Secret Intelligence
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Secret Intelligence

A Reader

Christopher Andrew, Richard J. Aldrich, Wesley K. Wark, Christopher Andrew, Richard J. Aldrich, Wesley K. Wark

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eBook - ePub

Secret Intelligence

A Reader

Christopher Andrew, Richard J. Aldrich, Wesley K. Wark, Christopher Andrew, Richard J. Aldrich, Wesley K. Wark

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About This Book

The second edition of Secret Intelligence: A Reader brings together key essays from the field of intelligence studies, blending classic works on concepts and approaches with more recent essays dealing with current issues and ongoing debates about the future of intelligence.

Secret intelligence has never enjoyed a higher profile. The events of 9/11, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the missing WMD controversy, public debates over prisoner interrogation, together with the revelations of figures such as Edward Snowden, recent cyber attacks and the rise of 'hybrid warfare' have all contributed to make this a 'hot' subject over the past two decades.

Aiming to be more comprehensive than existing books, and to achieve truly international coverage of the field, this book provides key readings and supporting material for students and course convenors. It is divided into four main sections, each of which includes full summaries of each article, further reading suggestions and student questions:

• The intelligence cycle

• Intelligence, counter-terrorism and security

• Ethics, accountability and secrecy

• Intelligence and the new warfare

This new edition contains essays by leading scholars in the field and will be essential reading for students of intelligence studies, strategic studies, international security and political science in general, and of interest to anyone wishing to understand the current relationship between intelligence and policy-making.

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1 Wanted

A definition of ‘intelligence’

Michael Warner
This essay offers a classical definition of intelligence that emphasises the use of secret information and methods for full effectiveness. It also argues for a state-based conception of intelligence in terms of both its collectors and customers. More controversially, it views intelligence as being reports about foreign powers, or at least matters overseas, arguing that the surveillance of domestic citizens is more to do with law enforcement or governance. It also embraces what intelligence services do, and does not see intelligence merely as a process or a product, suggesting this may involve influencing overseas by ‘means that are unattributable’. In conclusion, Warner offers the definition that: ‘Intelligence is secret, state activity to understand or influence foreign entities’.
… all attempts to develop ambitious theories of intelligence have failed.
Walter Laqueur1
In a business as old as recorded history, one would expect to find a sophisticated understanding of just what that business is, what it does, and how it works. If the business is ‘intelligence,’ however, we search in vain. As historian Walter Laqueur warned us, so far no one has succeeded in crafting a theory of intelligence.
I have to wonder if the difficulty in doing so resides more in the slipperiness of the tools than in the poor skills of the craftsmen or the complexity of the topic. Indeed, even today, we have no accepted definition of intelligence. The term is defined anew by each author who addresses it, and these definitions rarely refer to one another or build off what has been written before. Without a clear idea of what intelligence is, how can we develop a theory to explain how it works?
If you cannot define a term of art, then you need to rethink something. In some way you are not getting to the heart of the matter. Here is an opportunity: a compelling definition of intelligence might help us to devise a theory of intelligence and increase our understanding. In the hope of advancing discussions of this topic, I have collected some of the concise definitions of intelligence that I deem to be distinguished either by their source or by their clarity.2 After explaining what they do and do not tell us, I shall offer up my own sacrificial definition to the tender mercies of future critics.

Official solutions

The people who write the laws that govern intelligence, and administer the budgets and resources of intelligence agencies, deserve the first word. The basic charter of America’s intelligence services – the National Security Act of 1947 with its many amendments – defines the kind of intelligence that we are seeking in this manner:
The term ‘foreign intelligence’ means information relating to the capabilities, intentions, or activities of foreign governments or elements thereof, foreign organizations, or foreign persons.3
Study commissions appointed to survey the Intelligence Community have long used similar language. The Clark Task Force of the Hoover Commission in 1955 decided that:
Intelligence deals with all the things which should be known in advance of initiating a course of action.4
An influential report from the mid-1990s (produced by the Brown-Aspin Commission) provides this definition:
The Commission believes it preferable to define ‘intelligence’ simply and broadly as information about ‘things foreign’ – people, places, things, and events – needed by the Government for the conduct of its functions.5
The Joint Chiefs of Staff qualify as both employers and consumers of intelligence, so they deserve a say as well. Their latest Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines intelligence as:
  1. The product resulting from the collection, processing, integration, analysis, evaluation and interpretation of available information concerning foreign countries or areas.
  2. Information and knowledge about an adversary obtained through observation, investigation, analysis, or understanding.6
And finally, the Central Intelligence Agency has weighed in with the following sentence:
Reduced to its simplest terms, intelligence is knowledge and foreknowledge of the world around us – the prelude to decision and action by US policymakers.7
All of these definitions stress the ‘informational’ aspects of intelligence more than its ‘organizational’ facets – an ironic twist given that all of them come from organizations that produce and use intelligence, and which thereby might be expected to wax poetic on the procedural aspects of the term as well.

Private attempts

Authors writing about intelligence for commercial publication might seem to enjoy a little more freedom and flexibility than the drafters of official government statements. Nonetheless, many outside authorities also say that intelligence is basically ‘information.’ Here are some examples, beginning with one of the earliest theorists in the field, CIA’s re-doubtable senior analyst, Sherman Kent:
Intelligence, as I am writing of it, is the knowledge which our highly placed civilians and military men must have to safeguard the national welfare.8
Former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Vernon Walters published a chatty memoir of his long and eventful public career, Silent Missions, that offers a more detailed definition:
Intelligence is information, not always available in the public domain, relating to the strength, resources, capabilities and intentions of a foreign country that can affect our lives and the safety of our people.9
Another high-ranking CIA officer, Lyman Kirkpatrick, was a true student of the business while he served in the Agency and enjoyed a second career as a respected commentator on intelligence topics. He contributes the following:
[Intelligence is] the knowledge – and, ideally, foreknowledge – sought by nations in response to external threats and to protect their vital interests, especially the well-being of their own people.10
And last but not least, a study of the American intelligence establishment commissioned by the Council on Foreign Relations in 1996 noted:
Intelligence is information not publicly available, or analysis based at least in part on such information, that has been prepared for policymakers or other actors inside the government.11

What is wrong with ‘information’?

Nothing is wrong with ‘information’ per se. Policymakers and commanders need information to do their jobs, and they are entitled to call that information anything they like. Indeed, for a policymaker or a commander, there is no need to define intelligence any further.
For producers of intelligence, however, the equation ‘intelligence = information’ is too vague to provide real guidance in their work. To professionals in the field, mere data is not intelligence; thus these definitions are incomplete. Think of how many names are in the telephone book, and how few of those names anyone ever seeks. It is what people do with data and information that gives them the special quality that we casually call ‘intelligence.’
With all due respect to the legislators, commanders, officials, and scholars who drafted the definitions above, those definitions let in far more than they screen out. After all, foreign policy decisionmakers all need information, and they get it from many sources. Is each source of information, and each factual tidbit, to be considered intelligence? Obviously not, because that would mean that newspapers and radio broadcasts and atlases are intelligence documents, and that journalists and geographers are intelligence officers. The notion that intelligence is information does not say who needs the information, or what makes the information needed in the first place. Intelligence involves information, yes, but obviously it is far more.
Let us begin again. The place for definitions is a dictionary. A handy one found in many government offices (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate) tells us that intelligence is:
… information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or an area, also: an agency engaged in obtaining such information.
Of course, one should hardly consult just any dictionary on such an important matter. The dictionary – the Oxford English Dictionary – defines intelligence as follows:
7a. Knowledge as to events, communicated by or obtained from one another; information, news, tidings, spec. information of military value … b. A piece of information or news … c. The obtaining of information; the agency for obtaining secret information; the staff of persons so employed, secret service … d. A department of a state organization or of a military or naval service whose object is to obtain information (esp. by means of secret service officers or a system of spies).
Sherman Kent expressed something similar in a 1946 article on the contemporary direction of intelligence reform:
In the circumstances, it is surprising that there is not more general agreement and less confusion about the meaning of the basic terms. The main difficulty seems to lie in the word ‘intelligence’ itself, which has come to mean both what people in the trade do and what they come up with. To get this matter straight is crucial: intelligence is both a process and an end-product.12
This seems to be getting somewhere, but it is hardly concise. We need something punchy. At this point, the same Walter Laqueur who complained above about the lack of a coherent theory of intelligence uncannily proved his own point by rendering Kent’s point in a sentence that contains no new insight but economizes on words:
On one hand, it [intelligence] refers to an organization collecting information and on the other to the information that has been gathered.13
Professors Kent and Laqueur recognized that intelligence is both information and an organized system for collecting and exploiting it. It is both an activity and a product of that activity.
National Intelligence Council officer Mark Lowenthal reminds us that intelligence is something broader than information and its processing for policymakers and commanders, even when that information is somehow confidential or clandestine. His useful primer on intelligence contains this definition:
Intelligence is the process by which specific types of information important to national security are requested, collected, analyzed, and provided to policymakers; the products of that process; the safeguarding of these processes and this information by counterintelligence activities; and the carrying out of operations as requested by lawful authorities.14
Lowenthal is on to something important. Intelligence is several things: It is information, process, and activity, and it is performed by ‘lawful authorities’ – i.e., by nationstates. But he still has too much freight loaded on his definition. Information that is ‘important to national security’ could include intelligence, all right, but also many other things, such as the number of American males of age to bear arms, the weather conditions in Asia, and the age of a politburo member. Indeed, almost anything ‘military’ can be subsumed under Dr. Lowenthal’s definition, and many things diplomatic fit as well. He has the right categories, but he has made them too broad. In addition, his definition is partly tautological in saying that intelligence is that which is protected by cou...

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