Introduction into Secret Affairs – Literature summary
Herman, M. (1996). Intelligence power in peace and war.
Intelligence has always been collected as part of warfare, in early human history intelligence
was seen as “news” and information. Collecting and using 'intelligence' in this same sense has
always been equally important in peacetime. Rulers from the earliest times tapped the
knowledge of merchants and other travellers, and specialist collectors.
Intelligence has always contained sensitive information, or 'secret (covert) intelligence'. Spies
and informers were part of the earliest kinds of government. Intercepting messages (nowadays
part of Sigint) is as old as governments' use of writing and their protection of it by 'secret
writing' or cryptography. By 1600 most embassies used secret agents, and in the century that
followed ambassadors were regarded as licensed spies.
Early intelligence organizations
Diplomacy evolved towards a government institution for gathering foreign intelligence.
Diplomacy was also supplemented by governments' networks of overseas correspondents, with
varying degrees of covert operational mandates.
However, this arrangement differed from modern intelligence in two crucial respects >
First, though diplomacy was well established, other information collection and handling was
largely ad hoc, without permanent institutions; and, second, nowhere was the control of
collection and the evaluation of results a specialized activity, separated from policy-making and
action. For kings and minister's 'intelligence' in all its aspects was part of statecraft, inseparable
from the exercise of power.
Emerging intelligence organizations in the 19th/20th century
The change in intelligence's status came from the new military technology in the 19th century.
Armies acquired improved weapons and the use of railways and telegraph communications;
and later the introduction of the radio. Warfare involved bigger armies over bigger areas, with
more opportunities for strategic surprise by rapid movement and concentration.
Command had to adapt to this new scale and complexity. The response was to create permanent
military staffs, charged support to commanders' decision-taking and control. Their raw material
in peace and war was information about their own and foreign forces and other factors relevant
to battle. They depended on reports, organized information and communications.
Internal security and secret police
Alongside this military study of foreign forces, a more inward-looking intelligence specialism
also developed. Police forces developed arrangements for surveillance, informers and mail
interceptions. Western countries now have this security intelligence as a complement to foreign
Collection and assessment
Part of this twentieth-century development of collection was the evolution of Western specialist
'national' collection agencies, each concentrating on particular kinds of collection and meeting
the needs of all parts of government.
In the years running up to the Second World War, especially the British, increasingly realised
they needed integrated intelligence inputs. From this emerged the wartime idea of machinery
through which military, naval, air, political and economic analysis could be integrated into what
can now be called 'national assessment', or seeing the enemy as a whole. After 1945 the Cold
War gave special relevance to this lesson in both Britain and the United States. The communist
threat seemed to span political, military, economic and subversive attacks, and needed equally
comprehensive intelligence assessment. The intentions and capabilities of the intensely
secretive Soviet and Chinese regimes had to be studied by putting together evidence from all
sources and all sectors.
The rise of the intelligence community
The introduction of national collection and national assessment both implied that intelligence
was more than a set of independent organizations. The phrase “intelligence community’ was
introduced. It sums up a gradual and often partial Western recognition that intelligence forms a
national system^ in some degree a national entity to be managed as a national resource.
Structure of early Anglo-Saxon intelligence community
The agencies within the community have their own character. In particular, security intelligence
with its focus on internal threats is significantly different from the rest. The permanent
intelligence organizations are supplemented by part-time or temporary elements and those with
only one foot in the intelligence camp. Thus, operational naval vessels and aircraft can be
deployed as temporary intelligence collectors, and sometimes combine intelligence with non-
Next, there are also intelligence activities that take place below the level of central departments
and national agencies just described, and are not usually included in thinking about the central
community. In this sense there is an additional military intelligence 'community' stretching
down from the top service level to the operational and tactical levels of command.
An example, the British Security Service has its own network of liaison with the Metropolitan
Police Special Branch and the regional police Special Branches. They are part of national
security intelligence resources. The significance of these 'downward' extensions of central
intelligence, creates fuzzy boundaries. Intelligence has to be defined in terms of its
organizations; but the blurring between some intelligence and non-intelligence bodies has to be
Distinctions are made between so-called 'strategic resources' - institutionally the national and
central departments and agencies described in the last chapter - and the so-called 'tactical'
resources under the control of military commands. Intelligence is cheap compared with armed
force or policing; governments can afford to buy a lot of it for the cost of a frigate, or for the
police manpower deployed on anti-terrorist protection.
Stages and process in intelligence
Single source and all source analysis
Intelligence is a sequential, inter-agency process. The first stage is collection, with 'single-
source' output, usually in the form of written reports, from each of the collection sources. The
second stage is 'all-source analysis', which draws on all available information to produce
'finished intelligence'. Following these first two stages is the distribution ('dissemination') of
intelligence's reports to the non-intelligence world of decision and policy. The largest portion
of the budget goes to intelligence collection.
All-source analysis and finished intelligence > modern collection merges intellectually into
the all-source stage; analysis and interpretation permeate both. Intelligence is evidence driven,
but most of the evidence emerges from processing of some kind; it does not have separable
elements of 'facts' and 'interpretation'. A give-and-take between the two takes place at all stages.
It is important to have an institutional separation between single source and all source
employees as they have different responsibilities. Those engaged in collection are experts on
intelligence techniques but their all-source colleagues are the experts on intelligence subjects.
They have the final responsibility for evaluating all evidence on them. The essence of their
work is therefore that they not only weigh different intelligence sources against each other but
also draw on any available non-intelligence sources; they must not give special weight to secret
evidence simply because it is secret. Policy-makers get some single-source intelligence reports
direct, but if the subjects call for authoritative intelligence judgments, they should call on the
All Community Assessment
The additional all-source process - national assessment, provides a meeting of minds through
interdepartmental machinery. But this is an expensive process that can only be a selective
service to top leaders on important issues; departmental representatives cannot be gathered
together for everything. Most finished intelligence is produced by the individual all-source
agencies and does not go through this interdepartmental stage.
Dissemination and user liaison
Disseminating intelligence product makes up another stage, although closely related to
intelligence production. Its aim is the delivery of useful, user-friendly product at the right time,
especially when timeliness is of the essence for decision-taking. Effective intelligence depends
on having adequate communications with the recipients.