanisław Radkiewicz in 1946 – [Image source]

Roman Romkowski oversaw Department 1, the RBP’s largest and most significant division, which dealt with counterespionage. By September 1945, Department 1 had expanded significantly, leading to the establishment of three additional departments and two distinct divisions. The Department of Public Security employed 3,00 people in total by the end of 1944.

2.16 Ministry of Public Security

The Ministry of Public Security was in charge of citizen surveillance, dissent repression, intelligence and counter-espionage. Generally speaking, they did not hire former “Dwojka” officers or adhere to the customs of Polish intelligence services prior to World War II. 

Employers hired people based on their “political reliability”. Soviet NKVD experts taught new units. Additionally, Soviet officers wearing Polish uniforms disregarded their actions, particularly in the early years (1945–49). 

Col. Józef Światło’s defection and Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953 consequently led to the dissolution of the Ministry of Public Security and the establishment of two new administrations: the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych, MSW) and the Committee for Public Security (Komitet do Spraw Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego, or Kds.BP).

[Source, source]

2.17 Kds.BP

Government protection and intelligence gathering fell under the purview of the Kds.BP. The Kds.BP also supervised the military police and counter-espionage agency of the Main Directorate of Information of the Polish Army (Główny Zarząd Informacji Wojska Polskiego) from September 3, 1955, until November 28, 1956. Local governments, Militsiya, prisons, fire departments, border and internal guards, and penal facilities were all indeed under the MSW’s jurisdiction.

1956 saw the next significant adjustments. The Ministry of Internal Affairs assumed the Committee for Public Security’s duties once it was disbanded. The Służba Bezpieczeństwa gave the MSW command over the political police.

Before the collapse of communism in Poland in 1956, the MSW ranked among the largest and most powerful administrations.

[Source, source]

2.18 The Polish Intelligence Community in 1989 to the present day 

Following Poland’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1989, reforms were implemented. Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the prime minister, led the first free administration that dismantled the Służba Bezpieczeństwa (SB/Security Service). The State Protection Office (Urząd Ochrony Państwa, or UOP) was established, with the majority of its staff being comprised of officials who had been previously employed by the SB who had undergone a successful verification process. 

Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki with US President George H. W. Bush in White House, 1990
Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki with US President George H. W. Bush in White House, 1990 – [Image source]

Its main goals were to gather intelligence, engage in counterespionage, and combat highly organised crime in addition to conventional espionage. It was led by a professional intelligence officer, but the Coordinator for the Special Services, a civilian government employee, had direct oversight over it.

2.19 Formation of the Agencja Wywiadu (AW) and Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego (ABW)

The agency largely remained out of the public eye, although it was embroiled in political disputes regarding chief appointments, lustration, and alleged shortcomings in organized crime investigations. In 2002, the new left-wing administration, following the end of communism, reorganized the special services into two agencies: the Intelligence Agency (Agencja Wywiadu) and the Internal Security Agency (Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego). Many saw the action as a means of purging the top echelons of the officers who had been previously nominated by right-wing administrations.

2.20 Formation of the Służba Wywiadu Wojskowego (SWW) & Służba Kontrwywiadu Wojskowego (SKW)

With only a minor name change (Wojskowe Służby Informacyjne, or Military Information Services) and few organisational changes, military intelligence continued. October 2005 saw the establishment of new services and the dissolution of the WSI by the newly elected conservative government in Poland, as the agency had neglected significant external reforms following the fall of communism in 1989. 

The WSI was allegedly involved in questionable operations, arms sales to UN-sanctioned states, and corruption issues during the transition period. In 2006, the WSI was divided into the Military Intelligence Service (Służba Wywiadu Wojskowego) and the Military Counterintelligence Service (Służba Kontrwywiadu Wojskowego).

[Source, source, source, source]

3. Organisation of the Polish Intelligence Community

The wider Polish Intelligence Community (PIC) is divided into several organisations. There are many other departments which handle things such as tax intelligence and minor criminal intelligence. However, there are several main intelligence agencies which constitute the PIC.

The structure of the Polish Intelligence Community.
The structure of the Polish Intelligence Community.

3.1 Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego (ABW)

The Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego, or ISA (Internal Security Agency) is the domestic counterintelligence and security agency. Threats to Poland’s internal security, such as terrorism, foreign espionage, arms smuggling, drug trafficking, organised crime, corruption, and economic coercion, are the responsibility of the ABW.

It is also in charge of analysing, reporting, and preventing these threats. It has the authority to make arrests, carry out investigations and searches, and additionally use a specialised armed anti-terrorist squad to combat terrorism. 

[Source, source]

ABW logo
ABW logo – [Image source]

3.2 Foreign Intelligence Agency/ Agencja Wywiadu (AW)

The Polish intelligence service Agencja Wywiadu, or AW for short, is charged with obtaining both secret and open intelligence overseas on behalf of the Republic of Poland. 

When the Urząd Ochrony Państwa was reorganised and divided into Agencja Wywiadu (AW) and Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego (ABW), it was formed in 2002. Colonel Bartosz Jarmuszkiewicz is the current head of the Foreign Intelligence Agency.

[Source, source]

AW logo
AW logo – [Image source]

3.3 Central Anti-corruption bureau/ Centralne Biuro Antykorupcyjne (CBA)

Addressing corruption in Poland is the responsibility of the Centralne Biuro Antykorupcyjne (CBA, Central Anti-corruption Bureau), a branch of the Polish government that answers to the prime minister. The Central Anticorruption Bureau Act, which passed in June 2006, authorised the establishment of the Warsaw-based organisation, which has been operational since July 24, 2006. 

Although it operates in both public and private domains, its primary emphasis lies on countering corruption inside state and self-government establishments. Its purview simultaneously encompasses both the investigation of criminal corruption and the prevention of non-criminal corruption. Its responsibility is to notify the National Assembly of the Republic of Poland, the Prime Minister, and the President of Poland about issues that could impact the country’s economy.

[Source, source]

CBA logo
CBA logo – [Image source]

3.4 Military Counter-intelligence/Służba Kontrwywiadu Wojskowego (SKW)

The Military Counter-intelligence Service, or Służba Kontrwywiadu Wojskowego (SKW), is one of Poland’s main intelligence organisations. It is in charge of ensuring Poland is safe from internal threats and additionally that the Polish Armed Forces are warfare-capable. The Ministry of National Defence oversees the SKW, established per the Act of June 9, 2006.

On October 1, 2006, one day prior to the dissolution of the Military Information Services, it was established. The initial leader of the SKW was Antoni Macierewicz but it is currently led by Brig. Gen. PhD Jarosław Stróżyk. 

[Source, source, source]

SKW logo
SKW logo – [Image source]

3.5 Military Intelligence Service/Słuzba Wywiadu Wojskowego (SWW)

The Military Intelligence Service, or Słuzba Wywiadu Wojskowego (SWW) is simultaneously responsible for the protection of Poland from external threats and the provision of intelligence capacity to the Polish Armed Forces. Established through the Act of June 9, 2006, it is subordinate to the Minister of National Defense. 

Col. Dorota Kawecka currently leads the SWW, appointed by Prime Minister Donald Tusk in March 2024.

[Source, source]

SWW commemorative badge
SWW commemorative badge – [Image source]

3.5.1 Key Figures of the Polish Intelligence Community

The Polish Intelligence Community (PIC) has several notable key figures. These people lead the departments and agencies which constitute the PIC.

  • AW – Colonel Pawel Szota is the current head of the Agencja Wywiadu. He has served the varying intelligence agencies in Poland for 23 years, initially in the UOP (Office of State Protection – Urząd Ochrony Państwa) and then as an analyst in the Foreign Intelligence Agency. [Source, source
  • ABW – Colonel Rafał Syrysko is the current head of the ABW. He has served for 31 years and has worked in the counter-intelligence and internal security departments and also as a security representative in the UOP. [Source, source]
  • CBA – Agnieszka Kwiatkowska-Gurdak is the current head of the Centralne Biuro Antykorupcyjne (CBA). She has served for 19 years and was formerly a police officer in the Central Investigation Bureau. [Source, source]
  • SKW – Brig. Gen. PhD Jarosław Stróżyk is the current head of the Służba Kontrwywiadu Wojskowego (SKW). [Source, source]
  • SWW – Colonel Dorota Kawecka is the chief of the Słuzba Wywiadu Wojskowego (SWW). She has served in the Secret Services of Poland for 20 years and according to President Donald Tusk has “great experience in electronic intelligence, especially important in the era of current challenges”. [Source]
Chief of SKW - Brig. Gen. PhD Jarosław Stróżyk second from the left
Chief of SKW – Brig. Gen. PhD Jarosław Stróżyk second from the left – [Image source

4. Tasks of the wider Polish Intelligence Community

The varying agencies of the PIC all hold different roles and parts to play within the intelligence community in Poland. 

4.1 Tasks of the ABW 

The ABW is responsible for threats to Poland’s internal security, such as terrorism, foreign espionage, arms smuggling, drug trafficking, organised crime, corruption, and economic coercion. It is also in charge of analysing, reporting, and preventing them. [Source]

In June 2014, the ABW conducted a raid on the office of the “Wprost” newspaper following the publication of records of private conversations between Polish officials, implicating many of them in bribery. ABW agents illegally and forcibly attempted to seize the laptop of Sylwester Latkowski who was the newspaper’s editor-in-chief after he refused to give it away without a court warrant. [Source, source]

4.2 Tasks of the AW

The AW, responsible for gathering foreign intelligence, primarily operates beyond Poland’s borders. Its tasks encompass conducting signals intelligence and acquiring, analyzing, and processing intelligence which is undeniably vital to Poland’s security. Additionally, it assumes responsibility for safeguarding Poland’s diplomatic missions abroad. Given the undoubtedly classified nature of many operations and the secrecy surrounding most missions, the full extent of its activities remains undisclosed. [Source, source]

4.3 Tasks of the CBA

The CBA primarily focuses on and is responsible for combating corruption within state and self-government institutions. The CBA mission scope also includes investigating criminal corruption and preventing corruption. [Source]

In April 2024, officers from the CBA detained three individuals, including a city official from Radoszyce, who stood accused of committing corruption crimes aimed at financial gain. [Source]

4.4 Tasks of the SKW

The SKW is the military counter-intelligence service responsible for the protection of Poland against internal threats and for the combat capability of the Polish Armed Forces. Its tasks involve the protection of classified information, Radioelectric counter-intelligence, cryptography and cryptanalysis and also the protection of scientific research. [Source]

In 2021 the SKW, alongside the SWW, was responsible for the provision of intelligence to the Afghan National Directorate of Intelligence which led to the elimination of Eid Mohammad. He was responsible for an IED attack in 2011 which led to the death of five Polish soldiers in Afghanistan. [Source]

4.5 Tasks of the SWW

The SWW is the military intelligence service and is responsible for the protection of Poland against external threats and the enhancement of the combat capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces. Its tasks involve the identification of threats and the collection of intelligence amongst others. And, it provides intelligence to civilian and military authorities, the Armed Forces of Poland and its allied nations armed forces and also to NATO and the EU. [Source]

The SWW handled the collection and analysis of information immediately after the aforementioned terrorist attack in Afghanistan in 2011, which led to the death of five Polish Soldiers. [Source]

5. Conclusion

The Polish Intelligence Community (PIC) comprises several agencies and organizations tasked with defending Poland from domestic threats such as terrorism, crime, and corruption, as well as external threats. Further, the PIC is also responsible for the provision of military intelligence to the Polish Armed Forces and its allies and counter-intelligence aimed at disrupting foreign operations. It has an extensive history which has undergone several transitional periods and multiple independence and occupation timeframes. With extensive experience, it stands as one of the premier intelligence services on the European continent, well-equipped to handle the growing threats to Poland and its allies.

Table of Contents

Related Content

AI and Espionage: Espionage in a Developing Age

TYPE:_ Article
Tags:_ AI

Operation Ghost Stories: a Russian Spy Ring in the United States

TYPE:_ Article
Location:_ North America

Josephine Baker: Actress Turned Spy

TYPE:_ Article
Location:_ Europe

Takeo Yoshikawa: The Spy Behind Pearl Harbor

TYPE:_ Article

Robert Fico: Assassination Target and Possible Covert Implications

TYPE:_ Article
Location:_ Europe

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA): Pentagon’s Vision

TYPE:_ Article
Location:_ North America

Stay in the loop

Get a free weekly email that makes reading intel articles and reports actually enjoyable.

Log in

Stay in the loop

Get a free weekly email that makes reading Intelligence Reports and Articles actually enjoyable.

Table of Contents

Contact

Contact

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.