Intelligence Dilemma? Contemporary Counter-terrorism in a Liberal Democracy

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    Intelligence Dilemma? ContemporaryCounter-terrorism in a LiberalDemocracyJulian RichardsPublished online: 05 Oct 2012.

    To cite this article: Julian Richards (2012) Intelligence Dilemma? Contemporary Counter-terrorism in a Liberal Democracy, Intelligence and National Security, 27:5, 761-780, DOI:10.1080/02684527.2012.708528

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  • Intelligence Dilemma? ContemporaryCounter-terrorism in a Liberal

    Democracy

    JULIAN RICHARDS*

    ABSTRACT The post-9/11 period and its emphasis on tackling terrorism has had afundamental impact on the business of intelligence, not least in raising some verydifficult ethical issues to the forefront of debate. Many of these issues are intertwinedwith the business of policing globalisation in the modern era. The changes anddevelopments offer new opportunities in Intelligence Studies for exploring ethics, andthe role of the intelligence function within a modern liberal democracy. The questionsposed by the new threat picture for such states offer something of an intelligencedilemma, which must balance the provision of good security with respecting civilliberties and ensuring the continued support of the population for security andintelligence policy. This article examines the intelligence dilemma within theframework of five dimensions: globalisation, risk and resilience; the question of asurveillance society; the intermestic challenge in the new threat picture; difficultiesaround the use of covert action and cyber capabilities; and partnership risks. The articlesuggests that a deeper analysis of these issues represents opportunities for takingIntelligence Studies in new directions.

    Defining the Intelligence Dilemma

    Ten years on from the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001,some of the implications for how the intelligence business is, or should be,adapting to the evolving picture of this new threat are starting to becomeclearer. At the same time, some of the difficulties and challenges to theintelligence business posed by contemporary counter-terrorism are also,ominously, starting to emerge from the mist. In many ways, these challengesare causing a renewed focus on serious questions about how an intelligencecapability in a modern liberal democracy should act, and where itsboundaries should rightfully be. Intelligence-gathering has never been astraightforward business in terms of the ethical issues it raises for a liberalsociety. In some ways, the post-9/11 era in which counter-terrorism hastaken on a newly elevated priority in the intelligence world does not mark an

    *Email: julian.richards@buckingham.ac.uk

    Intelligence and National SecurityVol. 27, No. 5, 761780, October 2012

    ISSN 0268-4527 Print/ISSN 1743-9019 Online/12/050761-20 2012 Taylor & Francishttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02684527.2012.708528

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  • entirely new beginning. Terrorism threats have been tackled in variousshapes and forms for many years prior to 2001, and the 9/11 attacksthemselves (despite the intelligence failings) did not come out of the blueentirely. In other ways, it could be argued that 9/11 did mark a sudden andcritical watershed, not only in Western foreign policy and national securityposture, but also in the development of intelligence tradecraft and capability.

    Aldrich goes slightly further back in history to the fall of the Berlin Wall in1989, noting that intelligence and globalization in the post-Cold War erahave become increasingly intertwined.1 This has happened in a number ofways. Firstly, rising transnational threats such as international terrorismhave deftly ridden the wave of globalisation.2 In turn, these threats call fordifferent responses from those appropriate to traditional state-on-stateconflicts that dominated national security thinking in earlier eras. Modernthreats arising from globalization are harder to find and track, are morefluid, and are more embedded within civil society. Intelligence, increasingly,has become a mode of policing the underside of globalisation.3

    A notion of security dilemma was a construct that emerged right at thebeginning of the Cold War, in the 1950s, with Herz and Butterfield.4 Thelogic was a Realist one (Mearsheimer described Herz as a pioneer ofoffensive realism),5 whereby states in an essentially anarchic system wouldnaturally suspect one another of nefarious designs and would armthemselves accordingly. The theory seemed to work well for the politics ofthe Cold War and the arms race between East and West, but there wasdebate about what would happen at the end of the Cold War. Writing in theyear that the Soviet Union finally collapsed, Booth suggested that thetraditional notion of the security dilemma will become a less pressingfeature as the institution of war will decline in utility.6 For many, the1990s proved to be a false dawn, however, as conflict and security crisescontinued around the world. As Ripsman and Paul noted of the post-ColdWar era, there is little evidence that globalization has transformed thepursuit of national security, and states still endeavor to protect themselveswith traditional national military apparatuses.7

    Placing together the issues of a continued need for traditional securityresponses despite the changing threat picture, with an enhanced significance

    1R.J. Aldrich, Global Intelligence Co-operation versus Accountability: New Facets to an OldProblem, Intelligence and National Security 24/1 (2009) p.26.2Ibid., p.28.3Ibid., p.29.4N.J. Wheeler, To Put Oneself in the Other Fellows Place: John Herz, the SecurityDilemma and the Nuclear Age, International Relations 22 (2008) p.493.5Ibid., p.494.6K. Booth, Security in Anarchy: Utopian Realism in Theory and Practice, InternationalAffairs 67/3 (July 1991) p.541.7N.M. Ripsman and T.V. Paul, Globalization and the National Security State: A Frameworkfor Analysis, International Studies Review 7 (2005) p.220.

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  • for intelligence in policing the underside of globalisation, I would arguethat a new intelligence dilemma is emerging in the post-Cold War worldalongside the traditional notion of security dilemma. The intelligencedilemma is subtly different, in that it takes account of a gradually increasingpublic expectation of openness and accountability in the activities of theintelligence agencies. This confronts, uneasily, the need to enhance anddevelop intelligence capabilities in order to effectively tackle threats that areperceived to be rising and growing more complex, such as those frominternational terrorism and cyber-attack. The key word at the centre of thenew intelligence dilemma is ethics, and specifically how intelligenceagencies in liberal democracies can maintain their ethical code and valuesin the face of enhancing their capabilities.

    Much good research has been undertaken on ethics and intelligence afterthe end of the Cold War. Some of this has looked generally at the heart ofdarkness of modern intelligence activities post-Cold War and post-9/11,8

    while other studies have focused on specific issues such as the pitfalls ofincreased international intelligence cooperation in fighting terrorism.9 Morefundamental questions of intelligence and ethics in the contemporary erahave received attention from Quinlan, Herman, Gendron, Shelton andGoldman, among others.10 Many of these have noted the assertionsupposedly once made by the CIA officer, Duane Clarridge, that intelligenceethics is essentially an oxymoron.11 In confronting this charge, Quinlan