We ask “C”: how do intelligence services need to change in the 21st century?

From The Economist:

IN HIS first public speech since he became chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, Richard Moore said the service needs to “become more open to stay secret.” On “The Economist Asks” podcast, host Anne McElvoy and Shashank Joshi, The Economist’s defence editor, ask Mr Moore exactly what that means in practice.

The spymaster, whose position is traditionally referred to simply as “C”, describes the “entrepreneurial animal spirits” he hopes to attract by lifting the veil on MI6’s plans and challenges. Can partnering with technological talent lend British intelligence the heft it needs to punch above its weight against larger rivals like Russia and China?

China, Mr Moore says, is the service’s most pressing priority. Alongside what he calls the “key battleground” and exponentially-growing “digital attack surface” of technology and data-gathering, debt traps threaten to slowly erode the sovereignty of other states as China garners ever-more influence in emerging markets.

A key challenge, he says, will be to assert and defend Western democratic values while securing China’s “cooperation on the key transnational issues”, including “the biggest issue of all”—climate change.

. . . .

“Vladimir Putin…really does think that Russia, in the 21st century, has the right to impose limits on the sovereignty of the countries on its periphery,” he says. “And that’s a problem.” Still, he adds, Mr Putin runs the risk of underestimating his counterparts in Washington.

Despite a strong focus on technology, the business of intelligence is “still, fundamentally a question of building a relationship with a fellow human being,” he says. “That hasn’t changed. So I need officers who can build trust with people who are taking significant risks to work with us.” But as adversaries build up extraordinary surveillance capabilities, and after the heavily-publicised assassinations by Russian operatives, we ask Mr Moore how British intelligence services continue to guarantee protection to their agents.

Link to the rest at The Economist

The OP includes a link to a podcast of the interview with C.

3 thoughts on “We ask “C”: how do intelligence services need to change in the 21st century?”

    • The willingness to believe what the information tells you is critical. Especially when it runs counter to preconceptions and self-interest. (C.F. Afghanistan 2021). Converting data to actual knowledge isn’t hardwired and automatic. Closed, dogmatic minds are wisdom-proof.

      As the old saw goes: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Comments are closed.