Home > Critical Thinking, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism > Universal Organizational Flaws in Intelligence Agencies: 2

Universal Organizational Flaws in Intelligence Agencies: 2

In the previous post of this series, I alluded to the fact that all intelligence agencies are merely extensions of the regime or system they serve. This has some peculiar consequences, as far as intelligence gathering is concerned.

The best intelligence does not come from SIGINT, but from people who are fully integrated in the system they are spying on.

One of the major flaws of western intelligence agencies post ww2, is an excessive reliance on SIGINT. This is not to say that technology is useless, but that it has to be used as a tool and not the only means to obtain info. This is especially true in the last 15 years where a massive increase in the amount of electronic traffic and cheap technology make it hard to intercept all communication, let alone process it.

Example- If a person put a non-standard encrypted data archive in a picture series on the SD card of a cheap digital camera, would you be able to find it? How often? and how would you determine who to search? Did I mention that those same mini-SD cards can be read/altered by smartphones and laptops

Many intelligence agencies can no longer seem to recruit enough moles, because creating human assets requires time and effort, which a SIGINT mindset discourages.

Moreover these agencies were created at a time when the defined ‘enemy’ was organized and entrapped in a bureaucracy. Today even small groups or companies can easily bypass the system by using non-standard organization and communication/encryption methods.

Moreover the vast amount of data creates another problem- namely processing it into actionable intelligence. Even if the data can be processed into actionable intelligence, geo-political considerations make actions much harder than the 1950s and 1960s when the west could do and get away with stuff that is no longer possible.

The playbook of intelligence is outdated and no amount of revision, short of an almost total rewrite, can fix it. The culprit is technological progress, as it often is.


  1. Mr. Stricter
    August 18, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    You have a well tuned mind AD.

    Another thing I’ve noticed as societies grow more authoritarian, trust becomes a scare commodity. Its often the case the Intelligence services don’t trust their own people much less new recruits and without the illusion of trust or the ability get actual trust basic work much less getting a mole is hard.

    Also to add to what you mentioned basic CI work knowledge and very good tools are common among everyone now. Information asymmetry which is major tool of Intelligence work is scarcer these days and would be moles and spies have to be aware that “he who spies could be spied upon by anyone.”

    Thats a big deal. To use another movie reference, the new Casino Royale alludes to this when James Bond’s pictures is live cast on the entire Internet after a botched mission.

    Its not perfect but its powerful.

  2. August 20, 2011 at 9:28 am

    I liked your comments on Sigint.Western agencies definitely rely too much on it.Compare the budget of NSA vs CIA .I read that NSA alone get’s ~60% of the intel budget.

  1. December 12, 2010 at 12:25 pm

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