Terrorism: Secret Intelligence Service and National Security

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Security Challenges

Intelligence and Policy in the New Strategic Environment
Sandy Gordon
Western intelligence services face a significant broadening in the nature of threat. Previously, intelligence was predominantly focused on state-on-state threat, and to a lesser extent human generated threats such as terrorism and transnational crime. Now new types of threats are emerging, such as pandemic disease and global warming. In parallel, new technologies and doctrines have re-shaped the contribution of intelligence to strategic decision-making. The revolution in military affairs has given rise to powerful strategic tools such as effects based operations (EBO), mirrored by the concept of intelligence-led policing in law enforcement. Some advocates of intelligence change argue that the role of intelligence be expanded to provide the analytical power-house for ‘whole of government’ decision-making in relation not just to traditional threats, but also to this new range of threats—a kind of EBO for the whole of government. This article argues for a more limited view of intelligence and its role—one that recognises the inherently human, and hence secretive, quality of intelligence as a means for dealing with human-generated competition.

A nation’s intelligence apparatus is only one small part of the wider machinery for delivering policy and executive action. Traditionally, the role of intelligence within this wider structure was to counter threat from some kind of human collective opposition—whether a country, a crime group or a terrorist organisation. Intelligence was regarded as a highly specific undertaking to give advantage over that threat in the form of knowledge, insight and predictive capacity. According to this model, advantage was sought over a human threat capable of learning and adapting. Intelligence therefore needed to be secret to deliver an advantage. To protect the ‘intelligence advantage’, countries also developed counter-intelligence organizations such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and MI5 and encoding and decoding organizations such as the US National Security Agency and the Australian Defence Signals Directorate. Today there is broad consensus that the threats we confront have expanded beyond the typical military or counter-intelligence threats of the past, especially those of the Cold War. This expanded range of threat falls into a major category and two sub-categories. The major category can be termed ‘non-conventional’ threats, ones that do not fall into the state-on-state category. They include environmental threats, threats of pandemic disease, terrorism and transnational crime.

Volume 3 Number 3 (August 2007)

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Security Challenges

This broad category of non-conventional threat can be further divided between those threats of a human agency (terrorism, crime, people smuggling and trafficking) and those of a non-human agency (climate change and other types of environmental threat, natural disasters, pandemic disease). These two sub-categories are, however, closely linked, as demonstrated by Thomas Homer-Dixon and others.1 They are linked in two ways. First, they are linked in the sense that so-called non-human agency threats such as climate change can give rise to instability. Instability can in turn give rise to many of the human generated conventional and non-conventional threats mentioned above. Second, threats like climate change are also linked with human agency in that they are often caused by human intervention. Changes in human behaviour are therefore necessary to remedy such threats. Even though these two sub-categories of threat are linked, they give rise to very different implications for the role of intelligence. On the one hand, the role of intelligence in countering human-related, nonconventional threat is relatively clear-cut and traditional. It includes counterterrorism, police intelligence, customs intelligence, coast watch intelligence...
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