The UK has three intelligence and security agencies (‘the agencies’) responsible for the collection of intelligence1:the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), the Security Service and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), also manages some intelligence collection, notably that of imagery, but its main function is all-source analysis and assessment and the production of collated results, primarily to serve MOD requirements.
There is a panoply of collection techniques to acquire intelligence which do not exactly correspond to inter-departmental organisational boundaries. The three main ones are signals intelligence (the product of interception, generally abbreviated to ‘Sigint’); information from human sources such as classical espionage agents (which is conveniently described, by extension from the previous category, as ‘Humint’):and photography, or more generally imagery (‘Imint’). Signals intelligence and human intelligence are of widespread and general applicability. They can produce intelligence on any topic (for example, the intentions, plans, negotiations, activities and achievements of people involved in the development, acquisition, deployment and use of unconventional weapons), since ultimately the data they acquire stem from the human beings involved. Imagery is more confined to the study of objects (buildings, aircraft, roads, topography), though modern techniques have extended its abilities (for example, infra-red photography can in some circumstances show where an object was, even though it may have gone by the time the photograph is taken).
There are also other, more specialised intelligence techniques, some of particular relevance to this Review2. For example, the development of nuclear explosives inevitably involves highly-radioactive materials, radiation from which may be detected. Leakage from facilities concerned with the development of chemical and biological agents, and deposits in testing areas, can provide characteristic indicators. Missile testing may involve the generation of considerable heat, which can be detected, and missiles may be tracked by radar.
In the case of the weapons covered by this Review, there is additionally another category of information which is frequently mentioned by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in its assessments. International inspection and enforcement bodies have been established, on a permanent basis (e.g. the International Atomic Energy Agency), or temporary basis (e.g. the United Nations Special Commission), to ensure compliance with international treaties or United Nations resolutions3. Some of the findings and reports of these bodies are published on an official basis to United Nations members and are of considerable importance. In Iraq between 1991 and 1998, in many ways they surpassed anything that national intelligence agencies could do, but since their work is carried out on behalf of the United Nations it can hardly be considered ‘intelligence’ by the definitions to which we are working. Data obtained in the course of work on export licensing can also be important.
They also have other functions not relevant here. The term ‘Masint’ (Measurement and Signature Intelligence) has been coined for at least some of these techniques, though they lack the unifying themes which characterise Sigint and Humint. Such bodies often also have a wider operational role in the implementation of treaties or Security Council Resolutions.