We are honored to host mr. Arturo Relanzón Sánchez-Gabriel, Secretary General of the Spanish Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI) and Professor Doctor Hendrik Hansen from the Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences (Berlin) giving their views on the main threats challenging European security and how the Intelligence College in Europe can contribute to strengthen the security and cooperation culture.
From 1st to 3rd of March 2023, France welcomed in Paris an Intelligence College in Europe seminar on open-source intelligence (OSINT). During this event, the six main French intelligence services, as well as academics, EU and European member states services representatives and civil society members have been able to dialogue on their views and concerns as far as challenges and developments of OSINT are concerned.
Even if OSINT is still delicate to define in a homogenous way all over Europe and beyond, a few consensuses arose thank to the various presentations. OSINF (Open Source Information) is one part of the scene, it encompasses commercial data basis or available in open data, accessible to the public for any kind of purpose (research, watch). On the other hand, OSINT covers more targeted field. It is concrete and actionable intelligence collected on precise target, with complex techniques from screening to de-anonymisation. The purpose of the collection makes the difference between OSINF and OSINT.
The war in Ukraine has accelerated the awareness about the wealth and the provision of data OSINT in terms of quantity and in terms of nature. In concrete terms, one can identify four families of OSINT data: content (audio, video, text), information data (selectors), interactions data (links) and quantity.
This information overload implies the development of specific tools but also the professionalization of the Osinters. Indeed, a strategy of automatization is a must but it is not enough. A critical analysis of the result provided stays unavoidable. A final analysis remains key, AI – even if it eases a lot the analysis of sets of data – cannot detect slight nuances such as sarcasm and irony, which are almost impossible to be integrated by an algorithm. That is where the human factor steps in as far as OSINT is concerned.
Training Osinters has become the main current challenge. OSINT is now on, a genuine craft and even several crafts in one job. Osinters still have to find their place in intelligence where Humint is still seen as the “noble” art. This place will have to be found through a constant dialogue between Osinters and experts (geographic or thematic ones). The analyst/expert and the Osinter have to work together closely. Each category has to be able to master the mission of the other (as much as possible at least) in order for the analysts to make requests corresponding to what the Osinters can achieve with the tools they have. Conversely Osinters have to be able to spot a relevant information even if they haven’t been asked to look for it. Hence, OSINT is a challenge as much technical as human. It implies training and substantial investments.
Professionalisation of OSINT is not only a challenge for intelligence and defence. It is also at stake for journalism and even for the judicial world where a world of questionings is arising as far as the use of OSINT is concerned (in case of war crime for instance).
The founder of the NGO Openfacto (created in 2019) explained the concept of citizen journalism which can find support in OSINT. He mentioned the constraints existing in this field such as risk of manipulation, importance of the English-speaking media, lack of resources when you want to protect your won editorial freedom, lack of legal protection… Part of those constraints can be counterbalanced in case of cooperation with consortiums of mainstream newspapers with resources, lawyers and translation capacities.
In the future, access to information will be a new challenge. The data flows valves are progressively closing. Twitter, Meta, Instagram have adopted new policies making access to data more difficult. The Splinternet trend – regionalization of internet – is making it worse. Access will still be possible but it is going to be expensive. OSINT is a commodity, it has a cost and generates a market which is clandestine most of the time. 90% of open information is public. OSINT can complete and even replace “classical” intelligence when this one is too dangerous to collect. Some of the OSINT tools that used to be valid, may not be used anymore at a given time because, among other things, of the progressive implementation of patches on security flaws. Hence, Osinters have to adapt constantly to technical developments to remain efficient.
Among the other challenges to take up, semantic will be significant because it is linked with the e-learning machine concept. Artificial Intelligence, Deepfake and ChatGPT will make OSINT activities even harder because of their consequences on the manipulation of information. OSINT related risks are of ethical nature as well. One has to stay very much alert about the old question of who gains. OSINT is a field where information is distributed, which means it is a field of influence. The conflict in Ukraine and the use of OSINT in this context have been game changers. OSINT has become a tool used in support of influence operations. All the operating forces rely on Osinters communities in order to save time and money. Once checked and made reliable, OSINT is one source of intelligence among other sources. It can still be a tool for propaganda, influence and manipulation as well.
The Security in the Black Sea Region. Shared Challenges, sustainable future. Focus on Europe and its neighbourhood event took place in Bucharest, Romania, during May 22-26, 2023. The course was organised in residential format by the “Mihai Viteazul” National Intelligence Academy, under the aegis of the European Security and Defence College and with the support of the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.
The event comprised a large number of international lecturers and speakers, academics, EU and NATO representatives, representatives of security and intelligence state institutions, civil society organisations etc. whose contributions received overall very good feedback from the participants.
In total, the activity was attended by 61 participants from the EU and Eastern Partnership countries, to which there were added 18 lecturers, moderators and exercise facilitators. Participants were generally entry/mid-level staff (military, diplomatic, police, intelligence and civilians) from Member States and EaP countries with some experience in security policy matters.
The course featured lectures, debates and interactive exercises on the topic of the challenges faced by the Black Sea region and the policy responses which supra-national, national and regional decision-makers can adopt in order to combat them. While lectures and panel debates were held in the morning of each day, the afternoons were dedicated to life skill sessions, where participants had a chance to learn through serious games, skills of active listening, positive communication and feedback, leadership and teamwork development skills. The life skills sessions were followed by an extensive 5 stage exercise in which participants had a chance to interact and exercise problem solving and analytical skills in rapidly changing teams and circumstances. The format provided the opportunity for young and senior leaders in EU Member States and Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries to meet, share ideas and debate on how to build secure societies in the future. The programme aimed to foster cooperation in the region, increase state and societal resilience and to contribute to the development of a common strategic culture between Member States and EaP countries.
Topics such as
The EU Strategic Compass - how it changes security strategy and envisioned outcome,
Mapping the strategic environment in which the EU is operating,
Main challenges ahead - from climate change to AI impact on hybrid warfare development,
Mapping the typology of hybrid threats to security in BSR
were addressed by academic and institutional lecturers that set the frame of debates and provided substantial evidence and food for thought to be integrated and translated into actionable points during the afternoon related exercises.
François Fischer, Director of the Permanent Secretariat, presented the ICE goals, objectives and achievements before highlighting the role of the Intelligence College in Europe in strengthening resilience and the common strategic culture in the Black Sea region. It was the second time, after a first participation to the 2019 edition, that he had the pleasure to intervene and to interact in this strategic regional conference.
Panel debates extended the perspective and offered participants multiple angles of investigation and understanding, while exercise sessions allowed them not only to work gradually with all other participants, but also create a toolkit of policy recommendations and actionable points ready to be followed at national and European level.
On behalf of the Intelligence College in Europe (ICE), from 6 to 10 February 2023 the Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) hosted a session on security processes and challenges in the Western Balkans (WB) and their impact on Europe. 30 participants from 14 ICE member countries joined the session in Zagreb to reflect on the security in South East Europe from several different perspectives and on current challenges facing this area.
The session was organized in cooperation with the Faculty of Political Sciences and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb and in addition to speakers from SOA and the faculties, participants also heard from lecturers from the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the Office of the National Security Council, the VERN’ University, the University Department of Forensic Sciences in Split, the Croatian Military and Police Academies and a representative of EU INTCEN.
On the first day, the participants were welcomed by SOA Director, Mr. Daniel Markić, and they were familiarized with the political situation in the WB, the history and relationships that define it, with specific features of this area and how they impact WB countries’ EU perspective. The WB is known to be an area undergoing constant transition and adjustment and a bridge, as well as crossroads, between the main geopolitical actors. The main challenges to the WB countries’ transition process include political instability, ubiquitous corruption, inter-ethnic tension, strong organised crime, autocratic tendencies and limited human rights. Throughout history, these impeding factors have kept the WB area under foreign influence.
The lack of political, economic and security consolidation in WB countries “enables” non-Western countries to exert their influence and pursue their strategic interests in the area.
Extremism, terrorism, organised crime and illegal migrations are the principal risk factors affecting the security and stability of the WB, and they may directly affect the security and trends across Europe as well.
The session especially focused on illegal migrations and the impact of the Balkan route on European security. The issue of illegal migrations in Europe raises concerns for national, economic and social security and its resolution warrants an international approach.
The participants heard about Croatia’s strategic goals for the region: stability and prosperity, EU and NATO membership and social, state and institutional reforms. Croatia supports the EU enlargement process in the WB, contributes to preparations and accession negotiations and provides political assistance to finding solutions both on the EU level but also with individual WB country candidates. Overall, this ICE session showed how important the WB area is in terms of position, security processes and challenges and how they directly impact Europe’s security. That is why Croatia believes that, with the help of the EU and the West, the WB countries’ transition will be a successful step forward on their way to Euro-Atlantic integration.
The Romanian Presidency of the Intelligence College in Europe starts on February 1st, 2023. With this occasion, professor Adrian Ivan, PhD. the Rector of “Mihai Viteazul” National Intelligence Academy, introduces Romania’s projects and ambitions for the College.
It is an honour for us today to take over – on behalf of Romania – the Presidency of the Intelligence College in Europe. We are very much obliged to and inspired by the previous presidencies – our colleagues and friends from the Italian Republic, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Croatia. We commend the French Republic’s vision in initiating this project, as well as the effort made by the Permanent Secretariat and the subsequent presidencies, that have turned ICE into a fully-fledged academic platform of academic cooperation. Now – in its 5th year of existence – ICE has become a mature intergovernmental entity with a solid framework for cooperation, aimed at supporting our shared strategic objective – to foster the development of a shared strategic culture of the European intelligence community.
As in all complex endeavours, there is still a lot of work ahead to fully achieve this objective, so we will build on the foundation set in the previous years, with a particular focus on dialogue, engagement and outreach in all ICE pillars. Our vision has been shaped by the fast evolving European security environment, knowing for a fact that transnational security risks to the security of our continent can be efficiently addressed together. To be able to do that, intelligence services need to share a common vision, understand, and strategic culture. This endeavour can be achieved by sharing our individual knowledge and skills needed for intelligence and national security – and this is exactly what the College will strive to offer: opportunities for the academia, experts and practitioners in security and intelligence alike to share their expertise and work together to build a strong common security culture in Europe.
To achieve these long-term goals, the Romanian Presidency will focus on three hey areas, where we count on an active and consistent involvement of all ICE members:
first, consolidating the Executive Program in a multi-annual perspective, to facilitate performance and traceability;
second, supporting and facilitating the development of both executive and academic program modules in co-production by various communities;
third, encouraging outreach initiatives and College visibility.
The Romanian Presidency is determined to contribute to the College long term strategic development, by working together with all of you, the ICE members, to provide the right opportunities for reflection and to foster exchanges between members of the European intelligence community. Our strong belief is that by strengthening a pragmatic cooperation and synergy amongst partners, and promoting new learning opportunities, while confidently moving forward on the outreach dimension, we will soon enjoy the benefits of a shared and vibrant intelligence culture.
We are looking forward to working together!
Rector of “Mihai Viteazul” National Intelligence Academy
From 7th to 9th December 2022, the French Coordination for Intelligence and Counter Terrorism and the French Intelligence Academy organised a session for the Intelligence College in Europe (ICE) dedicated to Countering manipulation of information.
This session was the first one for the 2022/2023 Executive Education Programme. 19 attendees from 14 member-countries participated.
The session began with a presentation proposed by the CNRLT and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs aiming at introducing the French intelligence community and the French organisation as far as Countering manipulation of information is concerned.
The presentation allowed the attendees to encompass the French context and shed light on the strategy of the MFA. It displayed the articulation between diplomacy and intelligence in this regard and identified the constraints of this endeavour: speed of the dissemination, need for education, dialogue to build with the private sector (platforms)… The national and the European level have been mentioned as complementary.
The second day had to be shortened due to a last-minute cancellation from one of the academic but it was still an intense working day divided between the academic and the defence world and complemented with working group exchanges.
The sociologist Gérald Bronner, professor at Université Paris-Cité and in charge of the commission « Les lumières à l’ère du numérique » commissioned by the French presidency presented part of the report he drafted, on where we stand as far as informational disorders in a digital era are concerned. He mentioned one of his book l’Apocalypse cognitive, which can be a good work basis. The situation we are facing is brand-new. For the first time in the history of Mankind, we have access to an unprecedented amount of information and simultaneously, for the first time we have enough free time to grasp it. One could dream about the advent of a knowledge democracy but unfortunately this is a fantasy. We are facing an information cacophony where anybody’s assertion is considered equal to an expert assessment. This global competition of information has a direct unfortunate consequence: our attention is considered as a precious treasure to attract. Each and every psychological features of our brains are used and abused to “hijack” our attention: cocktail party effect, attraction for conflict, cognitive bias, anchoring effect, social stereotypes. Our democracies are confronted with the interests of a business model where fake news are breaking open the public debate. Fake news is disseminated 6 times faster than genuine facts, because fake news is easier to digest for our “lazy” brains, eager to satisfy our attraction for radicality. In order to counter this trend, sociology and education are key but not enough per se. A complete educational revolution initiated through a state policy is necessary.
The second academic invited was Paul Charon from IRSEM, author of a report on Chinese influence operation (« A Machiavellian moment » Vimer-Charon). For a long time, China sought to be loved rather than feared but nowadays Beijing is increasingly comfortable with infiltration and coercion. Its influence operations are tougher and its methods are similar to the ones employed by Moscow (Russification). Thanks to numerous examples, M. Charon presented the concepts (United Front, The three wars, active measures…) and the actors (Party, State, Army) to have in mind when speaking about Chinese disinformation. The main targets in terms of manipulation of information were developed (diaspora, media, education, think tank, diplomacy). Finally, M. Charon assesses the effectiveness of this new Chinese posture which can boast some tactical successes but constitutes a strategic failure as the positive opinion about China has collapsed in most of the developed countries from 2019 until today, singularly in South Korea dropping from 70% to 19 %. Faced with this development, China will have to change its methods but will probably keep the same goals. China stands at a transition moment.
Several presentations from state structures were proposed to the audience beginning with the Comcyber belonging to the defence ministry on Countering influence information (Lutte informatique d’influence / L2I). Faced with ISIL/DAESH propaganda and today with Russian and Chinese activities in Africa, the France had to develop a strategy encompassing numerous actors in order to synchronize efforts. The missions of Comcyber are to denounce disinformation through fact checking which is getting more and more difficult as the volume of information is an ever-growing phenomenon. Getting support from the private platforms and obtaining their commitment in content moderation are key. To react to disinformation, anticipation is critical in order to discredit the hostile actor and to persuade the public opinion. Truth is the focus of the French strategy and the main constraint of this fight is the time factor. OSINT is of great help in this battle. This fight is a teamwork.
In this team, the Intelligence services are playing an important part which was developed by DGSI. The mission of the service is focused on securing the independence of information in our democracies. This means identifying the threat to be able to counter the activities of hostile actors through classic counter-espionage methods and through new tools developed by watchmen or to support the activities of those watchmen. To be able to identify the risk, the spectre of potential targets has been enlarged to public-opinion makers far beyond the political arena (academics, think-tankers, journalists, bloggers…).
Disinformation is also based on “controlled” media aiming at influence the diaspora and the public opinion of the targeted country or region, in a far more ambitious strategy. A few foreign services consider disinformation as an offensive tool (active measures) and have updated the “soviet” technics willing to divide the western public opinion, to harm the morale of the population and to hamper the democratic nature of the public debate.
Countering disinformation and information manipulation embeds a digital dimension which was presented both by DGSI and Viginum. Even if Internet was an empowerment promise, it is first and foremost a market place where only the most motivated can get some kind of audience. The services are trying to identify links and relays with digital tools developed to mitigate the risks represented by an unprecedented volume of data.
Viginium is a national governmental, technical and operational structure in charge of the watch and the protection of the country against foreign digital interference. It has been created in July 2021 and has to safeguard the public debate from digital campaign manipulating information and originating from foreign actors willing to harm France and its interests. It is not an intelligence agency. It is looking for abnormal situations and behaviours in a classic democratic debate in order to be able to characterize this activity. This characterization is done legally and technically thanks to open sources. Three challenges have to be considered: the legal challenge, Viginum has to work in a strict framework not to be blamed about freedom of speech issues, a human resources issue as specific skills have to be attracted to work with this still developing new structure and an operational issue as France had just experienced several electoral campaigns. Here again the collective nature of the effort has been underlined with a reference to the private sector.
A focus on disinformation around the conflict in Ukraine concluded the presentations.
During the module, two working group sessions have been organized allowing the attendees to exchange on domestic protection against external state digital interference, tools against anti-European propaganda outside Europe and corporate technological innovation for the benefit of information warfare. During the working group sessions, attendees have been able to take stock of what they’ve heard during the seminar and to exchange on the basis of their own professional experience. Overall this session of the Executive Education Programme of the Intelligence College in Europe confirmed how critical is the issue of countering manipulation of information in our democracies. France stays confident hat this is not the last time that this topic will be dealt with in the framework of the Intelligence College in Europe.
As part of the College’s Outreach activities, we are pleased to announce the launch of the ICE YouTube Channel which will allow us to upload various videos.
On this occasion, we kindly invite you to watch the first Let’s Meet! Intelligence Together videos, made by our Italian colleagues. This project focuses on short video interviews with selected national academics in order to begin to build a common European security culture.
You will see Professors Luciano Bozzo, from the University of Florence, and Francesco C. Billari, rector of Bocconi University, answering questions on current and future European security challenges and ways to address them.
Also, you will find on our channel an interview with Francois Fischer, the Director of the Permanent Secretariat, on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Romanian Intelligence Academy. More content will be uploaded regularly with the support of our members.
Promoted by the Italian Presidency, the "ICE Bibliography on Intelligence" is the result of a joint effort by ICE member countries to promote a common culture of security. The project consisted in building, under the ICE "brand", a collection of the most relevant books on intelligence and security issues.
The bibliography is a comprehensive and up-to-date collection of selected non-fiction books on the world of intelligence and national security, which can be used by practitioners and non-professionals alike to increase knowledge, arouse curiosity and bring people closer to our world.
The selection of volumes has focused mainly on the scholarly production of the last twenty years, without neglecting previously published works of particular relevance, and is divided into the following chapters
- History of intelligence and biographies: texts on the role played by intelligence in the history of international relations, from antiquity to the present day, and on the most famous biographies related to the world of espionage;
- Theory of Intelligence: volumes dedicated to theoretical issues and studies of intelligence analysis, including a section specifically dedicated to economic intelligence analysis;
- The World of Intelligence: works dealing with the legal aspects and their impact on the national decision-making process;
- Intelligence Disciplines: in-depth studies of the sources, tools and specialities of intelligence and counterintelligence. The bibliography will be updated continuously.
Under the framework of the Intelligence College in Europe the Portuguese Republic Intelligence System (SIRP), organised on 29th November 2022, the “Psychology in the Service of Intelligence” Seminar, which was attended by 41 representatives of ICE members states and partners, as well as European academics.
The main objective of this seminar on Psychology in the service of Intelligence was to bring together practitioners of intelligence and academic experts to engage in substantive dialogue on this topic, thus providing a broad scope of approaches to the subject.
The participants explored the impact of psychopathological and mental health issues in the choices and behaviours of some individuals, and how this can distort some legal prejudices and concepts. Furthermore, various processes of radicalization and deradicalisation were addressed, as well as the possibility of using psychological tools to ascertain other thoughts and state of mind based on behaviour patterns. Also discussed was the impact of neurological elements on our perception of others and the role critical thinking might play in obviating this impact.
On December 14, 2022, the Complutense University of Madrid hosted the “Intelligence Services and Society” Seminar, attended by representatives of the ICE Members, experts, academics and some EU officials.
The two panels were led by experts on the topic and a group of young people, whose profiles and interests intended to contribute and stimulate out-of-the box thinking and improve the conclusions.
The main ideas and agreements covered during the morning session were as follows:
One of the most important phases of the intelligence cycle is the relationship between the producer (Intelligence agencies) and the customer (decision makers);
Beside the feedback on intelligence products, the customers should be involved in the drawing of the actions priority list of the intelligence agencies;
It is crucial to increase the trust between the intelligence agencies and the customers, to avoid misunderstandings by working closer and using a common language;
The assumption and understanding of roles from both sides. On the one hand, the legitimate right of the elected political leadership to determine the political agenda. On the other hand, the willingness of the Intelligence service to provide the authorities with the best possible intel;
Reassure the level of professional knowledge within the intelligence agencies.
A number of perspectives emerged in the general discussions of the second panel, such as:
The need to change the definition of security, without restricting it to the traditional safety concepts. For young generations, security means cybersecurity, environmental security, safe social media use, energy security issue (meaning affordable and sustainable energy) and economy safety. This would be linked to the necessity of making youth part of the security process;
The stereotypes that define how intelligence services are perceived, as well as the fake press notes coming from the media are a challenge for the agencies;
These misunderstandings might be counteracted by giving credit to TV movies and films that truly reflect the job of the intelligence services;
Younger generations communicate through short videos. Making use of digital contents, especially video material, or engaging in social networks should be considered;
Possibility of creating a Youth Council at the ICE.