In the 21st century, effective intelligence collection requires a synergy of risks that are willingly undertaken.
It requires leaders willing to support operations that carry inherent political risks. It requires intelligence managers willing to direct subordinates towards great danger. It requires operations officers willing to risk their own lives and the lives of the agents they recruit. And, very often, it requires the cooperation of foreign partners.
Senator Feinstein’s report has made that last issue much more complicated.
That’s because intelligence services that cooperated with America in confidence now face firestorms of political controversy. While Senate Democrats claim they’ve protected foreign partners through selective redactions, the role of foreign partners is already known. Indeed, as I noted last year, Poland is already suffering for assisting the CIA. Yet this absurd report — straight from Orwell’s 1984 school of reality — makes matters much worse. Facing rabid press reports at home, foreign intelligence services are being pressured to distance themselves from the CIA.
In varying ways, this pressure will impact how foreign services interact with America in the future.
Here’s my take on a few U.S. intelligence allies.
British Intelligence cooperates with the U.S. at many levels. The best-known area of this alliance is in the field of communications intelligence, but British intelligence officers also regularly join their U.S. counterparts in human-intelligence operations, and this is where the CIA report will have the greatest impact. After all, in London, pressure is now growing for an inquiry into cooperation between the Secret Intelligence Service (a.k.a. MI6) and the CIA. With a new director at SIS, there’s a risk that some U.K. politicians might successfully pressure him to distance SIS from the CIA. Just as in Washington, British intelligence-committee MPs enjoy political posturing. And condemning the CIA is standard populist fare. To make matters worse, this controversy follows the Snowden leaks, which sparked understandable fury in U.K. intelligence circles. Still, urgent intelligence demands — especially in the fields of signals and counterterrorism — mean that substantial cooperation will continue. But British human-intelligence managers will face greater bureaucratic pressures to avoid controversial operations with the U.S. And for the most successful intelligence alliance in history, that’s problematic.
AUSTRALIA & CANADA
Alongside America, Britain, and New Zealand, these two nations form the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance. U.S. cooperation in signals intelligence, military-intelligence support, and intelligence sharing is defining. But as is attested by the report’s aftershocks in Australia and Canada, political leaders in those nations now face an unwanted problem. While the intrinsic national benefits of “Five Eyes” mean that cooperation with the U.S. will continue, civil servants in Australia and Canada will be more guarded about potentially controversial joint operations in the future.
FRANCE & GERMANY
Both nations conduct independent operations (France revels in cyber espionage against the U.S. and Germany and excuses sanctions-breaching firms), with their cooperation with the U.S. characterized by intelligence sharing. While, as American allies, they will continue sharing, the report will support anti-American politicians in both nations. In turn, they may restrict future cooperation or introduce bureaucratic obstacles to cooperation. For U.S. interests, this would be problematic for intelligence sharing on Iran and Russia.
EGYPT, JORDAN, ISRAEL, SAUDI ARABIA
For these regional allies, who face an array of deep security concerns, effective intelligence cooperation with the U.S. is crucial. As products of autocratic regimes (or a war-footed government, in Israel’s case), these intelligence services will find insulation from the CIA report.
Egypt has, for a long time, closely supported U.S. rendition operations. But Egypt’s military leadership also has a shared American interest in combating Salafi jihadism and influencing Hamas in Gaza.
While Israel and the U.S. have a tense intelligence relationship (actively spying on one another) and leaders who dislike each other, cooperation on Iran-related issues will continue.
Similarly, Saudi-U.S. intelligence cooperation will remain defined by aligned interests vis-à-vis threats from ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Iran.
Jordan will also continue to provide critical support for U.S. counterterrorism operations. Immensely capable, and a key recruiter of human sources in ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups, Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate is America’s most reliable intelligence ally in the Middle East.
A mix of determined professionals and extremist sympathizers that is engulfed by anti-India paranoia, Pakistan’s ISI is a distinctly unreliable U.S. intelligence ally. And that’s putting it politely. Regardless, the ISI’s cooperation is critical to U.S. interests. The ISI knows this, and as a result, the CIA report may be used by anti-American elements of the ISI to weaken their more pro-U.S. colleagues. This report will also make pro-U.S. officers concerned that their cooperation might one day be leaked. It may deter their cooperation in future operations.
Ultimately, intelligence cooperation roots at the intersection of mutual interest, implicit trust, and reliable secrecy. This report’s impact will vary from country to country, but it won’t do American interests any favors. And of course, U.S. adversaries will use the report as a tool of propaganda.
— Tom Rogan, based in Washington, D.C., is a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and a contributor to The McLaughlin Group. He holds the Tony Blankley Chair at the Steamboat Institute and tweets @TomRtweets.