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Police established by national governments to maintain political and social control. Generally clandestine, secret police have operated independently of the civil police. Particularly notorious examples were the Nazi Gestapo, the Russian KGB, and the East German Stasi. Secret-police tactics include arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution of political enemies and intimidation of potential opposition members.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on secret police, visit Britannica.com.