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REVOLUTION IN INTELLIGENCE MATTERS (RIM)

Paper No. 7

by B. Raman 

What has been described by strategic analysts as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), due to the strides in the information and communication technologies, has been accompanied by a similar, but as yet inadequately analysed Revolution in Intelligence Matters (RIM) . 

Till 1990, the traditional role of the intelligence community was defined as collecting and producing intelligence on matters having a bearing on national security--internal as well as external. This definition has since been expanded to cover, in addition, matters having a bearing on national economic well-being and the safety of its networked information systems. 

Before the First World War, external threats to national security mainly arose from other States. After the success of the October Revolution in the USSR and the advent of the Communist International, the attention of the intelligence communities was focussed not only on other States, but also on ideologically oriented groups, internal or external, which could act as the surrogates of the Communist International.

After the Second World War, many other groups came into being posing threats to national security even during peace time, such as terrorist groups, Islamic extremist organisations, narcotics-smuggling gangs and organised crime mafia groups. 

The sponsorship of such groups by the intelligence agencies of other States to achieve their national objectives against adversary nations without resorting to a direct war led to the intensification and sophistication of proxy war techniques. This has led to a situation where there is no permanent, universal peace. The world is in a state of part-peace, part-war, with hundreds of innocent civilians and members of the security forces being killed and injured every day in some part of the world or the other by such surrogate groups often trained, funded and armed by some intelligence agency or the other. Thus, there is no peace-time for intelligence and security agencies which have to be in a permanent state of alert. 

The rapid strides in technologies relating to information, telecommunication and media systems have electronically reduced the world to a village and placed within the reach of any innovative people, knowledge and prosperity of hitherto unimagined dimensions. At the same time, the very same technologies have placed not only in the hands of better-endowed States, but even in those of irrational groups and individuals awesome means of giving vent to their irrationality, by just operating a computer in a remote corner of the world. 

Modern technologies have made man better informed and improved the quality of his life, but, at the same time, they have made him more insecure than ever. People and States now look up to intelligence communities to neutralise attempts by other States, irrational groups and individuals to put these technologies to diabolical uses. 

COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS

Collection of intelligence refers to the procurement of raw, unprocessed information from overt as well as covert sources whereas analysis relates to the processing of such raw information and the dissemination to the consumers of significant, acceptable pieces of such information with comments on their significance and on the action required on the accepted information. 

Before the Second World War, field intelligence officers confined themselves to intelligence collection, while analysis was done mainly at the headquarters. Since then, the water-tight division of these two roles has blurred and, now, a certain processing is done at the field level also, particularly in respect of human intelligence. 

However, in respect of technical intelligence, this distinction is believed to be maintained even now in some countries such as the US, the UK and Israel and, in the US, there has been a demand for separating the two roles even in respect of human intelligence. 

For example, the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US and the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) in the UK are only collectors of communications intelligence. They intercept the messages passing on the targeted links, break their codes, if possible, and pass on the raw messages to the intelligence agency concerned for processing, analysis and dissemination to the consumers. 

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the US and the MI-5, the security service, and the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS--popularly known as MI-6), the external intelligence organisation of the UK, are only analysts of communications intelligence and not its collectors. However, they are both collectors and analysts of human intelligence. 

Following the Aldrich Ames espionage case, there has been a demand in the US from sections of Congressmen and academics that the CIA's and the DIA's roles should be confined to purely collection of human intelligence and that a new agency should be created for the processing, analysis and dissemination of human and technical intelligence. This demand has been made following disclosures that the CIA had passed on to the armed forces as genuine certain fabricated documents on Soviet weapons development which had been planted by the Soviet and Russian intelligence agencies on the CIA officer in the US Embassy in Moscow with the assistance of Ames. 

This incident has revived old arguments that when the same agency is responsible for collection and analysis, it would not be clinically objective while processing the raw intelligence. The processors or analysts tend to accept intelligence of questionable veracity in order to play up the agency's collection capability. While the Clinton Administration has not accepted this demand, it has undertaken an examination to see as to how to make the processing and analysis of raw intelligence more objective and professional.

CHANGING PRIORITIES

Since the end of the traditional cold war and the beginning of what has been described as the "mercantalist cold war", the importance attached to the collection and analysis of economic and technological intelligence has increased.. This has, however, not resulted in a diminution of the importance hitherto attached to political and military intelligence. 

The emergence of terrorism, narcotics smuggling and organised crime groups with international ramifications as a serious cancer in the international body politic has added to the tasks of the intelligence communities. Since one's ability to deal effectively with these new threats to internal security depends on international co-operation, one finds the strange spectacle of intelligence agencies of different countries spying on one another in certain fields (political, military, economic and technological intelligence), but co-operating with one another in certain others (counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and counter-mafia). This dichotomy has added to the difficulties and complexities of intelligence tradecraft and provides alien intelligence agencies with more opportunities for penetrating our intelligence community unless effective precautions are taken. 

Another dichotomy has arisen from the fact that political and strategic allies against a common adversary could be economic rivals. This has given rise to another strange spectacle of the intelligence agencies of the West co-operating with one another in monitoring Russia, China, Iran, Iraq and transnational Islamic organisations, but spying and mounting covert actions against one another in their race for a greater share of the emerging markets. 

The priorities in respect of political and military intelligence are also changing following the disappearance of international communism and the emergence of international Islam as a potent destabilising element in national as well as international politics and the increasing concerns of countries over energy security and the possible threats to energy supplies due to developments such as the strengthening of the Chinese Navy. Another dimension to the changing priorities has been added by the increase not only in the number of nuclear and nuclear and missile capable States, but also in the number of terrorist and religious groups suspected to be looking for a capability in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. 

Consequently, the political, religious and violence-prone activities of trans-national Islamic organisations are receiving the same priority as internal political and economic developments in neighbouring and regional States. 

The question of energy security calls for a close monitoring of political and economic developments in energy-rich areas, assessing the prospects for assured energy supplies and identifying possible threats to such supplies. It is here that the added importance of Central Asia, Myanmar and Indonesia as intelligence priorities comes in-- in addition to already-existing priorities in West Asia. 

When assessing possible threats to energy supplies and foreign trade, one has to take note ofthe increasing Chinese presence in Myanmar, the creeping Chinese occupation of the South China Sea islands and the planned extension of the reach of the Chinese Navy into the Indian Ocean area. This calls for greater focus than in the past on maritime intelligence, to meet the new maritime dimension to our national security. 

COVERT ACTIONS

Covert, deniable actions to achieve national security objectives, when the use of normal diplomatic means or conventional military power for the purpose is not feasible, were resorted to even before the Second World War, but now such actions have been increasing in frequency, intensity and sophistication, thanks to modem technologies. 

Past covert actions were essentially of a psychological (psywar) or para-military dimension. The same dimensions, while still valid, have now assumed added nuances. To the concept of political psywar has been added that of economic psywar to damage the economy and competitiveness of a target-nation or a target-industrial or trading group. The increasing dependence of the business world on electronic networks has, on the one hand, led to a tremendous economic growth, but, on the other, made the economy unconsciously vulnerable to attempts at electronic sabotage. The new media technologies and perception-management techniques have placed in the hands of external forces means of making people distrust the claims of their own leaders and experts regarding the state of the economy and thereby creating market turbulence. 

Past para-military covert actions led to large casualties of innocent civilians, thereby, not infrequently, shocking public opinion even in the country resorting to such actions and creating a backlash against them. Electronic covert actions through the use of malicious software and other means could achieve the same objective without human casualties and thus make covert actions acceptable to the Consequently, any intelligence community, to be effective, has to keep itself abreast of technologies susceptible to being used in covert actions, and build up for itself not only a defensive, counter-capability, but also an offensive capability, for possible use, if required. 

COUNTER-INTELLIGENCE

The advent of modem technologies and the mercantalist cold war have markedly changed the concept of counter-intelligence (CI). CI experts have now to contend with not only human moles acquired or planted in a sensitive establishment by a foreign agency, but also microchip moles designed and planted in the information, telecommunication and media systems acquired from abroad. How to detect and neutralise such microchip moles designed to carry out the wishes of their maker without the knowledge of their user is a subject which has to receive increasing attention. 

The post-1991 globalised world has given rise to new elements, susceptible to being exploited as surrogates of foreign intelligence agencies for intelligence collection and covert actions. These are the foreign multinationals and other business houses whose ultimate loyalty is to the country of their origin and not to that where they operate. The use of business houses for intelligence collection and covert actions is a technique already used by the West, China and Japan and even Pakistan has made a start with it. The identification of such business houses and the monitoring of their activities have to be a new priority of our intelligence community. 

ORGANISING AN INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY

Protection of national security and economic well-being and the security of networked information systems call for a streamlined intelligence community, staffed by a mix of political, military, economic, scientific and technical specialists, carefully recruited and adequately trained. The first attention has, therefore, to be given to a careful selection of officers having the required qualifications and aptitude and their training--after recruitment as well as in-service. 

A streamlined intelligence community has to have separate agencies, firstly, for the collection of raw intelligence and the production of finished intelligence supplemented by effective and up-dated CI capability; secondly, for the study of the processed intelligence to prepare short, medium and long-term assessments, for the allotment of tasks to different agencies of the community in accordance with the requirements of the consumers and monitoring their performance in the fulfillment of these tasks; and, thirdly, for ensuring co-ordinated follow-up action on the tactical (preventive) intelligence collected by the agencies. 

There are three pre-requisites for the effective functioning of an intelligence community--procedural secrecy, operational flexibility and analytical lucidity. Any mechanism, inter-weaving the roles of collection, production (analysis), assessment, task allocation, performance monitoring and co-ordination has to ensure that it does not damage the secrecy and operational flexibility of the intelligence agencies. 

How to inter-weave these roles without damaging the effectiveness of the collection/production agencies is a question to which no satisfactory answer has been found so far anywhere in the world. There are two models---the American model of a National Security Council (NSC) with a large permanent staff forming part of the Presidential office and the British and Indian models of a Joint Intelligence Committee (TIC) with a comparatively smaller staff reporting to the Cabinet Secretary and the Secretaries' Committee chaired by him. 

Though large sections of the Indian strategic analysis community are attracted by the American NSC model, the actual experience has been that the NSC staff tend to become a parallel, uncontrollable security bureaucracy which tries to cut departmental comers in its anxiety to produce quick results for the President. 

Two examples of operational disasters due to the rogue NSC bureaucracy were the failure of the clandestine operation by the NSC staffin 1980, without allegedly consulting the State Department, to rescue the American hostages in Iran and the Iran-Contra fiasco of the Reagan Administration due to the rogue elephants in the NSC staff which again allegedly kept the State and Defence Departments out of the picture. 

In the first instance, Mr.Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State under President Carter, resigned in protest, while, in the second, Mr. George Schultz, the then Secretary of State, and Mr. Casper Weinberger, the then Defence Secretary, reportedly protested, but did not resign.

The American penchant for appointing large Presidential Commissions to review the work of intelligence agencies and to carry out post-mortems into national security failures has added to the bureaucracy and the paper work, without adding to the efficiency and operational capability of the intelligence agencies. 

As a result, some analysts wonder whether the British TIC model would have been more appropriate to the US too, supplemented by a high-powered, independent intelligence co-ordinator to oversee the work of the entire community, civilian as well as military. Presently, Director, CIA, is also Director, Central Intelligence, and, in that capacity, oversees the work of the entire community. There have been suggestions from the Congress for separating the two roles. 

The suggestion now emanating from the critics of the US intelligence community had been introduced in India in the early 1980s when the then Government had created a high-powered post of Senior Adviser in the Cabinet Secretariat, held by a highly eminent intelligence professional with vast experience, to co-ordinate the functioning of the intelligence community and to inter-weave the various roles as mentioned above. This mechanism worked well, but, unfortunately, was discontinued. It needs to be revived. 

(Fonner Additional Secretary,Cabinet Secretariat and presently Director, Institute for Topical Studies)

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