Ghazi Kanaan was appointed interior minister in a major cabinet reshuffle in October 2004.
Kanaan was a dominant figure in Syrian and Lebanese politics
Before joining the government, he was head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon.
The 63-year-old brigadier-general was born in the coastal governorate of Lattakia in 1942.
He graduated from military college in 1965 and rose to become head of intelligence for the central region.
He became a close aide to the late president, Hafez al-Assad, in the early 1970s.
Like his predecessor at the Interior Ministry, Ali Hammoud, Mr Kanaan had a long career at the top of the Syrian intelligence in neighbouring Lebanon.
Between 1982 and 2002 he headed the security and intelligence branch in Beirut.
Analysts say that made him the most powerful figure in Lebanon, to whom the country's military and political leaders reported directly on all major issues.
In 2002 he returned to Damascus to head the Political Security Branch, where he remained until his cabinet appointment.
'Reliable pair of hands'
His appointment, four months ahead of his expected retirement, was said to be a confirmation of his "principal role" in the Syrian decision-making process.
However, some observers say Mr Kanaan was appointed in response to a number of unprecedented security incidents in 2004, including the killing of a Hamas leader in a car bombing in Damascus that September, and clashes with the Kurdish minority in the northeast of the country.
Lebanon's main English language newspaper, the Daily Star, described Kanaan is a "capable and reliable pair of hands".
Although he left Lebanon three years previously, he was thought to have maintained his influence in the country until Syria completed the withdrawal of its forces in May 2005.
The pullout came after mass protests by Lebanese people and international pressure sparked by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February.
The US froze his financial assets in July, saying they aided terrorism in Lebanon, and banned American firms from doing business with him.
The US Treasury Department alleged that during his time as intelligence chief he made certain that Syrian military intelligence officers played an active role Lebanese politics and supported the anti-Israeli resistance group Hezbollah.
"In 2002, three rockets in a convoy allegedly escorted by Kanaan were personally delivered across the Syrian-Lebanese border to Hezbollah in Lebanon," the department said in a statement.
Mr Kanaan was married with four sons and two daughters.