Intelligence services and the secret service, myths in Europe


Numerous myths surround the intelligence services. They are not always untrue. To shake, but in these myths, is one of the principles of a democratic way of dealing with the secret services, writes Christopher Nehring.

Christopher Nehring conducts research on the intelligence services

The world, it sometimes seems that today is out of joint – and secret services are always and everywhere in the middle of it. In England, a poison attack, in Montenegro, a coup attempt, in Germany, cyber attacks on the Foreign office, the influence of attempts at elections in the United States and France, or former agents of the Communist state security at the top of politics, economy and society in the Czech Republic, Russia and the Balkans.

The latest scandal in this inglorious list: the “Strache-Video”, the Austrian Vice-Chancellor Hans-Christian Strache in the case of illegal agreements and negotiations with an alleged Russian oligarchs-niece. Also behind it, so vote, there were increasing only the secret service could get stuck – because who else would have the means to do so?

However, Much of what is secret surrounds services community, or attributed to, is a close look as a myth. A misunderstanding anticipate: It is neither to trivialize the intelligence services and their work to still demonize you. Hardly a state Institution is both overestimated and underestimated. The great secrecy that is in some places still operated almost cult secret services, has led to a sea of myths. And wherever, as in the former socialist part of Eastern and South – Eastern Europe, and intelligence services to the state Repression have served, are these myths is particularly pronounced and persistent.

Much of what intelligence is attributed to services, is a close look as a myth

Not always, myths are untrue. Myths to fill the vacuum that brings out the lack of public and secure Know about this very special state Institution. Your demystification is, therefore, a contribution to the democratic control. Because one thing is clear: intelligence services in a democratic Europe of everyday life. To shake their myths is a prerequisite for a sovereign and democratically – grown dealing with secret services is everywhere in Europe.

Myth no. 1 – Only States have intelligence services

You followed the debates around the “Strache-Video” in Austria, the quick judgment, which some experts took need, is suspicious: The whole “Operation” can only have a secret service carried out, since only he had the means. However, this is a myth!

Everywhere in Europe, in the old West and new East, sprouting for decades, private intelligence services from the ground up. “Business Intelligence” or simply security companies that offer you “information-gathering” of any kind to a paying customer. Many of the companies were founded either by former intelligence service employees, or those with a great penchant for hire are.

In the entire Eastern bloc, private security companies were used after the demise of communism as a collective – and a catch basin for former secret service employee.

In the West, Orbis Business Intelligence, the English company of the former MI6 employee, Christopher Steele, the talk was about, because here, apparently, the information about the so-called “Trump-Dossier” came from. Here intelligence were professionals at work, the offer as a private company also has the advantage that Connections to political or private clients, are difficult to prove.

Myth no 2 – Fake News are new

Fake News as a term for intentionally spread falsehoods, intended to produce a certain effect, have a fashion concept in the last five years. Rapidly, the concept has spread around the world. Actually, he described the government deliberately spread disinformation to influence. In the meantime, he is mutated, however, the political term of struggle between States, parties, and opinions.

Close the connection with the Internet and digitization, the given Fake News in the Form of Tweets, Videos, Posts and short messages a special face is. But it is a myth that Fake News is a new phenomenon of the digital age!

Probably the greatest secret service myth: intelligence services are good to great (world)conspiracy

Disinformation on behalf of the state, carried out by intelligence services, is old hat. Especially the socialist secret services of Eastern Europe had for decades their own departments, whose sole task is the production and distribution of disinformation was. And actually, it never stopped, it disappeared after 1990, just under the surface of the political system, to force today, with all the Power back on the agenda.

Myth No. 3 – The EU has (k)a news service

The European Union is a complicated political Entity. Foreign and security policy is a fundamental domain of the member States and not the community. According to the Lisbon treaties. Thus, the question of an EU secret service from the table.

And yet there is a point, the Brussels-based news service receives information from the member States, with public information, accumulates, in-house analyses and delivers this to the EU distributed: INCTEN – EU Intelligence Analysis Centre, based at the European external action service.

The difference to a “real” secret service: may INCTEN obtain no private information with the secret intelligence funds (i.e., sources, wiretapping, etc.), but is dependent on open information and information from the member States.

Myth no. 4 – intelligence services are uncontrolled

Each time a new secret service scandal, it will be echoed by the press: the secret services are not controlled, are uncontrollable and in any case a foreign body in the democracy! Especially where companies historical experiences with secret services have done, the police have been used by their political leaders as a political secret to the enforcement of dictatorships, widespread this distrust far (and to understand).

In Germany, this is the same for the two dictatorships. This is especially true in the post-Communist European States. The reform process is not completed 30 years after the fall of communism. But Also in Western Europe it lasted after the Second world war, sometimes up to 50 years, to the forms developed by the democratic control. Parliamentary control bodies were not a matter of course.

Disinformation on behalf of the state, carried out by secret services, is an old hat

And their constant further development and adaptation to new challenges is an important part of democracy. The control of the secret services, by service, Supervisory authorities, Parliamentary bodies, courts, privacy commissioners, courts, media, or science is perfect. But it exists!

Myth no 5 – the secret services are good for the world conspiracy

To good last but not least the largest secret service myth: intelligence services to large (global)conspiracy. Particularly in the post-Communist States, in which secret services were hermetically sealed, and a climate of fear, above their real possibilities far, is the myth of all-powerful secret services is still far. Russia is particularly often in the center.

Although this myth has a real Background, namely, the actual intricacies of intelligence services in coups, assassinations, coup attempts and other “covert actions”. From Afghanistan to Panama services were secret – in the order of their government – in a devious machinations involved.

But the world they control only happen in the breakneck ideas of conspiracy theorists. Intelligence services are government agencies, have limited human and financial resources, are dependent on their governments, and can never really keep all her secrets a secret. Especially in the digital age, the circle of knowledge increases enormously. Where intelligence services are plotting indeed, they are instruments and means. And not even necessarily the best!

Christopher Nehring, born. 1984, is scientific Director at the German spy Museum in Berlin. He has studied Eastern European and modern history in Heidelberg and St. Petersburg, and a doctorate in 2016, a subject of the secret service history. His newest Bay is “The 77 largest espionage myths”, published by Heyne, München, 2019.