Secret Affairs 2 – literature summary
Herman, M. (1996). Intelligence power in peace and war.
Different forms of intelligence threats
Intelligence as a power threat
Intelligence has some effects as a threat on those who are conscious of being its targets. In war
and similar situations security reactions to intelligence threats restrict the reactors' operational
freedom of action and effectiveness, particularly the effectiveness of their communications in
permanent compromises between security and user-friendliness. Similarly, in conditions of
prolonged conflict the counterintelligence threat to the opponent's intelligence limits its
effectiveness. Most intelligence is an 'enabling' facility, helping the world of action to exercise
national power and influence. But power is sometimes described as 'power over' others; and in
this respect intelligence as a threat exercises some power over opponents.
The record of Cold War espionage needs no recapitulation here. It was seen by each side as a
threat not just to national secrecy, but also to state and society, and the sheer scale and intensity
heightened these effects. perceptions. Espionage and counterespionage were left to the
professionals, but governments and public opinion on both sides were exposed to the long
succession of spy cases which brought intrusive intelligence to their attention. This inflicted
continual influence on the mutual 'enemy images' of irreconcilable hostility.
Intelligence collection and embassies
Cold War espionage was closely linked with the position of intelligence officers as agent-
runners and recruiters, operating from embassies under diplomatic cover. The growth of
embassy radio communications also gave increased cover for radio interception; sixty-two
Soviet embassies were said to be interception sites late in the Cold War. Embassies also became
the objects of bugging and many other kinds of short-range technical attack.
'Close access' technical operations
Features of such operations were close approaches to national territory, territorial waters and
airspace, and occasional penetrations into them. Even without actual intrusion, close approaches
could be seen as provocation.
Apart from the peacetime political results of intrusive intelligence, there are the results of
intelligence as an operational threat. Warning systems are 'threats' to surprise attack; at
least they make potential aggressors think twice about whether they can achieve surprise. More
substantially, all collection, non-intrusive as well as intrusive, leads its targets to take
At a practical level information security costs money and affects efficiency. It must take the
form mainly of rules based on pessimistic assumptions about the extent of the intelligence
threats. Initiative and short cuts on security matters must be discouraged since those concerned
cannot know if they are giving opposing intelligence a breakthrough.
Similar constraints apply to clandestine opponents in peace. Terrorism must be highly
security-conscious; it is forced by the intelligence threat to it to adopt cell structures and
maximum secrecy, with all the limitations these bring for the scope and flexibility of terrorist
action. Furthermore, the threat effect applies particularly to military command and control
and the associated communications. Security is often an argument against technical
innovation. The risk of radio interception is a good example, the struggle between security
and efficiency in communication 'must end in a complex compromise.
The counter-intelligence threat
These threat effects also apply within intelligence itself; indeed, hostile intelligence imposes
more constraints on the intelligence world than on the non-intelligence one, since intelligence
depends so much on its own source protection. Agencies take special security precautions
that are even more stringent than their users' restrictions on operational information.
Intelligence is kept in separate compartments and not shared; institutional memory is limited
by rules about destroying material after use; overseas liaisons are restricted by the risk that
foreign partners may be penetrated.
Development of the international dimension
Regular cooperation of this kind is a twentieth-century development, but exchanges of some
kind have a much longer history. Allies have always shared some information in war, and
information exchanges have always been part of diplomacy. Yet regular peacetime exchanges
did not take place until well after intelligence's nineteenth-century institutionalization. The rise
of Hitler then gave a special impetus to exchanges on the German threat.
A good example is the extensive UK-US cooperation. Key features in it were the concept of
combined intelligence assessments as agreed inputs to the Combined Chiefs of Staff; the
establishment of some UK-US intelligence organizations and staffs; the integration of
specialists from one nation within the organizations of the other; and the idea of 'divisions of
effort' whereby one country took on responsibility for selected areas and tasks on behalf of both.
Reasons for collaboration
One basic reason for cooperation is that there is always more information potentially
available than any agency can collect by itself. The appetite for information is insatiable, and
even the US must collaborate with others to meet it. For Britain and others, access to the United
States' weight of resources, technology and expertise is an overwhelming attraction. But there
are more specific reasons for cooperation >
1. Most states can carry out some unique collection with unique results. Some
collection for example can only be carried out by the local intelligence organization,
with its physical surveillance of people and premises, its access to police etc.
2. The significance in Sigint and other technical collection of local geography. One
reason for this is that many emissions were not otherwise interceptable.
Unique local assets and local geography merge into wider kinds of burden-sharing and joint
operations. If the collaborator has the necessary technical competence, his contribution can be
to assume responsibility for geographic areas or subjects. Or there can be burden-sharing and
divisions of effort between close partners or between major powers and their clients.
Restraints on collaboration
There are constant reasons for professional caution. International relationships cost time and
effort; material received from abroad is not altogether a free good. All organizations have the
usual institutional conviction that no-one else's work is as reliable as their own. Small
organizations also have an instinct that cooperation with big foreign ones runs the risk of being
swallowed up by them. Above all there are the risks to sources. Every new foreign exchange
is a new risk, through intelligence penetration of the foreign agency or its users, its careless
handling or public leaking of the material, or its deliberate use of it in trading with its other
Political influences on intelligence liaisons
Intelligence is influenced by foreign policy but also influences it. Quite often the political and
professional-technical factors point in the same direction. Occasionally it may be so vital to
plug national intelligence gaps that requests for help from foreign liaisons are put at a
national political level, as when Israel asked for US intelligence during the 1973 Yom Kippur.
Generally, however the picture is of the political and professional levels operating separately
but reinforcing each other. Thus, major flows of intelligence tend to be natural corollaries
of politico-military alliances, as in NATO. The same applies to international political
collaboration on specific subjects such as international sanctions, the dissemination of
advanced military technology, nuclear proliferation.
The production processes
In the second world war, British Sigint success came not only from cipher breaking, but also
from fast exploitation and delivery of the product. Other intelligence is moving in the same
direction, and this change brings the need for management which aims at effectiveness and
efficiency, to search for quality.