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Formed in 1909 as a section of the Secret Service Bureau specialising in foreign intelligence, the section experienced dramatic growth during World War I and officially adopted its current name around 1920.with the introduction of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (ISA), which placed the organisation on a statutory footing for the first time and provides the legal basis for its operations.The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6, is the foreign intelligence service of the government of the United Kingdom, tasked mainly with the covert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence (HUMINT) in support of the UK's national security.SIS is a member of the country's intelligence community and its Chief is accountable to the country's Foreign Secretary.Sinclair created the following sections: MI6 assisted the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, with "the exchange of information about communism" as late as October 1937, well into the Nazi era; the head of the British agency's Berlin station, Frank Foley, was still able to describe his relationship with the Gestapo's so-called communism expert as "cordial".The chief of SIS, Stewart Menzies insisted on wartime control of codebreaking, and this gave him immense power and influence, which he used judiciously.By distributing the Ultra material collected by the Government Code & Cypher School, for the first time, MI6 became an important branch of the government.Extensive breaches of Nazi Enigma signals gave Menzies and his team enormous insight into Adolf Hitler's strategy, and this was kept a closely held secret.
Agents of the German army secret service, the Abwehr, and the counter-espionage section of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), posed as high-ranking officers involved in a plot to depose Hitler.
At this time, the organisation was known in Whitehall by a variety of titles including the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Secret Service, MI1(c), the Special Intelligence Service and even C's organisation.
Around 1920, it began increasingly to be referred to as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), a title that it has continued to use to the present day and which was enshrined in statute in the Intelligence Services Act 1994.
This usage evolved as a code name, and has been adhered to by all subsequent directors of SIS when signing documents to retain anonymity.
The service's performance during the First World War was mixed, because it was unable to establish a network in Germany itself.