«Relations between Intelligence Services and Policy Makers: An Analysis of challenges and their causes This article addresses the relations between ...»
Usually intelligence information and the activity used to gather it is linked to secrecy. There is an issue about whether intelligence and associated activity necessarily needs to be classified? There are different opinions and answers to this question. It is widely known that the intelligence services of contemporary democratic countries collect openly available information from the various sources of media: newspapers, journals, radio, television, internet, etc. Intelligence officers call this type of information open source intelligence (OSINT). But if all intelligence activities and their products were limited to openly accessible information would there be a point for a state to maintain intelligence services? This type of information could be collected and analyzed by those institutions that need it. However, not all information about foreign policy or other spheres of national security is ‘open’. As Laqeuer noted, in 1941 many USA intelligence analysts read Japanese newspapers everyday and still did not find a message about the planned attack on the US forces in the port of Pearl Harbour, executed on 7 December 1941. As well, the Soviet newspaper Pravda did not report on the Soviet missiles9.
While analyzing intelligence activity it is necessary to mention its application or the objectives of its practice. Intelligence can be strategic, namely directly corresponding to national demands in the fields of foreign politics, security and defence, for example in the realization or protection of national interests. In short, strategic intelligence can be called an activity that supports the state’s decision makers at the national level. In the practice of this activity the products of intelligence usually encompass medium or long term views and are called ‘intelligence estimates’ (USA) or ‘assessments’ (Great Britain and Australia)11.
Finally, intelligence products have to embody various different aspects as they are special knowledge. In the contemporary world, intelligence information can be exclusively civilian by its content, but it can rarely be only military.
This delineation is especially unsuitable for dividing a strategic intelligence activity and its products into civilian and military. Nevertheless, institutional separation into civil and military intelligence remains mainly because of the needs of both civil and military institutions to receive intelligence fulfilling their different priorities. Intelligence required by the military command is rarely underpinning to a civilian institution. Intelligence assessments supporting contemporary military operations (e.g. military counterterrorist operations, peace establishment and peacekeeping operations, etc.) can involve a very wide spectrum: from traditional military aspects, such as knowledge of adversary’s capabilities and intensions, territorial and geo-meteorological peculiarities, to completely ‘civilian’ factors, for example a region’s economic, social and political aspects, biographies of persons involved in the operation, regional levels of terrorism and crime and also diseases, epidemics and the ecological situation, etc.
Intelligence services can be authorized to carry out operational or tactical intelligence in supporting the Armed Forces. For example, in order to execute
Ibidem, p. 133.
a military operation it is necessary for the command to have certain intelligence on the adversary, its capabilities and intentions, territory of operation, etc. Whereas, in the National level intelligence service (which can also be military) support to the policy makers provides them with current intelligence, the purpose of which is provide customers with the information on the latest ‘hot’ events. This type of intelligence, just like tactical and operational, usually encompasses a short-term period. Generally, the collected current intelligence assists further development of strategic intelligence production. Since the threat of terrorism has increased, intelligence services of many states give priority to intelligence on terrorism. This type of activity normally falls in the category of current intelligence because of the short-term use of the collected intelligence information. By its nature, current intelligence is usually carried out by giving indication and early warning on possible threats12. Operational, tactical and current intelligence activities, which require modern and constantly renewable technical means and a degree of professional personnel, are far more costly than strategic intelligence. It would be wrong to believe that in the contemporary world intelligence services of a National level could be only confined to the strategic level of intelligence. Moreover, as it was previously said, final evaluation of strategic intelligence requires daily current information – the ‘raw material’ of intelligence. From its various and obscure elements, just like in a jigsaw puzzle, a clear image is created. Current threats and challenges to the security of states and societies force states to invest in the creation of complex intelligence capabilities that function at both strategic and tactical levels because sources of tactical threats can become strategic challenges to the security of the country and society. The most obvious illustration of this is the terrorist attacks of Al Qaeda committed in New York, Washington D.C., London and Madrid between 2001 and 2005.
The issue now turns to whether intelligence, its analysis and evaluation need to be regarded as absolute truth? As paradoxical as it would seem, the answer is negative. As Lowenthal claimed ‘truth’ is such an absolute notion that it would be completely impossible for intelligence services to reach its standard if one was determined13. An intelligence service has to collect information, to evaluate certain circumstances which would be difficult to verify - not to mention prove - using other means. If these means existed, it would be more advisable (maybe even less expensive) to use those other, alternative methods.
As Michael M. Handel stated:
In the word of intelligence, even technical data concerning performance or the number of weapons, let alone less quantifiable issues such as intentions, military doctrine, and morale, cannot be objectively assessed – which means that clear agreement on their ‘meaning’ cannot be reached. 14 Shulsky and Schmitt, p. 58-60.
Handel I. M. War, Strategy and Intelligence, London: Frank Cass, 1989, p. 196.
Because intelligence is connected to collecting information on the conditional probability of individual’s actions and the analysis of this collected information, British professors Peter Gill and Mark Phythian suggest naming intelligence ‘art’15. Because of this, when providing its intelligence assessments an intelligence service takes the risks and responsibility for the likelihood of these evaluations. Usually intelligence assessments are related to probable events in the future, which should be treated as anticipated likelihoods or probabilities. By using their knowledge and collected information, intelligence analysts make certain evaluations and conclusions on processes, which will probably happen under certain circumstances and that, are usually affected by human beings in one way or another. The most important requirement to an intelligence service is that their assessments or evaluations should be reliable, unbiased and not politicized.
Should intelligence services be limited to collecting information? In the theory of intelligence, as in practice, there is no unity over this issue. Some services, like the Canadian security intelligence service, are only authorized to advise their government16. On the other hand, some services of Western countries have been given the authority to implement certain policy of the state by carrying out the so called ‘cover operations’17. For example, the CIA carried out cover operations in Chile between 1963 and 1973 in order to influence the political processes within the country18. The extent of a cover operation can be very varied – from influencing through the exploitation of media to organising a coup d’état. Hunting down terrorists in uncontrolled regions (like Afghanistan) can also be called cover operations. Usually cover activity is used by intelligence services because no other organisation has proper arrangements for this kind of activity. By receiving certain information (such as the whereabouts of a wanted terrorist) an intelligence service is authorized to take action on it by itself (in this case – to eliminate or detain this terrorist). In other words, a cover operation is the continuation of intelligence actions and not intelligence activity and it will therefore not be discussed further in this article.
Given the limited extent of this article, counterintelligence will also not be analyzed, although it is concurrent with intelligence activity, not least of all because of the need to protect intelligence activity and to guarantee its success.
In summary, in this article intelligence will be defined as a continuous classified process in which states’ intelligence services collect information on foreign countries, external phenomena and processes taking into account the requirements of authorized institutions. This activity involves the timely resGill P., Phythian M., Intelligence in an Insecure Word, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007, p. 15.
Canadian Security and Intelligence Service Act: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/ShowTdm/cs/C-23///en,
Staff report of the select committee to study governmental operations with respect to intelligence activities. 91st Congress session. “Cover activities in Chile”. http://www.fas.org/irp/ops/policy/church-chile.htm, 2008-06-30.
ponse to possible threats to a state’s or society’s security: after being processed and analyzed, this intelligence is presented to appropriate customers with the purpose of strengthening the security of the state and society and to support the planned and implemented policy of the executive government.
2. the Role of Policy Makers and their Impact on Intelligence Services’ Activity and Information
2.1. The Role of Politics in Intelligence and Associated Challenges It would be a mistake to believe that the process of intelligence ends when an intelligence service of a democratic state delivers its product (an intelligence paper) to their appropriate intelligence customers. Lowenthal says that the role of politicians and decision makers regarding intelligence services is not limited to receiving intelligence information – “they shape it”19. In democratic states, intelligence services are connected to institutions of the executive government, which are the main consumers of intelligence.
These institutions include: the state’s President and/or Prime Minister, government, various ministries (especially those responsible for the state’s foreign, defence and security policy), the command of Armed Forces, lawenforcement institutions and often also other ministries and institutions.
These may be responsible for economics and the financial system (or the state’s economy, trade, internal affairs, transportation, or even on occasions, environmental protection and health services, etc.). Finally, additional connections include those to other intelligence and security services of that country. The role of parliament is to ensure democratic control and oversight of intelligence services20. Put simply, intelligence services are the instruments of government in assuring the national interests of security making, controlling the power and influence of policy formers and other decision makers over intelligence services and its activity – which is self-explanatory. Hence, the role of policy makers and other intelligence customers is one of the main factors influencing the process of intelligence. This role of connecting customers and intelligence obliges both sides to understand each other’s tasks, responsibilities and abilities or limitations. When there is a lack of this type of understanding, tension or conflict emerges between politics and intelligence. The reasons for conflict between intelligence services and policy makers are complex. The most dramatic cases happen when Lowenthal p.174.
More about parliamentarian oversight of intelligence services: Bagdonas G., “The Role and Control of Secret Intelligence Services in A Democratic State”, Kardas, 2006 m. No2 (419) (in the Lithuanian language).
an intelligence service fails (or allegedly fails) to fulfil its expected tasks.
Particularly severe consequences may occur when an intelligence service does not provide an early warning and so-called strategic surprise takes place, which results from an unpredicted security crisis: this is perhaps popularly known as an unexpected and successful attack by an adversary. An example of this type of unexpected security crises that resulted in blaming the intelligence services of not providing intelligence about threats, are the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 200121.