Secret documents, leaked from numerous intelligence agencies, offer rare insights into the interactions between spies.
A digital leak to Al Jazeera of hundreds of secret intelligence documents from the world's spy agencies has offered an unprecedented insight into operational dealings of the shadowy and highly politicised realm of global espionage.
Over the coming days, Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit is publishing The Spy Cables, in collaboration with The Guardian newspaper.
Spanning a period from 2006 until December 2014, they include detailed briefings and internal analyses written by operatives of South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA). They also reveal the South Africans' secret correspondence with the US intelligence agency, the CIA, Britain's MI6, Israel's Mossad, Russia's FSB and Iran's operatives, as well as dozens of other services from Asia to the Middle East and Africa.
The files unveil details of how, as the post-apartheid South African state grappled with the challenges of forging new security services, the country became vulnerable to foreign espionage and inundated with warnings related to the US "War on Terror".
Unlike the Edward Snowden documents that focus on electronic signals intelligence, commonly referred to in intelligence circles as "SIGINT", the Spy Cables deal with human intelligence, or "HUMINT".
This is espionage at the more humdrum, day-in-the-office level. At times, the workplace resembles any other, with spies involved in form-filling, complaints about missing documents and personal squabbles. Some of the communiqués between agencies are simply invitations for liaison meetings or briefings by one agency to another.
Inter-agency communiqués include "trace requests" for individuals or phone numbers. One set of cables from the Algerian Embassy in South Africa relates to a more practical concern. It demands that "no parking" signs are placed in the street outside. The cable notes that the British and US embassies enjoy this privilege, and argues that it should be extended to Algeria as well.
Rather than chronicling spy-movie style tales of ruthless efficiency of intelligence agencies, they offer an unprecedented glimpse into the daily working lives of people whose jobs are kept secret from the public.