Friday, November 26, 2004

Secret intelligence

An interesting article on Scoop regarding the SIS and it's role. The author, Paul Buchanan, an academic in the security / foreign relations field, makes a number of interesting points and suggestions:

He describes SIS as: "...an organization that has over the years seemingly taken on "rogue" characteristics - it does what it pleases, as it pleases, for reasons not of State, but of its own, or those of its immediate political masters."

I would agree with this - I'd also argue that all intelligence and policing bodies promote a "security agenda" where threats of any nature are played up to justify the expansion of the security apparatus.

He suggests stripping SIS of its internal intelligence role and giving this responsibility to the police. I'd wholly concur with this - a police force is both subject to an oversight procedure and has a clear focus on prosecuting and convicting those attempting or committing crimes.

I disagree with his suggestion that we need to develop an overseas spying capability. We don't have one at the moment, and it doesn't seem to do us much harm. I can't see that the number of spies we could deploy would enable us to find out anything particularly useful, unless by some lucky fluke. The current facilities of SIS to analyse "intelligence" and open-source data could be moved to Foreign Affairs, or kept in a residual agency.

1 comment:

Greyshade said...

I'm all for better oversight of Intelligence operations but transferring SIS functions to other agencies will not automatically achieve that. If police get a "Special Branch" it will probably not be subject to the normal Police Complaints procedures and there are no obvious effective oversight procedures that would automatically come into play if SIS's intelligence functions were transferred to Defence, MFAT or the armed services. The present system lets us know the budget of SIS and its agrgeate activity (number of intercept warrants, etc). That doesn't mean that the SIS mightn't be doing some very nasty things but, at least, it can't be doing very many nasty things.

Burying SIS's budget in a larger organisation might lose us even this control without giving us anything better.