The role of intelligence services in a pandemic like Corona has been amply discussed in public as well as in professional circles. The questions raised and answers given in that context describe the whole range of problems generated by Covid-19, globally affecting governments, societies, economies, financial systems, security, and defense aspects.
While billions of individuals are directly or indirectly affected by the consequences of the pandemic, mostly caused by, or resulting from, medical, organizational and sanitary problems, national and international IC (intelligence community) organizations saw themselves immediately confronted with serious questions by governments, hinting at their genuine mission of providing “foreknowledge” or at least timely relevant information on vital major developments.
As an example that can probably be applied to all other countries as well, the Aspin/Brown Commission Report (1994) summarizes the US IC’s MEDINT mission, as follows:
“Collecting and Analyzing Information on World Health Problems. Information on world health problems and the capabilities of foreign countries to cope with them has become increasingly relevant to the ability of the United States to predict and respond to crises in other countries and to protect the health and safety of U.S. military forces and humanitarian workers who may be sent to assist. The movement of dangerous diseases to the United States is another major concern, and health problems can pose threats to the stability of foreign governments. In many cases, information concerning these problems can be obtained without resorting to the use of intelligence capabilities, but in other cases such information will not be readily available. The Commission sees a legitimate role for intelligence here, albeit one that does not involve substantial resources.”
The statement underlines the major role and conditions of US medical intelligence: To predict crises in other countries, protect health and safety of military forces and humanitarian workers without absorbing too much money! It remains to be seen whether the limitations involved in that kind of approach can still be maintained, considering the present and possible future pandemics of the same sort and size.
That question seems to be like a natural reflex whenever catastrophes such as pandemics, serious crises, and major political events shake up the world. Usually, the answers given by the intelligence services concerned are: Principally yes, but…! …Depending always on who poses the question, it used to either be considered naive, unwarranted, or just political rhetoric.
Serious answers, though, address fundamental aspects:
In the face of the present Corona pandemic and with a view to even more serious events in the future, that approach may have to change. Today, intelligence services will have to devote more resources to the global health data and analyses in order to fulfill their mission.
On the operational level, an all-source intelligence approach would be more than justified, with the focus directed to:
That increased effort, however, will not be possible without increased funds and additional technology. In particular, with view to force protection, disinformation operations, fake news, influence and public pressure campaigns on international organizations, there is a strong need for technological and IT support and assistance.
The combination of the different intelligence areas HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT, SOCMINT, and OSINT creates both political and technological challenges. Each of the areas has special characteristics which must be taken into account in the system design:
In addition to the above-mentioned area-specific challenges, there are others:
The Traversals team consisting of experienced developers, OSINT analysts, and an excellent advisory board has tried out many approaches in the past and followed the most promising ones. The result is a Data Fusion Platform that already answers a multitude of questions raised, subject to continuous improvement.
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