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GNOSIS 2/2006
Intelligence and
National Security

Mario MORI

By courtesy of the ‘Institute of the Italian Encyclopaedia’, founded by Giovanni Treccani, the editorial staff offers to the reader, the participation of the Director of the SISDe, Prefect Mario Mori, on the subject ‘Intelligence and National Security’, published in the TRECCANI BOOK OF THE YEAR 2005. The following pages, therefore, deal with ‘procedural’ themes, through which to rationalize the significance, ambit and conceptual systems which are the very foundation of intelligence activities, and with this, contributing to the elaboration of a doctrine which boasts of very ancient forerunners. In addition, a section is proposed on the other international realities of intelligence, above all, with regard to the different systems of national security defence and to the underlying socio-political and juridical culture. Also analysed is the evolution of the growing risk and the threats which are becoming, like terrorism and criminality, part of the profoundly destabilized areas of the global geo-political scenario. In conclusion, the overall evaluations enable us to appreciate how important it is for a State to provide itself with an effective security organization which, on the one side, is sustained by collective trust and, on the other, instils matured experience into the operative and organizing models, which are able to foresee and intercept the new manifestations of the threat. In this way, far from the hagiography or, to the contrary of prejudice, a very valid contribution can be offered to the political decision makers for the defence of the democratic institutions.

A definition

The decisional function, at whatever level and in whatever area, needs to have suitable informative data at its disposal in order to make the choices necessary to resolve problems within its field of competency.
Therefore, the handling of the information, which in a global and complex society like the present one is always more elaborate and requires ever-increasing diversified specializations, constitutes one of the most delicate and sensitive phases of the process which must lead to define each strategic option. It is no coincidence that it is the subject of numerous and heated debates in both national and international courts. Furthermore, organizations specializing in consultation, analysis and informative support are increasing every day. This is due to the fact that the necessity for knowledge is assuming, over time, an unprecedented importance, flowing out of the canonical political and military spaces to which it seemed indissolubly tied. Information becomes an item of primary goods and its market measures the competitiveness of state, super-national and global entities. On these bases, it is possible to affirm that intelligence is the combination of all the informative activities directed towards the acquisition of the knowledge needed to support any decisional process of a complex nature.

The ambits of intelligence

The first applications of that function which, hereafter, will be defined “intelligence” are traced historically in the military field. Already in the war between the kingdoms of the Pharaoh Rameses II and the Hittite, in the former phases of the Qadesh battle (1296 BC), traces of exploration activities can be found which represent, in nuce, the first known forms of informative research.
For a long time, the sphere connected to war efficiency constituted the sector of the application of espionage. When, starting from the industrial revolution, the parameters to evaluate the potentiality of a country became amplified and differentiated, also the bodies carrying out research functions began to specialize, acquiring knowledge in a complex of new aspects, relative to the economic, technological, industrial, political and terrorist-criminal sectors, which were added to the specifically military context.
Intelligence, therefore, in its present phase, is carried out also by private subjects and organizations, but that of the State remains the most significant. It refers, in fact, directly to the national security which, understood in an overall way, concerns transversally every sector of public life. In fact, it strives to ensure the regular and effective functioning of the “State System”, both internally with respect to its associates, and externally with regard to partners and competitors.
In this ambit, a more precise definition of intelligence could be: the collection and analysis of information, however acquired, necessary for the decisional process of the executive power regarding national security.
In fact, the responsibility in matters of national security is assigned to the political power and the decisional faculty is given to ensure the pursuit of the strategic objectives and to safeguard the country from threats which attempt to undermine its foundations and competitiveness. Its need for information is great and in part, is met by each dependent administrative sector. The executive, however, has the priority need to have at its disposal a complete informative picture concerning the critical conditions affecting security, in a broad sense, which can be achieved solely through expressly dedicated structures.
From this viewpoint, intelligence constitutes a distinct and autonomous operative activity.
The necessity of a preventive action against hidden, embryonic or emerging threats, together with the need to adopt informal instruments and methods, have compelled the intelligence structures to assume clandestine forms and precepts of secrecy which are often the object of negative evaluations.
In addition, the secret activity of the services is due to the sensitivity of the information in question, to the search mechanisms for knowledge ‘not otherwise obtainable’ and to the necessary safeguard of the relations with the sources of information.
In this way circuits are perfected which are oriented to pursue a strategic prevention often spread to attain the ‘non-event’ (impede the occurrence of damaging events for the country) bound only to the obligation of hierarchy and communication towards the political authority which establishes the general horizons.
The mechanism constitutes the added value of the intelligence of security, in terms of competence, more elastic and adherent to the emergency of the threat, and an operative model which is flexible, autonomous and open to any useful technique of research.

The intelligence process

The intelligence action is organized in a rational and systematic fashion in order to produce qualified levels of efficiency.
In fact, the information, raw informative material, must be elaborated within a process that evaluates it and judges what is reliable and usable.
Such a process usually consists of the following phases:
a) acquisition of the information, also through unconventional research, the gathering and evaluation of the data. In the last case, standardized criteria are foreseen which facilitate the sharing of the judgement on reliability, both of the source and of the information. Instead, research, notwithstanding that experience has elaborated efficient techniques, is in continuous evolution and disposes of every instrument which is useful to satisfy the information needs.
It avails itself of human sources (HUMINT, human intelligence) electromagnetic resources (SIGINT, signal intelligence; ELINT, electronic intelligence; IMINT imagery intelligence), and open (OSINT, open sources intelligence), consisting in documents, studies, press and Internet;
b) handling information, through its comparison, integration, interpretation and analysis of data, because by the assembly of the available pieces a wider mosaic can be composed from which the entire spectrum of the threat can be appreciated;
c) communications to the decisional ambit, in the form of information and elaborated analyses on the individual aspects of a risk or the totality of the threats, so as to foresee directions and possible hidden phenomena, support the policy of security and forestall or intercept the crises with aimed technical measures and regulations.

The Personnel

The numerous sectors of activity of an intelligence service impose different forms of recruiting and subsequent organization of personnel, with specific functions according to the operative directions which the Organization chooses to favour. The first and more general subdivisions consist of three compartments: administrative, operative and technical.
A basic training platform is aimed at differentiating abilities for subsequent employment in the appropriate areas.
The agents come from the private, academic, military, investigative and administrative world and can be permanently or temporarily employed. The last solution allows the revision of the available human resources, adjusting them to possible specialist needs of the moment, placing the new competency alongside the rooted experience of the internal employees. In Italy, those who come from the police force are suspended from the qualification of operator of the judicial police in order to avoid dependence not related to the political authority. This confirms the nature of intelligence, profoundly different from the investigative, in functions, ties and operative techniques.

Diversity of models

The Intelligence is the mirror of the country in which it operates. The structures, the organizations and the management models are differently modulated according to the respective institutional connotations, the culture and the requirements of the customer.
In every nation the various civil bodies which operate in the various sectors are flanked by one or more military services with tasks relative to the activities of each specific sector. As far as technological support is concerned, many countries opt for a separate structure; others include such a service as a specialized branch within the existing services.
There are two services In Great Britain: the MI5 (Security Service) and the MI6 (Secret intelligence Service), with functions of security for the Interior and research abroad, respectively.
The two Services are directly responsible to the Prime Minister and to the Home Secretary (MI5) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MI6), respectively.
The control and the coordination of the activities of the two Services are entrusted to the Joint Intelligence Committee, which has the task of defining strategies and the general directions of the intelligence activity and to which are sent requests for information or offers of cooperation from all the other ministries and State apparatus. Therefore, the informative and security policy springs from a plurality of demands, both of a political and administrative character, all, however, made coherent and managed uniformly in the final phase of the informative process.
In the Federal German Republic, intelligence and security are divided on a geographical basis (interior and abroad) and entrusted to two services: the BFV (Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz) which has the task of protecting the internal stability of the Republic and BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) with the task of gathering abroad, useful information for the national security.
Both services are responsible to the Federal Chancellor, who for the management, control, direction and coordination of the two services avails himself of the Secretary General of the Chancellery, the highest political official of the State Administration, and of the ministries of the Home Office and the Foreign Affairs, institutional interlocutors in matters of security and intelligence.
Even more interesting is the case of the Unites States. In fact, the U.S. intelligence community (IC Intelligence Community) is made up of 15 secret services, of which 8 are military. From among these, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) stand out: the first one gathers information abroad, the second one is, in all senses, a police force responsible to the Minister of Justice, although it operates freely as a security service in the sectors of the sphere of action typical of the interior services, including counter-espionage, terrorism and subversion.
The CIA director reported directly to the President, to whom he would daily refer all information relative to the threat level. Following the results of the numerous commissions of enquiry concerned with the inefficiency of the informative structures, made very evident by the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, 11th September, 2001, the urgency of modifying the IC structure emerged. For this reason the figure of the National Intelligence Director (DNI) was instituted. He has the role of principle advisor to the President in matters of intelligence, reporting daily on the level of threats and delivering any new information. He ensures the coordination of the different agencies and has ample powers in the questions of budget and personnel.
It is an important reform which tries to resolve the year-old difficulties of the United States concerning coordination among the various intelligence branches, eroding the supremacy of the CIA director.
In France a binary system ‘interior-abroad’ is in force, which presents, however, the anomaly of two services for the internal competence. In fact, the DGSE (Direction général de la surveillance extérieure) carries out tasks exclusively for research abroad, while the RG (Renseignement généraux) is responsible for the internal security with functions of internal and international anti-terrorism and the DST (Direction surveillance du territoire), which is also responsible for internal security with counter-espionage tasks.
In Russia, from the ashes of the KGB, which was a single and enormous service (with tasks of espionage, counter-espionage, political police, border police), arose the FSB (Federal’ naja sluzhba bezopasnosti), which has the responsibility of internal anti-terrorism security, anti-organized crime and counter espionage, and the SVR (Sluzhba vneshnej razvedki) with functions of espionage research abroad.
In Spain, instead, a unitary security system has been adopted: the CNI (Centro Nacional de Intelligencia) which is responsible to the Prime Minister.
The CNI, which has been created very recently (the institutive law came into force on the 7th of March 2002) is divided in three sectors in its operative part: intelligence (research abroad), counter-espionage and anti-terrorism. In reality the service aggregates three autonomous branches, each of which has an operative profile and a specific operating philosophy, responsible to very high level officials. The Director of the CNI has the rank of Minister and is nominated by the king, upon the proposal of the Minister of Defence, while the Vice-Director (who has the title, Secretary General of the Centre) has the rank of under-secretary.
In Italy, the security intelligence is regulated by the law N° 801 of the 24th October 1977, passed after a long debate sparked off by judiciary facts involving the top ranks of the Defence Information Service (SID), and by the emergence at the end of the 1970’s of an internal and international terrorist phenomenon, causing a strong potential destabilization.
The legislator has attributed to the Prime Minister (Presidente del Consiglio), who exercises the guardianship of the State secrets, the highest direction, the political responsibility and the coordination of the intelligence policy. The following two services have been formed: the SISMI (the military information and security service) to which is entrusted the defence of the independence and integrity of the State at a military level, the character of which has progressively oriented it towards a general competence abroad and, an all-Italian characteristic, to counter-espionage; and the SISDE (Information Service for Democratic Security), which ensures the defence of the Democratic State and its institutions against subversion and any other form of threat referring to the national territory.
In addition, the CESIS (the Executive Committee for the Information and Security Services) is foreseen, with the functions of coordination, analysis of elements furnished by the Services and management of the international relations; the CIIS (Inter-ministerial Committee for information and security, composed of ministers of the Interior, of Foreign Affairs, of Justice, of Economy and Finances and of the productive Activities), with functions of consultation and proposals to the Prime Minister (Presidente del Consiglio) on the directions and targets to pursue; the CSIS, commonly indicated as COPACO (Parliamentary Committee for the Information and Security Services and for the Secrets of State), with functions of control on the application of the principles of the institutive law of the Services.
The Italian intelligence, therefore, is substantially characterized by a binary system, internal/external, to which is connected the different nature civil/military.
The only exception to the territorial criterion is the counter-espionage competence of SISMI.

The single and binary models

Before 1977, Italy had a single intelligence service (the SIM, until after the 2nd World War, the SIFAR until 1967, and the SID until 1977).They were military Services which were responsible to the General Staff of Defence. Until 1976, these services were flanked by the Office of Confidential Affairs at Viminale (Italian Houses of Parliament), and the SDS (Security Service) during the biennium 1976 – 1978, in the capacity of a police force with functions of internal security, on the American FBI model.
A typical model of a single service was the Soviet KGB. This was divided in principal directorates with various responsibilities (Interior, foreign, border guards, etc.) each directorate having the power and dimension of one single western service.
Today, in the western world, the major part of the services is structured on a binary conformation, with responsibilities internal/foreign, respectively. In order not to concentrate in the hands of one political person (which should necessarily be the Head of government) all the responsibilities and management of the national security (in all its versions of security or intelligence and defence security, information gathering abroad), it was preferred to subdivide them between the corresponding ministries (Ministry of the Interior for home security and the Foreign Office or the Defence for intelligence).
A significant exception is represented, as already mentioned, by Spain where the Centro nacional de intelligencia, responsible for both interior and external matters, has absorbed the previous interior and exterior services, protecting the diverse job capacity and experience, but ensuring a single top management which is economical and efficient.
The possible unitary configuration does not, however, exclude the prevision of intelligence bodies which operate autonomously in the technological and military sectors. In Italy, while the technical division is the competence of SISMI, in the specifically military area, the RIS (Department of Information and Security) operates. It has absorbed the SIOS (Operative Information and Situation Services) of the Armed Forces. As far as autonomous bodies of advanced technology are concerned, the following examples can be cited: the American NSA (National Security Agency) and the British GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), whose importance is underlined by the conspicuous part of the security budget which is reserved for them.
It has been rumoured recently in Italy, the possibility of re-adopting a single model in which all components would be brought back under a central direction that would be responsible to the executive power.
Obviously, the operative structure, in its various parts dedicated to research, counter-espionage, domestic and international counter-terrorism, defence against economic threats and organized crime, would avail itself of differently trained personnel – with specific professional and work capabilities – the differences being too marked at the level of the practical activity of the various services.
Such a solution would permit both a more marked specialization, through the progressive refinement of professional experience useful to face the modern forms of global and trans-national asymmetric threats, and a major financial saving in a sector where the management costs are very high and constantly on the increase.

The new operative strategies

The fall of the Berlin wall was the emblematic representation of the end of an era, starting at the close of the 2nd World War, when already the liberal West on the one side and the European Communist East on the other, confronted each other, notwithstanding they were still allied against the Nazi threat.
Since then, the USA and the USSR have fought a forty years war, the “cold war”, based on preventive intimidation, also in the nuclear sphere, and by attempting to erode the influence which the rivals exercised on the international scene. In such a context, the information research was the necessary instrument to understand, not only the plans of the direct antagonist, but also the local critical conditions which could weigh upon the respective power orders on the international scene.
Also the internal security was concentrated on the possible abettors of the enemy in the areas of counter-espionage and counter-sabotage. The intelligence was also occupied with propaganda and counter-propaganda, in a wider frame of information manipulation, which each rival pursued to support their own ideological penetration into the adversary camp. In short, it was a question of a confrontation which required almost the totality of intelligence efforts.
The situation has radically changed since 1989. Some countries, former satellites of the USSR are now an integral part, or have requested to become members, of NATO and the European Community. Consequently, the secret services have had to change the research instruments to cope with the emerging threats, which are, above all, socio-political, economic and religious.
In fact, the fall of the USSR and the alleviation of the East West confrontation, which had functioned as a valid containment vessel directing the critical conditions in a bipolar manner, have generated the uncontrolled release of local tensions which have, sometimes, become bound together in a network of threats of an even more dangerous nature.
The end of the cold war had thus deprived the intelligence of a clear point of reference, which in the past was based on the precise identity and well-known roles of both sides in the game. The cold war situation has now been replaced by a many-centred, non-institutional threat beyond any option founded on the traditional logic of dissuasion.
Globalization, which connects markets and populations and by now seems to have overcome the concept of borders, finishes by accelerating processes of institutional decay, increases the demands for separatism and widens the gap between the societies which have access to the benefits of the new world model of economy and those excluded, to be even more excluded.
Local hotbeds of tension flourish and break out in bloody civil and ethnic conflict. Examples concerning this are the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and in the Moslem Republics of the dissolved Soviet Union.
Alongside terrorism and the variegated forms of national subversion, which appear cyclically on the local scenes, always refining stronger trans-national connections, there are the anti-globalization movements, structured in efficient and interactive associations while diffused and aggressive anarchic agitation emerges. Moreover, ethnic conflict makes a background and often gives the occasion to trigger tensions of the Islamic integralists who, from the area of origin, are transferring always more to the West. The religious matrix disguises the attempts of certain organizations supported by interested and powerful lobbies, determined to be the reference point for the fundamentalist claims.
Terror becomes an instrument of global communication. Consequently, the intelligence is compelled to remodel itself, given the non-linearity and the atomizing of threats on the global scenario.
The attack on the Twin Towers on the 11th of September 2001, represented the beginning of a new historical phase for mankind, having definitively demonstrated that there are no longer unreachable sanctuaries for a certain kind of terrorism: a sentiment felt, above all, in the United States, which once were confident in that trusting state of strategic ‘insularity’ and in the dissuasive power of “being America”.
The systems of intelligence of the United States and the West, in general, have demonstrated the totality of their vulnerability with respect to a typology of offence for which they were not equipped.
Islamic fundamentalism has aggregated its resources but has chosen an unprecedented model: a tentacle-like, silent and irregular network in which the contact points in the field, connected only by the possibility of recognizing itself in the holy war (Jihad), often have no material tie with any directional centre.
Such a situation has a destabilizing effect both in the West, subjected to constant intimidation, and in the same Islamic Orient where the moderate policies of many leaders are attacked in order to favour the ascent of the fundamentalist groups.
The war in Iraq, the Palestinian and Lebanese questions, the Maghreb tensions, and even the difficult recomposition of the Balkan scene are the occasion to channel Moslem resources to the Islamic terrorism. The power of the media weapon enhances the psycho-social effects of the terrorist pressure.
The intervention of the intelligence extends geographically, but it also becomes more restricted and selective, having to cope with research and security both at home and abroad. Above all, it must renew its knowledge of a more complex world no longer divided by any curtain.

The national emergency

Beside the global threats, which weave a dense trans-national network, some critical situations at the national level still remain, seriously menacing internal security. In Italy, the Services are heavily occupied with facing diversified threats, on the one side from terrorism, represented by the Marxist-Leninist, subversive and antagonist components, and on the other side from criminals, characterized by mafia type organizations, ethnic (Albanian, Turkish, Nigerian, Chinese, Rumanian, Maghrebian, Russian and Ukrainian) and trans-nationals (mainly dedicated to the traffic of narcotics and the human slave trade).
In the first case, Italy is the only European country where a specific form of terrorism, i.e the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist form, had developed to a significant dimension, surviving, with a temporary pause of 10 years, up to the present time.
Such a peculiarity cannot permit our attention to be diverted from the diffused potential epigoni of this phenomenon.
Furthermore, security is mined by the proliferation of subversive groups and aggressive antagonists, among which emerge the anarchic-insurrectionists, responsible for attacks against the emblematic aspects of a society which they do not accept.
Lastly, on the organized crime front, we are experiencing a complex period of transition, in which the mafia models often evolve in a conflicting manner. On the one hand, the traditional mafia still exists (“cosa nostra”, Sicilian, “ndrangheta”, Calabrian , “camorra”, Campania, and organized crime in Puglia), which try to control every social and economic expression of the territory to which it is tied; on the other hand, another mafia component is active which degenerates and absorbs the typical comportment of banditry.
The diversified forms of trans-national criminality are becoming always more serious, together with the presence of foreign organizations which transfer to our territory customs and habits from the area of origin, also through the means of clandestine immigration.

The future of intelligence

The globalized world imposes an exceptional speed of development. In addition, the threats evolve rapidly, so that to be effective, intelligence must know how to identify the diverse profiles before they become incontrollable.
To the known threats, others are continually added. Some of them are represented by enhanced offensive methods of the already well-known threats or by their combination, which can produce dangerous and unpredictable new scenarios. Others, on the contrary, concern: the growth of ethnic tensions which arise with always greater violence and which assail the already precarious equilibrium of critical areas; the infiltration and the alteration of the rules of the economic and financial market, through the acquisition of a competitiveness spoiled by labour exploitation and industrial espionage that impoverishes the national productive originality; the pollution of the transfer system of money; the deviated use of biotechnology; the cyber-terrorism and, above all, the proliferation of arms of mass destruction, particularly, if in the sensitive areas of the international political geography.
Nevertheless, in the international courts, as in the operative practice of any security organization, it is stated with full conviction and always more frequently that the new threat consists, above all, in the logic which progressively favours the integration of illegal forms, ready to perceive and transfer objectives and interests on behalf of others. This breaks the traditional causal and specialist logic, rapidly widening the spectrum of the possible attacks against the State.
Intelligence has been dedicated to the new challenges for a long time, trying to acquire the necessary professional capability to evaluate the risks and to orient the decisional powers towards essential priorities. It is no longer a question of the efforts of one single intelligence community which, however excellent, would not be able to cope entirely and single-handedly with the problem.
It appears always more evident, the tendency among the different States’ Services to be more open to cooperation by sharing experiences and to agree, for the most part bilaterally, on individual aspects of an operative nature. In such a climate, intelligence represents also one of the means by which exchanges and relations with other States could be started, which at a formal level, could appear premature or even inopportune.
The Services aim, therefore, at always more advanced levels of efficiency, trying to correct past errors. Among these, the most recent and emblematic error was the race to have ever-increasing complex electronic equipment, in the conviction that full possession and control of information depended exclusively on supremacy in the technological field.
This direction produced critical situations of perverse effects. In fact, on the one hand, intelligence was unable to analyze the excess of informative data obtained, thus excluding important acquisitions from the political and operative decisional processes; on the other hand, it was not possible, in the absence of human sources, to understand ethnic situations which were distant and little effected by the technical aspect.
The realization of these shortcomings produced a progressive re-evaluation, in research, of the human factor, which is better able to grasp and understand the socio-cultural matrices of emerging threats. In the most recent crises areas, judgement errors of this kind cost the western Services an elevated price in terms of efficiency and credibility. By now, the thesis is universally accepted that only a good integration between technical factors and human contribution can produce operative returns which are satisfactory and proportional to the sustained economic burden.
In conclusion, therefore, intelligence must open outwardly to avoid dangerous detachment from reality, confronting and interacting with the most significant expressions of society. This assertion may seem contradictory, in light of the character of confidentiality which must surround the activity, but this direction, with the necessary temperance, now seems ineluctable in order to achieve that sensitivity which alone can permit the intelligence function to constitute the necessary additional value which can be used as a meaningful contribution to the growth of a modern community.