Sir Richard Dearlove
"The Craft of Intelligence in a Time of Terrorism:
Means, Methods, and Ends"

Thursday, March 29th, 2006 - 5:30 to 7:30pm
Ignatieff Theatre, Trinity College, University of Toronto

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Synopsis of Talk by Richard Dearlove
The Craft of Intelligence in a Time of Terrorism: Means, Methods and Ends

As the Cold War ended, it seemed that the role within government of security and intelligence organisations might become peripheral.  9/11 was an event which redefined them.  It put them high amongst governmental priorities.  They also became, in the light of subsequent domestic and overseas developments, the focus of political and media attention to an unprecedented degree.

Meeting the threat of terrorism generated by radical Islam has also changed the nature of intelligence work. The difficulty of confronting a religiously driven extremism with ideology potency has also stimulated a security response which has resorted to legal and operational measures which, within the tradition of common law, are controversial.  Such measures have delivered significant tactical success.  However, we appear to have made no strategic progress on addressing the causes of terrorism.  On the Arab street the battle for hearts and minds is being lost.

Those Muslims who regard Islam and modernity as compatible, certainly a natural majority, are not heard.  The extremists are drowning out the moderates.  The extremists’ appeal is enhanced, their message amplified by the apparent aggressiveness of some counter-terrorist methods, by the lack of subtlety in the execution of the war on terrorism.  Of course these issues go beyond the competence of security and intelligence organisations.  They are “bit players” in a crisis with societal dimensions.  Intelligence organisations are not invested with the power to make our current predicament rapidly better.  However, the nature of their work does put them in a forward position.  In crafting a sustained response to the radical Islamic threat, now is the moment to divest ourselves of methods and means that do not sit easily with our inherent democratic and legal strengths and are probably counter-productive.  During the Cold War the West eventually occupied the moral high ground – and those who had the courage to oppose Soviet Communist dictatorship from within were sustained and strengthened until the system of Communist rule crumbled as a consequence of internal and external pressures which it was unable to resist.

If we are to emerge successfully from this time of terrorism, which may last as long as the Cold War, our security and intelligence response should be designed to take much more practical and ideological account of the role of moderate Muslims.  Ultimately they have the moral and cultural authority to marginalize the extremists.  We do not.  Our support and the way in which it is given could be crucial.  Moderate Muslims must be empowered to act on their own account, but we must take account of how our help to them is perceived on the Arab street.

27 February 2006

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