Axis 6 - Intelligence Studies

Gérald Arboit  (IGE, HDR, qualified for PU)

Associated researchers: Lukas Grawe, Olivier Lahaie, Markus Pöhlmann, Christian Rossé, Gérald Sawicki

Associated experts : Tewfik Hamel, Nigel Inkster.

PhD students SDRT-I3CFlorian Bunoust-Becques, Aurélien Hassin, Cédric Neveu

In accordance with the injunctions of the Defense White Papers since 2008, reiterated by the National Coordinator for Intelligence and the Fight against Terrorism (CNRLT), Pierre Bousquet de Florian, in June 2018, the aim of this area is to study intelligence, at the margins of the professional and academic worlds, and aims to contribute to the development of a strategic intelligence culture in Europe. This type of study is consubstantial with the existence of intelligence services in many Western democracies. The aim of the ‘Intelligence Studies’ research programme at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers is to participate in these debates at national and European level, while drawing on the British model. In addition to dedicated teaching, it will conduct research around three projects, entitled ‘Intelligence governance’, ‘The internationalization of intelligence methods’ and ‘Non-state actors and intelligence since the 19th century’, in a multi-disciplinary way and in liaison with the management and political sciences, international relations and contemporary history present within the team. Intelligence governance requires a good understanding of how intelligence services operate.

It is not a question of ‘totemising’ it, by falsely conceptualizing it in terms of ‘superior governance’, as if it could be otherwise, or of turning it into a ‘secret state’. On the contrary, governance is as much about guiding the intelligence services as it is about controlling them. These missions are obviously the responsibility of the executive and legislative powers, but they are also part of the challenges of intelligence studies. A multidisciplinary approach will examine the organizational and public aspects of the development of intelligence services: How can intelligence reforms be evaluated? What is an intelligence community? How can intelligence be effectively controlled in a democratic system? The practice of intelligence has meant reviving the techniques inherited from diplomatic intelligence, which were borrowed from the military. This has had three consequences, which are still active today, and which have contributed to intelligence services being set up for this purpose: the end of the apoliticism of these military diplomats, the detachment from military statistics alone and the generalization of ‘invisible action’. This naturally raises three questions: Can we talk about standardizing intelligence? Can we define a typology and cultural areas in the formation and collaboration of services? Is intelligence the result of clandestine networking or simply the handling of secrecy? How can intelligence be deconstructed from the point of view of cultural history to reveal its human reality?

From the earliest traces of intelligence activity that we can reveal through the most diverse sources (archaeology, epigraphy, archives) to the present day, non-state actors have always been involved in the manifestations of invisible action. Their probity is not always the most verifiable, particularly before the existence of intelligence services. So it is not uncommon for disinformation agents to succeed in infiltrating the systems. Some are motivated solely by the pursuit of easy lucre. These are the intelligence swindlers, who are only really to be found in times of conflict and who want to take advantage of the largesse of their officers. This is also a limit to the classic theorization of human intelligence.

Others are establishing genuine private intelligence services, which are not concerned with economics but with ‘big politics’. Genuine national non-state actors- they do not pay dues to any official service, or even to any state, but provide a strategic watch that makes them indispensable. Such organizations are different from those set up by certain transnational companies at the heart of their central organizations, with or without links to their research and development departments. Non-state actors also include the private patriots of countries who come to seek the support of a great power to make their national dream triumph or to stand up against other intelligence services, armed or not by adversaries. We are particularly interested in the internationalization of intelligence methods and their standardization, and in defining a typology and cultural areas in the formation and collaboration of services. This research programme also intends to forge links with the academic intelligence community in Europe, including the UK, by setting up a journal, La Revue de recherche sur le renseignement (RRR). Published twice a year, in French, online and with a Digital Object Identifier, its first issue was launched in the first half of 2022 with a special report on ‘women and intelligence’.

 Related research questions

 The stabilizing role of intelligence in international relations

 Historical intelligence failures and their explanatory variables

 Gender in intelligence studies (special issue of RRR Vol. 1)

 The privatization of intelligence and its influence on interstate conflict