Understanding the complexity of intelligence problems
The complexity of an intelligence problem determines to a great extent the certainty that can be provided by intelligence and security services.
- Christiaan Menkveld
- 08 February 2021
- Link to article
This article argues this deductively and validate this claim using a set of intelligence reports produced by the Dutch Intelligence & Security Service (AIVD).
The complexity of an intelligence problem (required intelligence assessment on a certain subject) determines to a great extent the certainty that intelligence and security services can provide on such an assessment. Even though this claim sounds almost obvious, its implications are significant, because it means that the public value of an intelligence service can vary depending on the complexity of an intelligence problem. This ranges from providing ‘actionable’ intelligence that can lead to interventions (legal, military, interruption operations, etc.), to providing insights that can be used as input for policymakers, and as context for interventions. Therefore, to be effective, intelligence and security services need to take the complexity of an intelligence problem into account when determining the aims of their investigation, the strategy of intelligence collection and its analytic approach. Which also means that intelligence clients and oversight officials and legislators should take the complexity of intelligence problems into account when directing and appraising the performance of services. This article will create a better understanding of this dynamic by describing how the complexity of intelligence problems determines to a great extent the certainty that can be provided by services. Based on this argumentation, the article will finish with some practical insights that can support intelligence and security services, clients, oversight, and legislators to deal with varying levels of complexity per intelligence problem.