Surveillance and Intelligence


Someone is watching.

It has been years since Snowden and Greenwald blew the whistle on the N.S.A. Add WikiLeaks and similar situations before these disclosures and you learn to understand something peculiar. That is that surveillance and intelligence are part of how states monitor their environment, internally and sometimes externally.

When the news of the examples I mentioned, was widely reported on I was not surprised. The scale was unexpected and to this day that is still an issue. Today I read that heads of state in France were monitored. Big deal, most heads of state and their officials are monitored by agencies when it is in the agencies’ interest.

If you think I am writing nonsense please inform yourself. When the Hebrews entered Canaan with Joshua they sent spies to gather intelligence and monitor powerful cities. In the “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu in several parts you can find text that explains how generals and spies benefit each other. Even Machiavelli, the author of “Il Principe” or “The Prince” recognised the importance of informants and spies. Ruling power partly relies on knowing certain things in advance.

Surveillance and intelligence revolve around one thing, namely information. This information is to be reported, interpreted and processed for decisions. In the context of states and agencies the who is an ally and who is an enemy. Before the Bible was translated for the people the Catholic Church viewed secular scholars who knew Greek, Latin and Hebrew as suspicious. For ages map makers have been considered suspicious until maps of the known world were widely published.

Having the right information, on the right time is crucial in many situations. Whether you are in a business environment, military environment or pouring a coffee for a guest who just ordered a regular coffee. The coffee has to be fresh enough, well made, smell good and available there and then. Also realise something else. Sometimes the nouns “information” and “intelligence” are used in the exact same way with the exact same meaning. That is no coincidence.

I can end here with a quote from Orwell but no. “Big Brother” is a metaphor for the complex dilemma that is central to surveillance and intelligence. Security depends on surveillance and intelligence. Freedom is limited by security.

If there is a balance, what would work the best for you (and your people)?