How these Draft Best Practice Guidelines can be Used

For Civil Society (journalists, NGOs, think tanks, academics)

  • Civil society can use the guidelines as a standing reserve of critical questions focused on intelligence elites to help navigate this difficult area. It is OK to ask critical questions of intelligence elites!
  • This can generate more critical researching, reporting, and campaigning to demand change for action, reform or redress.
  • For NGOs, understanding the obstacles faced by the press when reporting on intelligence elites may help NGOs develop strategies to address these obstacles when attempting to share their pool of knowledge with the public.
  • For the press, the guidelines can act as a training element and aide-memoire to counteract lack of awareness of secretive intelligence policies; and to avoid simply reproducing unsubstantiated, or selectively substantiated, intelligence elite claims.
  • The critical questions in the best practice guide are framed at a general level, and do not assume in-depth knowledge of secret, specific policies. But, if consistently asked by civil society, they would enable this knowledge to be publicly built up, thereby creating a stronger epistemic position from which to better hold intelligence elites publicly to account.

For Intelligence Agencies

  • Published polls on trust in intelligence elites are rare. However, soon after the leaks by Edward Snowden, an August 2013 poll found 47% (versus 34%) of the British public agreeing that the intelligence services should be more open with government about their operations. A 2014 poll found a small majority of the British public (48%) not confident in then current accountability arrangements (a committee of politicians) regarding their intelligence agencies: only 40% said they were confident. While, a later poll (January 2015) found 63% of the British public trust the intelligence services to behave responsibly with their data if telecommunications companies were required to retain everyone’s data (including content of communications) for 12 months, only 45% trust the Home Office, ministers and civil servants to behave responsibly with information obtained using these powers.
  • These figures suggest that trust in intelligence elites is luke-warm, at best. Greater public accountability would increase transparency and should help build public trust in intelligence agencies.

If you would like to contribute your views to this project, please contact the Principle Investigator: Prof. Vian Bakir.