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«Relations between Intelligence Services and Policy Makers: An Analysis of challenges and their causes This article addresses the relations between ...»

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Causes for intelligence failure are usually complex. Reasons for the failure to provide intelligence about threats or in providing only belated intelligence, may be due to mistakes in the organization of intelligence activity. It may also be attributable to the lack of interaction and cooperation between intelligence and security organizations, their subdivisions or individual officers, when, due to undue emphasis on the ‘need to know’ principle of protecting classified information, important intelligence is not presented to responsible institutions or officers on time or even at all. However, as already discussed in the last part of this article, the contemporary process of intelligence is not just a closed inner activity of an intelligence service. Rather, this process has a strong tendency to engage politicians and other intelligence customers in the intelligence business. In some cases, therefore, state institutions that establish the priorities, present tasks or influence intelligence activity in any other way should share the responsibility for intelligence failures. The main problems emerging between intelligence services and policy makers are the non-formulation of priorities and requirements to an intelligence service. Problems also arise due to the absence of feedback, the over-closeness of the relationship or, on the contrary, absolute and lack of interaction and finally, the politicization of the intelligence process22.

2.2. Planning and Administration of Intelligence

Allen W. Dulles, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the USA, between 1953-1961, acknowledged that even the best planner and head of intelligence cannot foresee everything23. Precise planning is the most important, but also the most challenging part of the intelligence process. As was already discussed at the beginning of this article, intelligence is carried Is spite of critical conclusions about the work of intelligence services of USA by the “9/11 Committee” some intelligence experts contradict accusations of failing to give timely warning about Al Qaeda and terrorist attacks of 9/11, more information: Paul R. Pillar “Good Literature and Bad History: The 9/11 Commission’s “Tale of Strategic Intelligence”, Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 21, No.6, December 2006, pp.1022-1044. “9/11Commision’s conclusions are presented: “The 9/11 Commission Report”: http:// govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf, p. 353 – 357, 2008-06-29.

The term of “politicization of intelligence process” is used by Handel, p.187 – 188.

Dulles W. A., The Craft of Intelligence, Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2006, p. 78.

out on behalf of its customers – the decision makers. A frequent problem is that those decision makers do not know what kind of intelligence they need and what questions they should pose24.

What happens when requirements are not presented to the intelligence service and policy makers do not define the priorities and queries? In the words of Lowenthal, in this case an intelligence service might try to establish the priorities and policy requirements by itself25. When this happens the intelligence service risks being accused of participating in policy by taking an active role in the sphere of politics. Besides, when trying to determine a state’s priorities by relying only on its own experience and expertise, an intelligence service risks making mistakes and organizing purposeless intelligence activity, which leads to the problem of irrelevance of intelligence.

In the intelligence process, not only is the timely receipt of priorities and requirements important, but also feedback. If absent, an intelligence service is left in obscurity and cannot evaluate its mistakes. In a future chapter the problem of relevancy of intelligence will be discussed more extensively. Ideally, after presenting its first product to politicians an intelligence service receives additional questions and continues the intelligence process by going deeper into the problem and proceeding into a ‘second circle’ of the intelligence process.

At the same time, because of the feedback with the intelligence customers, not only the product of intelligence is improved, but also a better understanding on the decision maker’s needs and objectives are reached.

The interaction of intelligence and politics (intelligence officers and policy makers) has to be reciprocal. Intelligence officers (firstly analysts and their leaders) have to know the ‘world of politics’ - become certain experts of the state’s politics so they can see world through the eyes of policy makers26. On the other hand, policy makers have to facilitate the work of intelligence officers by allowing them to be informed about political decisions, but this should not incorporate intelligence officers in the process of decision making. Otherwise, if intelligence officers were obliged not only to provide intelligence, but also to suggest developments on decisions of policy that emerge from the provided intelligence, the service would submerge in the sphere of politics. Intelligence would become politicized and its products biased.

2.3. The Divide between Intelligence and Politics The occasional tension in the relationship between intelligence services and its customers can be partly related to the close relationship between these Quiggin T., Seeing the Invisible: National Security in an Uncertain Age. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2007, p. 53.





Lowenthal, p.56.

Davis J., “Intelligence Analysts and Policymakers: Benefits and Dangers of Tensions in the Relations”, Intelligence and National Security, Vol.21, No.6, December 2006, p. 1010.

two entities. What distance should there be between intelligence services and policy makers? There are two different opinions in Western countries on the closeness of the relationship between intelligence and politics. The author of the first theory was one of the founders of US intelligence services, Sherman �ent, who saw a threat in the close relations of intelligence services and politicians because of the intelligence officers’ ‘inadequate independence’ on politicians that might possibly develop27. This was referred to in the last chapter. However, �ent acknowledged the danger of too deep a divide, which can influence the emerging of ‘inadequate guidance’28. The theory, supporting the great divide between politics and intelligence prevailed in the USA and other Western countries in the years of the Cold War. Realization of this theory in practice was manifested by limiting intelligence services to presenting information to their customers as bare facts, leaving the interpretation of them to politicians29.

An explicit divide between intelligence and politics fosters secure objectivity of intelligence products and thus contributes to the reliability of intelligence. This is obtained by subordinating intelligence services to the highest institutions of the executive government, but not including them into the mechanism of making political decisions. For example, one of the former Presidents’ of United States, Richard Nixon, used to ask the Director of CIA to make a presentation on foreign countries and their plans to the National Security Council, after which the speaker had to leave the room, which was where then the possible political decisions considering the received information were discussed30. This method of relations was effective during the Cold War, when the world was bipolar and the Western countries had an evident source of threat. When such a strategic security environment dominated, intelligence services had obvious priorities in collecting information and analyzing the capabilities and intentions of the Soviet Union and its satellites.

In the last decade of the past century however, when the established strategic security environment changed dramatically, the West was faced with new complex security challenges. These have included: military conflicts based on religious and national grounds (which result in collapsing of states, emerging humanitarian crises, mass migration); the spread of terrorism; the danger of proliferation of mass destruction weapons and their components;

organized crime (including drug trafficking); the challenges of energy and information security; and also the economically and militarily strengthening of undemocratic and totalitarian states that challenge Western liberal democracy. All this shaped the development of another position, which supports Davis J., “Sherman’s Kent’s Final Thoughts on Analyst-Policymaker Relations” CIA, Sherman Kent Center for Intelligence Analysis, occasional papers: Vol. 2, No 3, June 2003, https://www.cia.gov/library/ kent-center-occasional-papers/vol2no3.htm, 2008-07-21.

Ibidem.

Laqueur, W., A Word of Secrets: The Uses and Limits of Intelligence, New York: Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1985, p. 89.

Kissinger, A. H., “When spies meddle in policy”, International Herald Tribune, 12 December, 2007.

closer relations between politics and intelligence31. The necessity of a closed interaction between intelligence officials and decision makers is dictated not only because of the changing and exceptionally dynamic security environment, but and also because of the latter’s impact on the internal politics of democratic countries: external policy is often coherent with internal policy. If in organizing its activity, intelligence services have always had the need to know regarding the state’s middle and long term priorities, then after the Cold War an important necessity has emerged. This is to preserve the relevance of the intelligence process to a state’s policy within the current period, reflected in the presented intelligence. As was noted by an intelligence expert during a ‘round table’ forum of politicians and intelligence leaders in Georgetown University in November, 2003, the worst thing is when intelligence is ignored by politicians because then intelligence loses its connection to a state’s policy and this is even worse than intelligence mistakes: “Being wrong – if you were wrong for right reasons - is never a particular problem, but being totally irrelevant to the policy considerations was always the thing that you had to fear the most”32.

As was already mentioned above, the very close relationship between intelligence and politics can merge intelligence with politics. This could involve intelligence officers in searching for solutions to problems, which would have a negative effect on intelligence products. This also causing intelligence services to have interests to produce biased and distorted intelligence information, and the intelligence service would thereby loose reliability. There is another negative influence of over-close relations and interaction between intelligence services and the institutions of policy makers. As Laqueur noticed, when an intelligence service approaches policy makers, an unavoidable situation emerges that the latter demands current intelligence33 (see qualification of intelligence activity and products in Part 1). This might not seem a big issue at the first glance, but in practice the demands of decision makers to provide them with current intelligence can become a serious challenge to intelligence services. This can be e�plained by the difficulty of effort and e�pensive resources required to set priorities on current intelligence. Besides the aforementioned, the results are usually inadequate. An intelligence service concentrated on inadequate collection of current intelligence, neglects strategic intelligence activity. This requires long–term effort, usually because of a lack of capability, but sometimes also because of an absence of requirements. This inadequacy of efforts to collect current information is least justifiable as media and other institutions (such as think tanks) duplicate this collection and publicize partially similar current information. In this case, the collection of current information can be influenced by the so-called ‘CNN effect’. Another reason why intelligence services should

–  –  –

Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, “Challenging the Red Line between Intelligence and Policy”, prepared by Dr. James E. Steiner, March 2004, p.4. http://www.ciaonet.org/wps/stj05/ index.html, 2008-02-10.

Laqueur, p. 89.

not focus on presenting current intelligence to policy makers is because this type of information is usually fairly unprocessed ‘raw material’. As Dulles states, to provide a politician with this kind of information is dangerous, unless he is warned and understands what he is receiving – an unevaluated report, which an intelligence service cannot guarantee to be reliable and accurate34.

As we can see, both opinions have their ‘pro and cons’ and there is no clear answer what distance should be placed between intelligence and politics.

Handel noticed that in relations between intelligence officers and politicians a lot depends on human and personal characteristics, also on the countries’ political culture and the process of socialization35. The divide between intelligence services and institutions of policy makers should be balanced: on the one hand it should secure sufficient informing on politicians’ needs and intentions to intelligence staff, on the other hand it should preclude intelligence officials getting involved in politics.

2.4. The Problem of Intelligence Politicization

The politicization of intelligence is a frequent problem defined by the special relations between the two different entities: intelligence experts and politicians. Lowenthal called the separation of politics from intelligence “The Great Divide” 36. Its purpose is the separation of two different functions of government – politics and intelligence – by a ‘membrane’, whereby politicians participate on both sides while intelligence is restricted to close approaching the membrane of political sphere, but is unable to cross the line.



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