Thursday, November 19, 2015

It is Time To Create a European Intelligence Agency: A Step Towards Creating A Much-Needed International Intelligence Agency

We live in a world that is interconnected and interdependent in ways that it has never been before.  Human beings are moving from country to country in unprecedented numbers, both voluntarily thanks to the explosion in affordable means of travel and as refugees fleeing persecution, or economic migrants seeking a better life.  Advances in communications technology have made it possible to communicate instantaneously from from one end of the globe to the other.  Although these advances have enriched our lives in many ways, they have also made it possible for those animated by hate, prejudice, or unalloyed lust for power and glory to wreak havoc and destroy lives more easily.  Terrorist networks benefit from access to encrypted communications technology and freedom of movement to kill, maim, destroy and spread terror.

Despite the tremendous advances we have made in turning our world into a global village, one in which we are inextricably interconnected through global trade, communications, finance and travel, we are lagging behind in the creation of critical collective institutions that are necessary to serve our growing collective interests.  The events of the past few year have increasingly pointed to the need for an international intelligence agency that would serve the collective interests of the international community by providing accurate, timely, reliable and shared intelligence.  Questions such as whether Iraq still had a secret nuclear weapons program and a cache of weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war, whether Iran was and is in fact trying to build a nuclear weapon, or the true extent of North Korea's nuclear activities, are all ones that could most effectively and reliably be answered if the world had such an agency.  The lack of such an agency serving humanity's collective need for security was palpably felt in Paris last weekend when the city and many innocent people in it became the target of six simultaneous terrorist attacks that by all accounts had been meticulously planned over a period of time.  

It is not too late: world leaders should now bend their efforts to creating a formalized, supranational intelligence system that integrates national intelligence capabilities and is responsible for gathering credible and timely intelligence for a reformed Security Council that is more representative of the people and nations of the world and whose mandate to preserve peace and security has been fleshed out and made more clear.  The existence of such a system would make it much harder for those intent on committing heinous acts that instill terror into the hearts of people to carry on their activities undetected. Moreover, the fact that such intelligence is shared, means that it is more likely to be trusted by the countries which it impacts, making it more likely that they would feel comfortable relying and acting upon it and doing so more swiftly and decisively.  It would also lead to greater unity in decisions made by the Security Council, which is, after all, the international agency tasked with maintaining peace in the world.

Europe can lead the way by creating a European-wide regional intelligence agency.   In the aftermath of last weekend's attacks in Paris the question that is being asked in some quarters is whether Europe's informal system of sharing intelligence is adequate to deal with the threats it is facing.  There is a call in some quarters for "some form of institutionalized sharing of electronic and human intelligence." Such action could serve as a first step along the road towards the creation of an international intelligence agency.  It could serve as a testing ground from which we could all learn how we might to do this successfully at a global level.  One valuable lesson such a step will hopefully  model is that it is possible to get nations to trust each other enough to be willing to share intelligence in a systematic and timely manner.  An even deeper lesson will likely be that ultimately such trust will come only when the nations involved are convinced and deeply understand that ceding a modicum of sovereignty by sharing intelligence is in their own best interests and will benefit them both individually and collectively in the face of collective threats like terrorism.  This was the fundamental and powerful lesson and operating principle upon which the foundations of what we now know as the European Union were based.