Secret police (sometimes political police) are an intelligence agencies and or police agency, law enforcement office which operates in secrecy and also quite often beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime.
Instead of transparently enforcing the rule of law and being subject to public scrutiny as ordinary police agencies do, secret police organizations are specifically intended to operate beyond and above the law in order to suppress political dissent through clandestine acts of terror and intimidation (such as kidnapping, coercive interrogation, torture, internal exile, forced disappearance, and assassination) targeted against political enemies of the ruling authority.
Secret police forces are accountable only to the executive branch of the government, sometimes only to a dictator]. They operate entirely or partially in secrecy, that is, most or all of their operations are obscure and hidden from the general public and government except for the topmost executive officials. This semi-official capacity allows the secret police to bolster the government's control over their citizens while also allowing the government to deny prior knowledge of any violations of civil liberties.
Secret police agencies have often been used as an instrument of political repression.
States where the secret police wield significant power are sometimes referred to as police states or counterintelligence states. In theory, secret police differ from the domestic security agencies in modern liberal democracies, because domestic security agencies are generally subject to government regulation, reporting requirements, and other accountability measures.
Despite such overview, there still exists the possibility of domestic-security agencies acting unlawfully and taking on some characteristics of secret police. In some cases, certain police agencies are accused of being secret police and deny being such. For example, political groups and civil liberties organizations in the United States have at various times accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation of being secret police. Which government agencies may be classed or characterized, in whole or part, as "secret police" is disputed by political scientists.
Famous quotes containing the words secret and/or police:
“Mad? Is one who has solved the secret of life to be considered mad?”
—Edward T. Lowe. Frank Strayer. Dr. von Niemann (Lionel Atwill)
“We have passed the time of ... the laisser-faire [sic] school which believes that the government ought to do nothing but run a police force.”
—William Howard Taft (18571930)