- "The Bothan spynet is second to none."
- ―Koth Melan
As an extension of the Bothan Way, the Bothan Spynet was developed circa 300 BBY as a means to collect intelligence on potential political enemies, which to Bothans, included all individuals, species and governments (particularly the Empire). No other spy network in the galaxy could claim the level and expansion of Bothan Spynet; the Spynet consisted of thousands of spies, informants and data collection droids that fed into a centralized command structure. Using trade, bribery, espionage and observation, the Spynet obtained information from every corner of the galaxy. Despite many other species being active agents of the Bothan Spynet, positions of authority were filled almost exclusively by Bothans.
Organization and role
This intelligence agency operated as an underground system that bought and sold information. The Spynet worked to gather information from a wide variety of sources from agents, moles, surveillance and numerous other methods. It was claimed that any secret was capable of being discovered by the Bothan Spynet who would use it to find a way of gaining profit from the information. In terms of organization, it consisted of many clan groups that operated with relative autonomy. However, the nature of Bothan society meant that suspicion led to none of these groups actually trusting one another.
Not all agents of the Spynet were Bothans as the species found it a wise move to recruit members of other races into their ranks. This was because of the Bothan's negative reputation in certain parts of the galaxy. Such a reputation made cooperation and their covert operations difficult to accomplish which was why members of a native species were able to move where a Bothan could not. However, the loyalty of such agents was never guaranteed which was why the Spynet resorted to such acts as blackmail of unruly agents into ensuring their cooperation. Though not proud of such measures, they ensured the success of an operation but the truth of these unscrupulous practices were kept hidden.
The Spynet operated agents and bases on many worlds where they maintained "op-fronts". These were businesses, homes, and other hideouts that were sites from where their intelligence operations were conducted. The majority of these op-fronts were legitimate establishments such as cantinas, factories, shipping concerns and warehouses. From these locations, operatives coordinated various activities that ranged from monitoring local newsnets for leads to slicing computers of local government or industrial networks. Many of these op-fronts helped transfer information and operatives across the web of the spynet.
Dedicated bases and safehouses were maintained by the Bothan Spynet for its agents. As secrecy was important, most of these bases were stand-alone facilities that were concealed in small bunkers or even cleverly disguised as geological features. In some cases, they were masked as farms or sections of unused power generators. Rumors even spoke of the Bothans maintaining several mobile bases in the form of tramp and bulk freighters that moved across the spacelanes.
Being an espionage body, the operations of the Spynet at times led it to allying with criminal organizations, Imperials, Hutts and other unsavory groups in order to achieve their secret objectives. The Bothans labored hard to maintain the Spynet's integrity though this was partly compromised by enemy agents, moles, rival clans or factions that spy on one another. Counter-spies were thus able to gain access to a vast sum of information that they were able to pass to interested parties without Bothan operators being aware of this act.
- "Many Bothans died to bring us this information."
- ―Mon Mothma
Together with its military component, Bothan Military Intelligence, the Spynet was one of the most comprehensive and thorough intelligence outfits in the galaxy, serving Bothan interests first and selling its services second.
After the outbreak of the Galactic Civil War, the Bothan spy network primarily benefited the Rebel Alliance, but also to a lesser extent the Empire. The Spynet, under the leadership of Koth Melan, proved crucial to the Rebel Alliance in providing information on Imperial military plans, commerce shipping schedules and personnel intelligence, although their services were also bought by the Empire and Fringe elements.
During the reign of the New Order, the Bothans operated an intelligence web that stretched across the entire Galactic Empire. Indeed, in the Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide, it was made explicit that the Bothan Spynet was not under Imperial control, and that if anything they were suspected to be in league with the Rebel Alliance. In the past, the Spynet had proven to be a great asset to the Rebel Alliance though they believed it was simply used by the Bothans to benefit themselves. Despite Clan Alya, represented by Borsk Fey'lya, joining the Alliance - it was believed that the intelligence organization worked to place its own interests ahead of the Rebel cause when necessary. In fact, it was held that the Spynet lacked any true allegiance to any one group though the likes of Koth Melan were known to be partial to the Alliance to Restore the Republic. The Rebel General Carlist Rieekan, in a footnote relating to the Imperial Handbook's accusation about the Bothan Spynet's allegiance, stated that while not all of Bothan Spynet was in league with the Rebel Alliance, enough members of the group were aligned with them.
Their usefulness culminated in the capture of plans for the second Death Star after identifying their location aboard Suprosa. Instrumental to the successful capture of the plans was the use of highly trained spies known as Bothan commandos. However, due to the fact that the Empire had wanted the Rebellion to gain access to the Death Star plans, some among the Rebellion questioned the loyalty and effectiveness of the Bothan spies. Corran Horn remarked that the Bothan's arrogant attitude originated from the information that they had gotten, saying that though they were tricked, they wore the deception like a badge of honor.
After the Galactic Civil War, the Spynet continued to operate independently of the New Republic Intelligence Service. It remained as active during the reign of the New Republic as it did under the rule of the Empire.
The Bothan Combat Response Element was started by Bothan volunteers for the New Republic Defense Fleet in 9 ABY to counter the growing danger of the Imperial Remnant. They were placed under the command of Captain Kursk Mal'ia. The Bothan Combat Response Element maintained a fleet of Bothan Assault Cruisers as well as other capital ships. Bothan spies were known as masters of stealth, especially because they could sneak into enemies' areas without being detected. Also, they were known to carry hand-held disintegrator weapons which could vaporize enemy troops.