Intelligence Cooperation in the 21st Century

On the 13th and 14th June 2022, the seminar ‘Intelligence Cooperation in the 21st Century’ took place in Breda, the Netherlands. This event was hosted by the Faculty of Military Sciences of the Netherlands Defence Academy (NLDA) and supported by both Dutch Intelligence and Security Services under the framework of the Intelligence College in Europe (ICE). Around 70 participants from 21 countries attended.

Cooperation is an important aspect of today’s intelligence practice. Its operational appeal is relatively straightforward; two can simply achieve more than one. Cooperation between intelligence services increases resources and combines valuable expertise. The ambiguity, speed and interdependence of current-day transnational and non-state threats seem to require more than any set of intelligence services is capable of delivering on its own. To face these threats, intelligence services increasingly share knowledge with a wide range of actors including partner services, (non-)governmental organizations, academic institutions and private companies. Cooperation between these actors generates many challenges due to their different societal roles, legal and professional boundaries, and organizational cultures. Examining how this cooperation works and evolves despite these inherent differences, complex interdependencies and risks, is helpful in understanding intelligence as a function of government and may help to distinguish best practices. The main objective of this two-day seminar on intelligence cooperation was to bring together practitioners of intelligence and academic experts to engage in substantive dialogue on this topic. After the opening by Francois Fischer, Director of ICE’s Permanent Secretariat, and a keynote by Professor Richard Aldrich, the seminar evolved around four themes; ‘International arrangements’, ‘Social relations in intelligence cooperation’, ‘Accountability and ethics in intelligence cooperation’ and ‘Non-traditional partners of intelligence agencies’. Each of the sessions was introduced by three academics and followed by an extensive group discussion. This way, the sessions stimulated knowledge development and deeper understanding of cooperation in the intelligence community. In addition, social events were included to get to know each other and enhance relationships. Participants were able to exchange their perspectives, experiences and insights. Through these fruitful debates and conversations, the seminar has successfully contributed to the ICE aims of developing a shared intelligence culture in Europe and fostering mutual understanding.