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The Century of Intelligence
The twentieth century has been the century of Intelligence. It has been many other things as well, a century of astonishing scientific and technological developments and of equally astonishing brutalities and atrocities. But among all the things that distinguish our century from those that have gone before, let us focus for a moment on a particularly intriguing one. Not intelligence, to be sure, but Intelligence: the systematic and purposeful acquisition, sorting, retrieval, analysis, interpretation, and protection of information. There is no need to put too fine a gloss on this: we are talking about spying.
Of course spying is as old as recorded history. According to the Old Testament, "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying 'Send men that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I will give to the children of Israel.... ' Lacking God's imprimatur, a former counsel for the CIA has described espionage as the "world's second oldest profession and just as honourable as the first." There have always been secrets, and people have always attempted to uncover them. Spyingwith its repulsive yet alluring masks, deception, betrayal of loyalties, and knowledge illicitly gainedhas always had its attractions as well as its detractors. And its advantages, too, for stolen secrets have often yielded power and profits for their new owners.
However, it is only in this century that spying has become a systematically organized bureaucratic activity with its own specialized institutionalstructure, its own technologies, its own scientific knowledge base, and its own semi-autonomous role in global politics. Consider the second world war, the largest global conflict in history, which Sir Winston Churchill described as the "wizard war." Churchill's wizards were mathematicians and academic dons, among them the man who invented the concept of the computer. The wizards were gathered at a secret location in rural England called Bletchley Park where they cracked the codes used by the German military so that Churchill in his command bunker under London's streets could read what the Nazi military were going to do and when they would do it. Other "wizards" in Washington cracked the Japanese codes, with the result that, in the words of military historian John Keegan, at Midway ("the most important naval battle of the [war]") "knowledge of Japanese intentions allowed the Americans to position their inferior fleet of carriers in such a way as to destroy the much larger enemy force." Intelligence did not win the war for the Allies, but it was a considerable help, just as inferior Intelligence accelerated the decline of the Axis.
With the Manhattan Project and the epochal explosion of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the significance of Intelligence was racheted up dramatically. In 1945, America held the only key to the secret power of nuclear fission. The Soviet Union dedicated scientific and material resources to their catch-up project, but it also dedicated espionage resources on a large scale. In 1951, at the height of the early Cold War, with Americans fighting Communist soldiers in Korea and Senator Joe McCarthy hunting Communists in America, Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to die in the electric chair for "putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb." Their espionage, the judge told the defendants, "has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but what millions more innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal, you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country." Despite world-wide protests, the Rosenbergs were both duly put to death, leaving two young orphaned sons. The intelligence stakes had become very high.
STATES AND THE LOVE OF KNOWLEDGE
It is impossible to separate the contemporary status of Intelligence from two key features of the twentieth century: dramatic advances in scientific knowledge and its practical application, especially in increasingly lethal military technology; and an international system built on sovereign nation-states, the most powerful of which developed into militarized superpowers. Nation-states, jealously guarding their prerogatives (or pretensions) as sovereign autonomous actors, sought to protect their national security through military strength, either alone or through alliances. Science and the weaponry that could be derived from science were the keys to strength, and hence security. Thus the acquisition of knowledge became a key state activity, in more than one way. Scientists, supported by research infrastructure provided by the state, learned the secrets of nature and applied that knowledge to the secretive development of technology. States also devoted resources to acquiring the knowledge gathered by other states, by voluntary exchange where possible (through alliances) but by aggressive and intrusive collection (espionage) where necessary.
Many have pointed to the perversion of free scientific inquiry: the fruits of scientific research transformed by the alchemy of war and Cold War into national secrets stored within closely guarded arsenals of death. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the development of nuclear weapons. Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, who had been in overall charge of the scientific aspects of the Manhattan Project, grappled with the ethical dilemmas of the uses of the power he had helped unleash, and later questioned the development of the hydrogen bomb. In 1954, his own security clearance was revoked. Yet Oppenheimer's qualms were far more muted than many other scientists. Some atomic scientists, such as Klaus Fuchs, Alan Nunn May, and Bruno Pontecorvo, had even taken matters into their own hands and passed information to the Soviet Union, both before and after the wartime alliance, thus raising ethical dilemmas of a different order. Dr. Albert Einstein, whose earlier theoretical innovations in physics had helped to lay the groundwork for nuclear development, vainly pleaded for peace and cooperation among nations.
Science had been mobilized for war. Intended to restore security in the war of all against all, Intelligence escalated insecurity. Itself increasingly technologized, Intelligence offered the potential to probe ever more invasively into the most closely guarded secrets of the other side, while seductively but deceitfully promising to protect our own secrets. Once settled on this course, states embarked on a vicious circle in which they reached for greater security but grasped only greater insecurity. In a century that saw a veritable explosion of new communications technologies, each technical enhancement of communication called forth new technologies to intercept and read what was being communicated. Following the telegraph and telephone came wiretapping; wireless radio communication prompted the development of new techniques to scoop signals out of the "ether." Communications dedicated for authorized recipients only were encoded to baffle prying eyes and ears, and decryption science was born. Missile technology led to space technology which in turn permitted the stationing in orbit of spy satellites designed to read missile capabilities of hostile states and pinpoint their launching sites for preemptive strikes. The same technology also made it possible to launch weapons of mass destruction from space. Eventually, "Star Wars" technology promised security from attack by a computer-generated anti-missile virtual defence "dome" in the stratosphere. Fortunately for everyone, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the end of the Cold War slowed this mad escalator.
The close connection between science, technology, military power, and Intelligence has often been summarized in the maxim that "knowledge is power." There is a lot wrong with this maxim: ignorant power in this century has been known to crush powerless knowledge; and the producers of knowledge have often seen the fruits of their intellectual labor come back to oppress them. Yet for all its ironies and complexities, the maxim has a unique resonance in this century.
This maxim might be amended to fit more precisely the nuances of a technological age. If Intelligence as an organized state or corporate activity is different from intelligence as a quality of mind, so too "knowledge" differs from "information." Knowledge in the older philosophical or religious sense has little or nothing to do with information. The use of scientific knowledge for power through technological development is not at all about knowledge in the older sense. Intelligence has been about the purposeful acquisition of information, that is, specific pieces or bits of "useful" knowledge, rather than knowledge itself. Knowledge becomes information, which in turn becomes "data." Data in computer science is information represented in a form (preferably quantitative) suitable for processing. More generally, data is information organized for scientific analysis or used to make decisions. There can be little doubt that control of this kind of information can yield real power.
THE ODD COUPLE: SPY AND SCHOLAR
There are curious parallels between the worlds of Intelligence and academia. In some cases, the two worlds have come together explosively, as when the brilliant mathematician Alan Turing helped break the German codes at Bletchley. In the United States, academics from the Ivy League universities were important players in the wartime Office of Strategic Services and in the early days of its peacetime successor, the CIA. It has often been said that some of the best minds in the old Soviet Union ended up in the KGB or its various predecessor agencies. There is more to this than some envious attraction of armchair scholars to the shadow world of cloaks and daggers. Intelligence and academia are both in a sense the same business: the systematic and organized collection, analysis, and interpretation of informationand the construction of theories to explain the facts thus processed. Throughout this century, both Intelligence and academia have become specialized and compartmentalized, and external rewards for academic research have increasingly fostered the quantifiable over the qualitative, and data/information analysis over the older notion of knowledge/ wisdom. Both Intelligence analysts and academics tend to labor within frameworks that structure and sometimes limit their capacity to understand changing or disconsonant reality. Both are often subject to the frustration of having the powerful, but less knowledgeable, dismiss or ignore their counsels and act in defiance of their advice. The world of Intelligence is studded with horror stories of "Intelligence failures" attributed to willful, ignorant, stubborn political leaders unwilling to listen to what they did not wish to hear, just as the world of public-policy making is littered with academic ideas discarded by politicians in favor of mediocre compromises with wealth and power. Finally, both spies and professors have sometimes been in the uncomfortable, even dangerous, position of telling truth to power.
Three key distinctions remain, however, between spy and academic. First, the information Intelligence is after has deliberately been kept secret. This implies covert collection, which usually mean that spies systematically break the laws of the countries they target. Academics generally pursue open sources of information. Espionage thus regularly touches on a dark side of human naturelying, deception, betrayalthat may be pathologies of academic life, but are not its routine. Second, Intelligence is a product ordered, produced, and consumed by a single customer, usually the state, and more recently corporations. Academics attempt to publish their findings as widely as possible. If they fail to reach past a tiny initiated audience, the problem is more one of arcane subject matter and exclusionary language than of external constraints. The third distinction is that Intelligence is predicated on hostility among nations, and a competition between them that is not only endemic but potentially deadly. Academic life may be competitive but its ideal, at least, is a peaceful, cooperative pursuit of knowledge.
Beyond these obvious differences, the underlying affinity is extraordinary. The two worlds, with their shared interest in the acquisition and accumulation of information/data as keys to controlof nature and of people and stateshave forged a relationship that many find uncomfortably close. The relationship has been particularly fruitful in the technologization of Intelligence toward increasingly sophisticated capacities for sensing, listening, and watching from great distances and across exquisitely constructed defensive barriersfrom underwater sonar to listening posts scanning the ether to photo reconnaissance satellites orbiting in space. These advanceslike the computer and the Internetare the product of science and Intelligence working together under military auspices. In fact, the Information Revolution that is sweeping the world at the end of this century owes its genesis, to a large degree, to this odd couple of spy and scholar.
THE WILDERNESS OF MIRRORS
In the Hobbesian world of Intelligence, information is shadowed by its doppelgänger, disinformation; Intelligence by counterintelligence; espionage by counterespionage. As Michael Howard has written, with regard to military Intelligence:
All surprise rests upon concealment, and "security" is one of the classical "principles of war." But few intelligent commanders have ever been satisfied simply with concealing their intentions or their strength. The commander who wishes to impose his will on the enemywhich is, after all, the object of military operationswill seek to deceive him; to implant in the adversary's mind an erroneous image which will lead the adversary to act in such a way as to make his own task easier.... He will, in short, try to get inside the mind of the enemy commander, assess that commander's appreciation of the position on both sides, and then produce for the enemy, through all available channels, the information that will lead him to make the dispositions which will best conform to his own plan. It is not enough to persuade the enemy to think something: it is necessary to persuade him to do something. The object of deception ... is to affect the actions of the adversary.
There have been spectacular examples of deception in the Intelligence game. During World War II, the British were not only able to read German communications, but they were able, through the now-famous "double-cross" system, to "turn" virtually every German spy into a double agent, sometimes complete with a fictitious network, transmitting to the gullible German spymasters only information that British Intelligence wanted the Nazi command to consume. Thus Hitler was given radically misleading indicators about Allied plans and intentions, with dramatic results. For instance, a completely non-existent U.S. Army group pinned down an entire Wehrmacht army in the Pas de Calais in 1944.
During the long years of the Cold War, that quasi-conflict that Mary Kaldor insightfully called the "Imaginary War," the gossamer skein of lies, counter-lies, and counter-counter-lies that lay between the great Intelligence agencies of East and West, had grown so intricate that some clever minds, charged with trying to unravel the patterns, seem in the end to have gone quite mad. How else to explain the gaunt, haunted figure of James Jesus Angleton, the head of counterintelligence at the CIA, whose hunt for Soviet double-agents grew so frenetic, so undisciplined, and so all-encompassing that the CIA finally sacked him, on the perfectly reasonable assumption that a Soviet mole could hardly do as much damage to the agency and national security as Angleton's own manic mole hunt. Or Angleton's British counterpart, Peter Wright, also sacked for spreading clouds of suspicion, who proudly titled his memoirs "Spycatcher."
Was a defector from the other side what he appeared to be, or was he a plant to spread disinformation? Once set in motion, wheels of suspicion powered an infernal machine. Another striking metaphor has often been used for this strange business: "a wilderness of mirrors". The complexity of reflexive suspicion can be glimpsed in the nuances of the term "disinformation." Disinformation is not misinformation; it is information expertly laced with strategically chosen misinformation. Genuine information is the bait to lure the prey to swallow the hook. But the hook must be carefully hidden and the bait enticing, for the target is, after all, inherently suspicious and discerning. It is not as if every participant does not understand the unwritten rules. Indeed, the other side has its own bait and its own hooks. There is even the dark possibility that, if the other side swallows the proffered bait and seems to be hooked, appearances may be horribly deceiving. Perhaps, as one reels in the prey, it is actually oneself that is being captured through a deception one fatal step more complex than one's own.
In the 1950s at the very heart of the Cold War in divided Berlin, the West built a tunnel under Communist East Berlin to tap into Soviet military communications. The tunnel operated for nearly a year, during which period nearly half a million Soviet conversations were tapped, until the Soviets publicly declared they had discovered the tunnel and the operation came to an end. However, a Soviet agent well-placed within British Intelligence, George Blake, had in fact tipped off the KGB to the plans for the tunnel even before construction began. Still, they let it go ahead and operate for a year. For one thing, the KGB did not wish to alert the West to the existence of the traitor within their ranks. During the time the tunnel operated, the Soviets might have been feeding disinformation to the West to create deceptions and diversions, yet there had to be enough nuggets of good information amid any dross to convince Western Intelligence that the operation was working. According to Western analysts looking back on the period, the yield was rich. As it turns out, the KGB did not alert its parallel military Intelligence agency, the GRU (the real target of the operation in the first instance) of the existence of the tunnel, whether out of inter-agency rivalry or because of a misplaced use of the "need-to-know" rule. Even now, when at least some of the files of the CIA and the KGB have been opened to scholars, and when participants on both sides at the time are ready to more or less freely reminisce about their doings, an irreducible ambiguity remains about who, if anyone, really won in this murky affair.
Once launched into this mirror world, there is no escape from claustrophobia. Or from the very human sense of betrayal necessarily involved in the duplicitous world of human Intelligence. The story of espionage is studded with the names of the great traitors: Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, John Cairncross, George Blake, Aldrich Ames: men who lived double lives, appearing to serve their countries but instead clandestinely serving their countries' enemies, who sold out their friends and colleagues, and in some cases may even have delivered agents and sources whose lives were in their trust into imprisonment, torture, and death. A very bad business, no doubt, but one that has generated a literature of fascination, of which John Le Carré's oeuvre is the leading example.
Part of the fascination, aside from that of the dark side of human nature, derives from the very mirror imaging I have been describing. Our traitors are the other side's heroes. And vice versa. There was always a certain ambiguity in how Intelligence defectors from the other side were welcomed in the West. On the one hand, they represented victories over the enemy, especially if they remained in place as double-agents wreaking havoc within rival services. Moreover, by courageously choosing freedom over totalitarianism, they illustrated the moral superiority of our way of life. Yet there remained always a slight residuum of suspicion toward those who had, after all, betrayed their country. Moreover, at least at a time when Western moles for the U.S.S.R. still had ideological motives, they too claimed a higher loyalty than country. In the latter years of the Cold War, greed and other ignoble motives began to replace principled devotion to an ideal, however perverted that ideal might seem to those of a different persuasion. It was one thing to be betrayed by Kim Philby, who saw himself as a soldier in a lifelong cause of proletarian revolution; it is quite another to be betrayed by Aldrich Ames, who was paid $1.8 million by his Russian handlers and promised a lavish country dacha on retirement. But the exploitation of human weaknessand indeed the use of blackmail as a weapon, especially when based on that old standby, sexwas always near the roots of the spy business, lending some of the same beguiling aura of sleaze and corruption to spy fiction as has always drawn readers to the detective novel. Spying is, to repeat, the "second oldest profession," and thus an ideal frame for tales that linger with fascination over sex, deceit, and death, while drawing suitable moral lessons.
THE AUTOMATION OF INTELLIGENCE
The severe human costs of the spying business, costs shared all around and by all sides, may well have helped confirm a trend through the latter half of the century away from human Intelligence toward automated Intelligence gathering. Signals interception and communications intelligence, technologies still evolving at a exponential pace, have added dazzling extensions to the human ear. Most audio communications can be intercepted by a series of ground-based listening posts linked in a global network. During the Cold War, Western communications intelligence was directed against the Soviet bloc. When the Korean commercial airliner KAL-007 was shot down over Soviet airspace in 1983, the American government immediately was able to provide the media with a complete audio transcript of the conversations between the Soviet pilot who launched the fatal shots and his ground control. This kind of communications intelligence was routine; only its public release was unusual.
Aerial reconnaissance in the early Cold War provided invaluable pictures of military installations inside the Soviet Union, but it was also vulnerable to countermeasures, such as the embarrassing downing of the American U-2 spy plane and the capture of its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, in 1960. The coming of the space age in the late 1950s opened up more secure vehicles for eyes in the sky. At first, spy satellites orbiting the earth produced images that had to be ejected and retrieved, but current models transmit digitized images in real time. High-resolution pictures can distinguish objects on the ground as small as one foot or even less. Apart from their relative invulnerability to counter measures, one of the great advantages of spy satellites is their capacity to obtain different kinds of images by utilizing different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Infrared and thermal infrared photography, for instance, can detect and identify features not visible to the naked eye. Thermal infrared can, for instance, point to the presence of buried installations by detecting heat differences on the earth's surface, and both infrared and thermal infrared can "see" at night. Radar imaging can penetrate cloud cover. Computerized image enhancement can analyze imagery and draw out pertinent data while subtracting irrelevant features. Disadvantages of satellite reconnaissance include the high risk involved in launching satellites with expensive payloads (even today, launch failures continue), and the inflexibility and limited targeting that come with fixed orbits. The end of the Cold War caught U.S. Intelligence with an overinvestment in spy satellites fixed on the Soviet bloc. For the turn of the century, a new generation of small intelligence satellites will provide almost constant overhead images of specific trouble spots anywhere in the world. In the post-Cold War era, there have been strong pressures to make the powerful capacities of satellite imagery available to scientific and environmental research, as well as for commercial exploitation, a matter that will be explored in a later chapter.
Technical Intelligence gathering extends further yet. Sensitive seismic monitors record every slight twitch of the earth's crustand carefully note the exact magnitude of underground nuclear weapons tests. The precise courses of submarines are tracked through the silent depths of the world's seas. All this complex hardware is served by the ever-accelerating capacity for data storage, retrieval and processing, and the development of extraordinarily recondite software to separate "signals" from "noise": for instance, keyword and even voice-recognition "flags" that can pluck the tiny number of nuggets from the limitless volume of dross scooped up by the electronic eavesdropping posts vacuuming communications out of the sky. Or so-called Artificial Intelligence software that can spot money-laundering movements out of the total number of financial transactions occurring at any time on a global scale, by distinguishing anomalous from normal patterns of financial flows.
Automated Intelligence is more expensive than human Intelligence because it is capital intensive, but it has been gaining in popularity, slowly but surely, over its older, traditional rival. Apart from the expansive technological promise, there are certain advantages to replacing human spies with machines. Machines do not knowingly or deliberately lie and deceive and cheat. Nor do they get drunk and blurt out secrets, or land themselves in compromising situations, such as beds with people to whom they are not married. When secrets are passed not through betrayal by trusted associates, but by distant machines scanning the skies and seas and earth, there is also less risk of political complications. Indeed, it gradually dawned on both the United States and the U.S.S.R. that the extraterrestrial Panopticon of spy satellites tirelessly snapping x-rays of the other side's nuclear-strike capacities was actually a stabilizing factor in the superpower confrontation. With both sides professing peaceful, defensive intentions, automated espionage simply confirmed this state of affairs, or at least made it less likely that either side could mount a deadly first strike in secret. Yet if the same Intelligence had been passed by highly placed human moles, there might have been public scandal, with who knows what catastrophic consequences. So the Rosenbergs went to their deaths for allegedly assisting the other superpower to acquire the nuclear capacity to strike the balance of terror that may well have prevented a third world war, while spy satellites circling the earth were credited with building the trust that eventually allowed both superpowers to agree to arms-limitation treaties.
There have been ongoing debates within the Intelligence world about the comparative merits of HUMINT (human-source Intelligence) and TECHINT (Intelligence gathered by technical means). There are clear limitations to the present technology. TECHINT, while excellent for gathering material evidence on such matters as troop deployments and command communications, can probably never get inside the heads of decision-makers and grasp their motives and intentions. It is a matter of some considerable notoriety that the American Intelligence community, despite having its most extensive and sophisticated complex of intrusive surveillance technology focused on the Communist world, failed to foresee the collapse of Communism, the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. However intelligent future Intelligence machines may become, human beings program and direct them, and at the end of the day human beings make use of the Intelligence product, or do not, as the case may be. The day of machines entirely displacing human operators remains strictly in the field of science fiction. However, there is no doubt that Intelligence as an organized activity has greatly intensified the development of communications and information technologyand has been itself transformed significantly as a result. In that sense the question of human vs. technical Intelligence is a false alternative: man and machine have been growing together.
GLOBAL POLITICAL POLICING
The Intelligence establishment has gained notoriety, in some cases infamy, for activities other than the gathering of information by covert means. The Americans, with their global reach, turned their hands to a kind of undercover global policing. Interventions in various Third World countries took the form of everything from covertly organized destabilizations to assassinations and coups. Specialized Intelligence skills and resources, ranging from propaganda/disinformation to political manipulation to covert forms of military assistance to rebels, were mobilized to effect actual changes in other countries, instead of just gathering Intelligence. The textbook case was Guatemala in 1954, when the CIA orchestrated a kind of coup by deception, a staged media event that frightened the president into flight and ushered in decades of repressive military rule. Other covert actions were not always as successful (if success in this case is the proper term) but the CIA did gain a global reputation for having its hidden fingers in every pie in every corner of the world, a reputation quite likely out of proportion to that agency's actual capacity for effective mischief.
Superpowers are easily tempted to undertake covert interventions to advance their foreign-policy interests. Networks of agents, sources, and dupes have been carefully constructed, fed, and maintained for intelligence gathering. It is a short step to convert these resources for active use in interventions intended to change the course of events in other countries. Intelligence professionals in the collection and analysis side are not always pleased with what the operations people do, but governments tend to prefer concrete results to yet more analysis. The very special attraction of Intelligence intervention, as opposed to more open forms, has always been that it could be effected secretly. If the intervention succeeded, its sponsors achieved their goals. If it failed, the sponsoring state could avoid the obloquy of humiliating failure. Or so the theory went. In practice, as the CIA and the U.S. government learned to their chagrin, failures did have a way of spilling out into public notice. Nevertheless, controversies and criticisms, and even the end of the Cold War, appear not to have removed the temptation to use covert operations in the service of foreign policy, though media and congressional recriminations in the 1970s have resulted in a formal ban on assassinations of foreign leaders as a tool of American policy.
The increasingly sophisticated technology of Intelligence has also come importantly into play in America's role as global cop. Post-Cold War control of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction depends on the capacity of the U.S. Intelligence establishment's early warning systemits land-sea-air-space surveillance gridto alert the "world community" to activities by so-called rogue states to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; to monitor compliance with international arms-limitation agreements by states that already possess such weapons; and to track the movements and communications of non-state actors viewed as actual or potential threats. To be sure, closer human inspection and intervention may be required for enforcementas witness the wars of nerve between the United States/United Nations and Saddam Hussein's Iraqbut the global technological gaze into every nook and cranny of the earth is the foundation upon which it is predicated.
DOMESTIC POLITICAL POLICING
Undercover political policing on a global scale is only one use (or misuse) to which Intelligence is put. Far more significant for millions of people has been the utilization of the tools of Intelligence for internal security: repression of dissent and dissenters; control of turbulent or "dangerous" classes; compulsory political conformity; and the pervasive and intrusive surveillance and regulation of everyday life. The totalitarian police state stands at one pole; what exists in practice at the other is not a pure "free" society, but a liberal democratic state that contains some authoritarian and illiberal elements. National security, or national insecurity to be more precise, is an anxiety that afflicts states across the ideological spectrum. Intelligence in the service of domestic political policing has been used by governments of all persuasions, and every type of state has relied at least from time to time on secret or political police against the perceived threat of subversion, if not revolution. The incidence and severity of repression has varied a great deal, of courseit would be foolish to equate the witch-hunts of McCarthy-era America, however unpleasant, with the grisly depredations of the Stalinist regimes of the same period, just as it would be inappropriate to match the sporadic transgressions of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI with the routine snooping of the East German Stasi. Yet however different the texture of domestic Intelligence in different regimes, it is the universality of the phenomenon in the twentieth century that is most arresting. The tools for internal surveillance and control being available, no state has resisted the temptation to use them, and few have not attempted to refine the tools yet further. States with many external and internal enemies, real and potential, have often used these tools recklessly and brutally; states with higher degrees of domestic consensus have most often used the tools with greater restraint, discretion, and skill, usually during periodic bouts of national or state insecurity. Such relative restraint, however, has served to mask the negative effects of secret political policing on the practice of liberal democracy.
Fears for internal security and of enemies within tend to be sparked in the first instance by international insecurity. The pathologies of counterintelligence, described above, are intimately linked to the perception of the enemy within as an insidious extension of the enemy without. The "fifth columnist," the spy, the saboteur, the foreign-directed terrorist or subversive: these are images that draw their menace, and fascination, from the blurring of Inside and Outside, of Us and Them. The Cold War image of "reds under the bed" captures this anxiety indelibly. Xenophobia, ideology, and sexual/cultural panic all reinforced one another.
In the years prior to World War I, with the clouds of great power conflict gathering on the horizon, a spy panic swept Britain, fed by the popular press and a new breed of writers who were in effect inventing the modern spy novel. The villains of these novels were German agents intent on undermining British power and security; the heroes were British patriots alert to the secret menace of the Hun within. The British public was aroused to the threat of the internal enemy, defined at this time in clearly ethnic terms, and lurid reports of Hunnish knavery began to circulate. The British state, moved more by such fanciful reports than by concrete evidence, concluded that "an extensive system of German espionage exists in this country, and ... we have no organisation for keeping in touch with that espionage and for accurately determining its extent or objectives." Accordingly, Whitehall seized the opportunity to create the Secret Service, out of which evolved the external and internal Intelligence agencies, MI6 and MI5. The line between Intelligence reality and Intelligence fantasy was from the start rather blurred, as in a sense it has always remained. Needless to say, similar spy phobias also arose in Germany at this time, with roles reversed, but with similar results.
With the war over and the Hun vanquished, at least for the moment, the new Intelligence agencies turned their attention to a different kind of enemy within, one defined more by ideology than ethnicity. The 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia spawned a spectre that was to obsess Western Intelligence for most of this century: the Communist operative whose domestic revolutionary agenda (bad enough of course in itself) was tied directly to the international threat of the Soviet Union, thus doubling the stakes. For their part, the Bolsheviks pioneered the ruthless use of the secret police as a primary weapon for the consolidation and maintenance of state power, at appalling human cost in purges, arrests, tortures, gulags, and mass murder. The Cheka (Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage), eventually to become the KGB, founded what has been called a "counterintelligence state" that made no distinctions between internal security and external Intelligence operations. Bolshevism had no monopoly over police-state forms, as was evident in the Nazi takeover in Germany in 1933, with its Gestapo arm. After Nazism's G"tterdmmerung in 1945, the eastern half of Germany from the late 1940s to the end of the 1980s combined both Gestapo and Cheka traditions in the Stasi with a surveillance apparatus that penetrated every nook and cranny of civil society, turning friends into informers against friends, even spouses against spouses. The brutality quotient of the Gestapo may have been higher, but for minute detailed efficiency, the Stasi were superior: the ratio of Gestapo agents to citizens was about one to l0,000; by the late 1980s, the Stasi had reached the remarkable ratio of one to 200. Yet both systems failed to sustain themselves.
However repulsive the face of totalitarian repression, we should not turn a blind eye to certain similar practices in Western liberal democraciesthemselves national insecurity stateseven if qualitatively these features never added up to anything approaching the nightmare of the Nazi or Communist police states. The beliefs common to internal security regimes may be summarized as follows:
An external enemy or adversary is employing a fifth column of agents whose real loyalties, whether for ideological or ethnic reasons, are to the adversary state. The weapons of this fifth column may include espionage, terrorism, sabotage, covert foreign-directed activities of various kinds intended to advance the interests of the enemy, and subversion (the clandestine undermining from within of the integrity and will of the nation and its values). To combat this threat, the enemy within must be identified, isolated, and barred from influenceideally extirpated altogether, but at the very least watched very closely and contained. To accomplish these goals, it is necessary to develop and maintain extensive surveillance of suspicious groups and individuals, and to build up extensive dossiers on questionable political activity and activists (such dossiers must be cumulative and permit cross-checking or matching with other data bases on citizens and groups). The most effective means of amassing such dossiers is through internal Intelligence networks of agents and sources on much the same lines as external Intelligence networks are formed; both human and technical methods of surveillance are employed as required. Further, what is to be identified is risk, not necessarily criminal acts, as such. The security system operates outside the rules of the legal system and ideally ought not to be subject to judicial reviewor, where unavoidable, such review should only take place within strict limits. This is compounded by the requirement that the security agency protect the identity of its sources, its modus operandi, and the content of its files from external publicity, and even from other sectors within the administrative apparatus of the state. In this way, the security apparatus takes on more or less of the attributes of a secret state within the state. The specific criteria for establishing risk will vary from regime to regime and from time to time, but in all times and all places these criteria will be overtly political, indicating borders between legitimate and illegitimate or safe and dangerous political opinions, associations, or expressions; less overtly, they may also encompass character "weaknesses" that are thought likely to make an individual vulnerable to blackmail or manipulation by hostile elements, but such "weaknesses" will usually themselves reflect political judgments about behavioral traits, such as condemnation of homosexuality or disapproval of lifestyles, and the like.
There were structural similarities between Hoover's FBI and Beria's KGB, however different in practice these two regimes and their secret police establishments. The point is not to offer moral equations, which would be inherently inappropriate, but rather to note how vastly different regimes, based on radically different principles, could nevertheless have followed certain structural paths that seem at least superficially similar. People who fell foul of the FBI might experience career problems, they might even lose their jobs and find themselves on a blacklist; very occasionally they might end up in prison or tied up in litigation. The victims of the Soviet secret police's displeasure were more likely to end in the gulag or dead. Yet in both cases human beings had become files, cases, shadow profiles of themselves that were more or less caricatures, bureaucratic cartoons that abstracted certain attributes, or alleged attributes, and exaggerated them: X once associated with Y, who associated with known Trotskyites (Communists); infected by Trotskyism (Communism), X's subsequent behavior and thoughts must be reinterpreted as those of a subversive (counter) revolutionary. Words and deeds that might otherwise seem innocent or unexceptional could take on the most sinister connotations, once the persona of the files began to overshadow the real-world individual. And these connotations could have real consequences for real people, more brutal in some regimes than in others, but in all cases based on the information amassed in the files of the political police.
Table of Contents
|1The Century of Intelligence||5|
|3Cyberspace: The Library of Babel||47|
|4"The Night Has a Thousand Eyes": New Technologies of|
|5Dark Towers: Data Bases and Alienation||123|
|6The Participatory Panopticon||139|
|7Big Brother Outsourced: The Globalized Panopticon||160|