A Benchmark of Public Accountability Demands

Academic research shows that, with some notable exceptions, civil society largely does a poor job in holding intelligence elites publicly accountable. As a result, I am co-creating best practice guidelines to encourage critical researching and reporting in this difficult area.

These draft best practice guidelines direct civil society’s attention to three areas:

  • The accuracy and value of the intelligence itself;
  • Political responses to intelligence controversies;
  • Wider ethical, moral and legal questions concerning the intelligence.

Each area consists of a set of critical questions that civil society can use to publicly hold intelligence elites to account.

Issue Areas

Critical Questions Civil Society Could Ask

A. Accuracy & value
of intelligence

1. How strong is the analysis underlying an administration’s public characterisation of intelligence?
2. What is the level of consensus across the intelligence community on the accuracy or value of the intelligence?
3. What is the level of uncertainty regarding intelligence assessments?

B. Intelligence elite response to intelligence controversies

4. What further work is needed to achieve full accountability?
5.  To what extent has political/corporate responsibility been taken?

C. Ethics, morality & legality of how intelligence is gained and for what it is used

6. Are human/civil rights compromised in the production or use of intelligence?
7. Are principles of fairness/justice/morality compromised in the production or use of intelligence?

These best practice guidelines are informed by academic literature from Journalism, Media, History and International Relations scholarship, and interviews with key civil society actors.

If you would like to contribute your views, please contact the Principal Investigator, Prof. Vian Bakir.