In the fourth episode of Andor, we return to Coruscant – for the first time in live-action Star Wars since Revenge of the Sith in 2005. And part of the time on the planet is spent at a brand new location to appear on-screen in the franchise: the headquarters of the Imperial Security Bureau, often referred to simply by its abbreviation of ISB.
It’s likely that for many Star Wars fans this represents the first real introduction to the ISB, since they haven’t played a major role in any of the films or live-action shows. ISB agents have appeared, clad in their white uniforms, but you didn’t really need to know that in order to follow along.
But here, the ISB plays a significant role. So what is the Imperial Security Bureau?
We hear part of their mission statement recited by Dedra Meero, an ISB lieutenant, in an officer meeting: “We’re here to further security objectives by collecting intelligence, providing useful analysis, and conducting effective covert action, sir.”
But even with that being the mission statement, her superior officer, Partagaz, corrects her: “That is verbatim from the ISB mission statement, and wrong. Security is an illusion. You want security? Call the navy. Launch a regiment of troopers. We are healthcare providers. We treat sickness. We identify symptoms. We locate germs, whether they arise from within or have come from the outside. The longer we wait to identify a disorder, the harder it is to treat the disease.”
In other words, this ISB officer believes that their job is to identify and stop the “sickness” before it becomes a big deal. This is an insightful look into how the branch operates, and how people within its ranks perceive it. The Imperial Security Bureau is the intelligence branch of the Imperial regime, existing to investigate threats and act upon it. It is an important aspect of the Empire’s efforts to maintain law and order throughout the galaxy.
For fans of Star Wars animation, there are a few notable ISB agents that show up. Wulff Yularen shows up in The Clone Wars as the admiral assigned to General Anakin Skywalker, but he later serves the Empire as one of the highest-ranking officers in the Imperial Security Bureau. He worked closely alongside Grand Admiral Thrawn in Rebels to find the rebel spy, and Yularen was present on the Death Star when Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader met with some of the Imperial leaders to inform them the Senate had been shut down. He was killed when the Death Star was destroyed in the Battle of Yavin.
Another major figure who appears in Rebels is Alexsander Kallus, an ISB agent who took the lead on hunting the Ghost crew. But over time he grew disillusioned with the Empire, and he became the rebel spy that Thrawn and Yularen were searching for. He defected from the Empire and became a spy for the Rebellion leading up to and during the Galactic Civil War.