Analysed information, of both a secret and open nature (i.e., intelligence), is required in UN peacekeeping operations. Yet, severe limits and many shortcomings impede the present system for information gathering, analysis, and dissemination. Some limits are for valid ethical reasons. The United Nations should avoid ‘black’ areas, the covert activities that are sometimes associated with national intelligence agencies. These include a wide range of nefarious actions, such as the use of fronts, covers, and deception (i.e., the common elements of spying). Bribery, blackmail, distorted propaganda, and double agents are similarly not to be considered.39 Immediately dissociated should be offensive covert operations, such as sabotage and character or person assassination, which are not part of the information/intelligence spectrum, but which are sometimes performed by some aggressive intelligence agencies.
The grey areas are harder to analyse and are situation dependent (see Figure 3). In threatening circumstances (e.g., the Rwandan genocide of 1994), the UN should be free to receive information volunteered by informants. While offering regular payments to them would be unwise, the UN should look seriously at helping to provide protection and asylum in a willing third state for important informants whose lives are at risk. In Rwanda, the UN ignored this possibility to its own detriment and disgrace, and to the unimaginable suffering of the Rwandese people.
Much information needs to be kept secret for a period of time. But secrecy for valid reasons (see Table 1) must be divorced from secrecy for other reasons (i.e., cover-ups). The UN can still have ‘clean hands’ while maintaining a secrecy regime, so long as it maintains high ethical principles. While deciding on the level of secrecy to be applied and for how long is sometimes difficult, the UN must face this important challenge.
With the end of the Cold War, an ironic situation developed in the intelligence field. The UN moved to centre stage in world affairs, with missions of greater scope and authority, and its need for accurate and timely intelligence increased proportionately. National intelligence agencies, on the other hand, became less crucial to international affairs, as the traditional Cold War spy games became less important. But the UN’s intelligence function did not substantially expand, and the intelligence agencies in the West did not undergo a substantial contraction. At present, the United States government employs an intelligence community of over 40,000 persons in over a half dozen intelligence bodies. By comparison, the United Nations has only four full-time ‘intelligence’ officers’40 and these are not even on the UN payroll.41
The major nations have been reluctant to give the UN a greater intelligence mandate because to many of them, intelligence is power, and they believe their own power would be threatened by a UN that possessed real intelligence, especially intelligence they may themselves not have. But, an enlightened view would see international security as an essential prerequisite to national security and the UN as an international institution that needs to be strengthened.42
Ultimately, more resources must be devoted to strengthening the UN’s information/intelligence capacity if it is to engage in proactive peacekeeping and conflict resolution to prevent future wars, genocide’s, and other crimes against humanity. The UN must be given the means, including information-gathering and analysis, to make manifest its goal, as stated in the opening words of the UN Charter, of ‘saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war.’
1 Major-General Carl von Horn, Commander of the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC), made this remark in 1960. However, the term persisted informally in the operation, and the heads of the Military Information Branch (MIB) of the ONUC frequently called themselves Chief Intelligence officers. Source: UN archives, ‘Congo Lessons: Special Report on ONUC operations up to 31 December 1960,’ p. 83. [UN Archives, DAG-I /2.2.1:64]
2 The definition of peacekeeping currently used by the UN is: ‘the deployment of international military and civilian personnel to a. con6ict area, with the consent of the parties to the conflict, in order to: stop or contain hostilities or supervise the carrying out of a peace agreement.’ (Source: http://www.un.org/Depts/DPKO). The definition of intelligence, as suggested here, indicates that national intelligence relates to national security and UN intelligence relates to international security, which is a broader concern but has a strong overlap with national security.
3 While the term intelligence has not been used in the title of any official posts within the UN Secretariat, an indication of its greater acceptability is shown by the creation of the position ‘Intelligence Analyst’ in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 1997. The functions include ‘in-depth research and analysis regarding criminal investigations of’ the conflict of information obtained from multiple sources, ... preparing strategic or tactical level reports relating to the criminal aspect on persons under investigation, ...’ Job Vacancy Announcement, ICTFY, The Hague, 24 November 1997.
4 Dallaire was prevented by UN headquarters officials from using informants to their maximum. For instance, he was prohibited to grant asylum to a key informer who had offered to reveal Hutu plots in extenso in January 1994, three months before the slaughter of close to a million people (mostly Tutsis) in Rwanda, Dallaire, Boutros Boutros-Ghali (the secretary-general at. the time) and Kofi Annan (current secretary-general and then Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations), have said that a well-informed, rapid, and strong UN force might have saved the country from its horrible fate. [See Philip Gourevitch, ‘The Genocide Fax: A Warning That Was Sent to the UN That Might Have Saved Rwanda. Who Chose to Ignore it?’, The New Yorker 11 May 1998, p. 42.).
5 Previous articles on the subject in the academic literature are: Hugh Smith, ‘Intelligence and UN Peacekeeping,’ Survival
, Vol. 36, Autumn 1994, p. 174; ‘Intelligence and Peace-Keeping: The UN Operation in the Congo 1960-64,’ A. Walter Dorn and David J, H, Bell, International Peacekeeping
, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995, p. 11; Per Eriksson
, ‘Intelligence in Peacekeeping Operations’, International Journal of intelligence and Counterintelligence
, Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring 1997, p. 1.
6 Quoted from Conor Cruise O’Brien, To Katanga and Back, New York: Grosset and Dunlop, 1962, p. 76.
7 In the Reparation case, the World Court stated: ‘Under international law, the [UN] Organisation must be deemed to have those powers which, though not expressly provided in the Charter, are conferred upon it by necessary implication as being essential to the performance of its duties,’ ICJ Rep., 1949, p, 182. The doctrine of implied powers was also adopted in the Certain Expenses and the Namibia cases. Indeed, peacekeeping, with soldiers under the command of the UN secretary-general, is not explicitly provided for in the UN Charter either.
8 The provisions on respecting local laws and refraining from incompatible activities is contained, for instance, in paragraph 6 of the ‘Draft Model Status-of-Forces Agreement and Host Countries,’ which is in circulation at the UN. The relevant rights granted to the UN under the model SOFA includes ‘freedom of movement throughout the territory’ (paragraph 12), freedom to import equipment (to be used exclusively by the PKO (paragraph I5), unrestricted communications (paragraph 11), and non-interference with mail (paragraph 11).
9 This information was drawn from an interview with Reg Fountain
, a Canadian military officer who served with UNIIMOG, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, 11 February 1998.
10 Once the invasion had begun, Iraq imposed a ban on UN military observers: they could not leave the country (from 2 August for a month or so), and no phone calls were permitted to arrive or be sent to Muslim countries. Conversations (such as those to Canada) were closely monitored.
11 Javier Perez de Cuellar
, Pilgrimage for Peace: A secretary-general’s Memoir
(New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997) pp. 237–238.
13 This convention is based on the Continental Staff System, where the headquarters is divided up into 6 branches, numbered one through six. One is personnel, two is intelligence
, three is operations, four is logistics, five is civil/military affairs, and six is communications and computers, The letter designator could be A, 6, J, N, or U, which designate the headquarters as either Air Force, Ground (or Army), Joint, Naval, or United Nations. Therefore, the G2 is army intelligence, the N3 is navy operations
, and U2 would be UN peacekeeping force intelligence.
14 An example of the use of the term ‘U2’ for UN intelligence and the U2 interaction with the U.S. information centre is provided in an After Action Report (AAR) by the Chief of Staff of the 10th Mountain Division dated 1 February 1993, available on the Centre for Army Lessons Learned (CALL-TRADOC, Ft. Leavenworth), Lessons Learned Information Warehouse (LLIW on CD ROM) on peace operations.
15 Information obtained at the ‘Comprehensive Seminar on Lessons Learned from United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM)’ organised by the UN DPKO Lesson Learned Unit, 13 – I5 September 1995, Plainsboro, New Jersey.
16 This description draws upon a conversation on 10 February 1998 with a senior Canadian peacekeeper who had served as Force Engineer in UNPROFOR.
18 Information provided by Douglas Mason, former UNOSOM Chief Administrative Officer, at the Comprehensive Seminar on the Lessons Learned from the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM), held in 13–15 September 1995 in Plainsboro, New Jersey.
19 The Truth Commission in Guatemala was created and organised by the UN, unlike the South African Truth Commission, which is purely national in origin and composition.
20 Perez de Cuellar, Pilgrimage, p. 438.
21 UN Department of Communications and Public Information. ‘Two civilian missions: Monitoring human rights ... and a humanitarian mission distributing essential goods,’ obtained from www,un.org/Depts/dpko/yir97/civilian.htxn on 2 April 1998.
22 Perez de Cuellar, Pilgrimage, p. 6.
23 Ibid., p. 407.
24 Ibid., p. 104.
25 Ibid., p. 100.
26 The New York Times, 18 April 1987, p, 4.
27 The composition of the I&R unit, consisting only of seconded nationals from the permanent five members of the Security Council, does create the potential problem that incoming information may be biased toward the interests of the UN’s most powerful states. In practice, however, such natural biases can be taken into account and found acceptable because more information is generally better than less.
28 Ambassador Robert Fowler, remarks at the Leger Seminar on ‘The UN Security Council in the 1990s,’ Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
, 20 September 1996.
29 Perez de Cuellar, Pilgrimage, p. 168.
30 Ibid., p. 8.
31 Ibid., p. 168.
33 A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would outline the procedures for information sharing and handling. For sensitive and secret information, this would require an upgrade of its confidentiality system. Such an MOU is being considered by staff in the UN’s Situation Centre.
34 Secrecy begets more secrecy, as exemplified by the phrase: ‘O what a tangled web we weave once we begin to practice to deceive!’
35 The information and allegations of Scott Ritter are described in detail in an article ‘Scott Ritter’s Private War,’ The New Yorker
, 9 November 1998, p, 54, and in his book, Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem–Once and For All
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999). Though the interpretative and prescriptive elements of Ritter’s analysis are questionable
, his detailed description of his own UNSCOM experiences and its information-gathering methods appear to be valid, and are corroborated by other sources.
36 At first the United States maintained strict control over the U2 operation and image development, and the photographs stayed with the U,S. government. Later, UNSCOM took control over U2 operations, deciding on mission tasking and, with CIA approval, the handling and sharing of imagery.
37 Ritter further comments that even with the counterintelligence measures, ‘still we didn’t trust it completely. We had the air conditioner running as loud as we could and repeatedly used the large white marking board instead of talking.’ Ritter, Endgame, p. 25.
38 Ritter, Endgame, p. 141 and p. 181, respectively.
39 The UN cannot afford to engage in extensive counterintelligence efforts because these would affect the atmosphere of the organisation and could result in ‘witch hunts,’ such as those that the UN experienced in the McCarthy era in the early 1950s.
40 These ‘intelligence’ officers are in the Information and Research Branch of the Situation Centre in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
41 The practical reason for this irony is clear: the UN has been able to secure neither funding nor mandates from member states for the much-needed expansion. In fact, the financial squeeze
, imposed largely by the United States, has forced it into a contraction: it has 2,000 people fewer than it did in 1985 (out of a total of some 10,000, covering all areas of international affairs, from human rights to environment to peacekeeping). By contrast, the national intelligence agencies did not contract: huge sources of funds continued to flow into them (roughly $26 billion annually in the United States alone). It appears that the capacity for the institutional survival of intelligence agencies in the United States and other Western countries remains great.
42 Statists may argue that with an independent and effective intelligence capability the intergovernmental UN would begin to become a super-governmental organisation. But there is no reason why an intergovernmental organisation cannot have the capacity to monitor compliance with the rules that are collectively established. On a more practical basis, many states feel that the UN is inherently insecure and any intelligence it came into possession of would inevitably leak back to their ‘enemies.’ This is a good reason to devote more effort and resources to developing the UN’s confidentiality system.