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The International Politics of Intelligence Sharing

James Igoe Walsh

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November, 2009
Cloth, 208 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-231-15410-9
$45.00 / £30.95

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Excerpt from Chapter 1, Understanding Intelligence Sharing: Curveball and KSM

The charge that Iraq was actively developing chemical and biological weapons was an important rationale for the United States’ invasion of the country in 2003. To make this charge, the United States needed some evidence about Iraqi weapons programs, but reliable evidence was difficult to obtain. Relations between the two countries had been very hostile since the Gulf War of 1991, so the United States thus did not have diplomats stationed in the country who could search for information about Iraqi weapons. The president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, maintained a brutally tight grip over his society, and any scientist, government official, or military officer even suspected of sharing weapons information or otherwise collaborating with foreigners was very likely to be tortured and killed. The United States did control satellites and aircraft that could thoroughly reconnoiter Iraqi territory for weapons activity. But the Iraqis had learned to hide underground and out of sight those activities that they wanted to keep secret. During the 1990s, the United Nations closely monitored Iraq’s military activities to ensure its compliance with provisions of the cease-fire ending the 1991 Gulf War that prohibited Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction. Although these United Nations inspectors had been a valuable source of information about Iraqi activities, Hussein expelled them in 1998.

This meant that the United States had very little capability itself to collect reliable information on Iraqi weapons development, so it turned to other countries to provide relevant intelligence. The German intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), shared information it had obtained from Rafid Ahmed Alwan. Alwan defected from Iraq to Germany in 1999 and was later interrogated by the BND, which, in an act of unintentional irony, gave him the code name Curveball. Curveball claimed that he had worked at a facility in Iraq that manufactured mobile biological weapons laboratories. Although the BND passed this information along to an American intelligence agency, it would not permit its American counterparts to question Alwan directly. Curveball’s claims formed an important part of the American argument for war: Secretary of State Colin Powell drew on them for his presentation to the UN Security Council seeking international support for the invasion, and President George W. Bush mentioned mobile biological weapons labs in his State of the Union address just two months before the invasion.

Curveball had lied. He had lied about his educational credentials (claiming to have graduated first in his class at university when in fact he had graduated last), about the reasons why he left Iraq in 1999 (he was being investigated for embezzlement), and about his work history (he drove a taxi and worked for a television production company in Iraq). All his claims to have helped manufacture biological weapons labs—key building blocks in the American case for war—were fabrications. His lies were revealed after the invasion when no mobile labs or other evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program were discovered. Curveball had duped his German controllers and, more important, the Americans who based their decision for war partly on the intelligence he provided. How could such an error have occurred? Perhaps, as many commentators have argued, American leaders wanted war with Iraq and simply used Curveball’s claims as a convenient justification. A major part of the problem, however, was that Curveball was telling his falsehoods to the Germans, who in turn were sharing them with the Americans. This sharing made it difficult for the United States to verify to its own satisfaction that Curveball’s story was reliable, even though many American intelligence personnel had doubts about his credibility. Because of the barriers that the United States faced in collecting intelligence on Iraq, it was very difficult to ignore a source of information provided by another country.

Curveball illustrates many of the promises and problems that states encounter when they seek to share intelligence. Receiving intelligence from another country may be the most efficient or, in some cases, the only source of information. This makes shared intelligence very valuable, as it provides at least some information that decision makers can use to reduce the uncertainty they inevitably face when crafting foreign policy. But it also means that the recipient is at the mercy of the state providing the intelligence. The sending state may manipulate the shared intelligence to serve its own purposes, or it may fail to properly confirm important pieces of the intelligence that it passes along. This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that shared intelligence is shrouded in great secrecy to keep its source hidden from outsiders, thus making it even more difficult for the receiving state to independently verify its accuracy. How do governments overcome these barriers and mutually benefit from sharing intelligence? That is the main question addressed in this book.

Another story illustrates the answer that this book provides. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was a leader in the al Qaeda terrorist organization and the architect of the multiple attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Mohammed, often referred to in official American accounts as KSM, was captured in Pakistan in 2003. His capture was the result of years of careful investigation and the close cooperation of intelligence agencies in the United States, Pakistan, and other countries. Quite by accident, Philippine authorities discovered that KSM had been planning attacks from their country. Additional intelligence came from suspected terrorists captured after the September 11 attacks and interrogated by American authorities in Afghanistan and by other governments across the Middle East. Acting on information provided by a detainee, American intelligence agencies were then able to monitor telephone communications among members of KSM’s organization in Pakistan. Someone with specific knowledge of his whereabouts gave this information to Pakistani officials. Although Pakistani forces were responsible for apprehending KSM, American officials were on the scene monitoring the situation. Pakistan then transferred KSM to American control, under which he was interrogated about his role in the September 11 attacks and other plots.

This description of KSM’s capture illustrates that intelligence sharing is not simply an additional source of useful information but can often be a requirement for successful action. Even though the United States had the technical means to track some of the communications of KSM or his associates, this was not sufficient to engineer his capture. In addition, the United States needed intelligence provided by detainees and agents controlled by other countries to piece together a sufficiently detailed map of KSM’s activities. It needed the active cooperation of Pakistan in tracking KSM to his hideout in Rawalpindi. Intelligence sharing, therefore, can be a necessary part of successful foreign policy choices.

KSM’s case also demonstrates how successful intelligence sharing can be tied to other forms of cooperation. To secure the cooperation of the Pakistani authorities, for example, the United States after September 11, 2001, gave the country enormous amounts of intelligence of its own as well as economic and military aid. Thus the United States helped secure Pakistan’s willingness to supply the intelligence it needed by in turn providing Pakistan with its own intelligence as well as money and arms. Intelligence is a valuable commodity, and states bargain with one another to obtain the best possible return before agreeing to share it.

Finally, the United States worried that some countries might renege on their promises to share intelligence. Indeed, many of the countries that participated in the hunt for KSM may have had good reasons not to share their findings with the United States. For reasons discussed in chapter 5, Pakistan was especially suspect on this score. One step that the United States took to prevent such defection was closely supervising the pursuit of KSM. American officials collected some intelligence themselves, participated in organizing and carrying out the raid on the house where KSM was hiding, and insisted on taking custody of him. A key argument of my book is that such direct, hierarchical control of another state’s counterterrorism and intelligence efforts is an important tool for overcoming the problem of defection from promises to share intelligence. Even though states may want to receive intelligence from others, the secrecy surrounding it makes it difficult for them to determine whether it has been shaded or manipulated in some way before it is shared. Accordingly, hierarchy —by which I mean some direct control over another state’s intelligence activities—is a useful mechanism for overcoming such concerns about defection that has not been analyzed in existing works on sharing intelligence.

This book describes the benefits that states seek when they share intelligence, the barriers that they encounter when doing so, and the conditions under which forging a hierarchical relationship allows them to surmount these barriers. Intelligence sharing is a form of international cooperation, and we can learn much about the practice from explanations of cooperation developed for other domains. Intelligence sharing delivers to at least one participating state the benefits of more or better intelligence. The most important barrier to intelligence sharing is the fear that other participants will defect, in the sense of violating their agreement to cooperate, for example, by manipulating shared intelligence to serve their own ends. Moreover, the secrecy surrounding intelligence makes it very difficult for one state to tell when its partner has defected. This secrecy means that two common explanations of cooperation—mutual trust between participants, and the development of institutions and practices designed to provide information about compliance—are unlikely to be very effective in the area of intelligence sharing. R elational contracting , an alternative explanation of cooperation, has been applied to international politics and has added important insights to our understanding of the extent and nature of international intelligence sharing. Relational contracting is a part of transaction cost economics, which was first developed to explain the origins of business firms and was later applied to international politics and many other issues. Relational contracting draws attention to how states can incorporate hierarchical control, oversight, and monitoring mechanisms in their cooperative agreements in order to minimize defection by participants. Hierarchical agreements to share intelligence create a dominant state responsible for making important decisions and overseeing implementation. Such agreements also create the subordinate states that receive benefits such as shared intelligence, foreign aid, and protection from external threats in exchange for accepting the dominant state’s control. Hierarchy allows states to overcome their concerns about defection and to engage in mutually beneficial cooperation. This is particularly useful in the area of intelligence sharing, as it otherwise is difficult for states to determine whether their partners are complying with an intelligence-sharing agreement.

Intelligence and Intelligence Sharing

Intelligence is the collection, protection, and analysis of both publicly available and secret information, with the goal of reducing decision makers’ uncertainty about a foreign policy problem. Intelligence is a type of, but is not synonymous with, information. Intelligence is information, or a process of obtaining information, that someone prefers to be kept secret. The targets of intelligence collection and analysis keep information about their capabilities and intentions secret from others. Military forces are a common focus of other countries’ intelligence efforts, and the targets of such intelligence collection try to mask their true capabilities and vulnerabilities in order to maintain the advantage of surprise over potential opponents. In turn, organizations charged with collecting intelligence on such targets do not reveal information about the sources and methods they use, since failing to do so would allow the targets to take countermeasures to secure their secrets from outsiders. Governments use secrecy to prevent others from knowing what they know or what actions they may take. But this understandable effort to secure secrets also makes it difficult for countries that agree to share intelligence to determine whether their partners are abiding by their commitments.

Intelligence is shared when one state—the sender—gives intelligence in its possession to another state—the recipient. Why do states share intelligence? Sharing intelligence is useful because decision makers often face a great deal of uncertainty when crafting foreign policy. They may be uncertain about the true intentions of friends and foes, the capabilities of others to deliver help or harm, the full range of policy options available to them, and the outcomes of implementing these policies. Intelligence about others’ political intentions and material capabilities is especially important to the areas of defense and security policy, in which policy errors—such as surprise attacks or entanglements in protracted military conflicts—can be very costly. National governments devote substantial resources to collecting and analyzing intelligence. Nonetheless, decision makers are rarely satisfied with the quality and quantity of intelligence made available to them, and they often complain about the failure of intelligence agencies to anticipate important developments. This desire for intelligence is what leads governments to share intelligence with their counterparts overseas. The most important benefit from sharing intelligence is that it can give decision makers new perspectives on the problems they face and the likely effects of the policies they select.

What senders and recipients decide to exchange varies. Most countries share little or no intelligence with one another. In some cases, one state shares its intelligence in exchange for something else, such as foreign aid, security assurances, or diplomatic support. In other arrangements, the parties share intelligence with one another. Examples include exchanging intelligence from signals intercept stations, reconnaissance aircraft, or satellites covering different areas of the world; pooling resources to analyze an intelligence target of interest to both the countries; coordinating their networks of agents providing human intelligence; or jointly investing in new technologies to collect intelligence or in expensive intelligence assets such as satellites or listening posts. Agreements also vary in how extensively the parties share intelligence. In some relationships, such as that between the United States and Great Britain during the Second World War, the parties routinely share intelligence on a wide range of issues of mutual concern. Other agreements are more limited, with the parties sharing intelligence on some issues but not others. For instance, many current intelligence-sharing arrangements between the United States and countries in the Middle East and South Asia, which focus on intelligence concerning terrorist groups, take this form. Another way that intelligence-sharing agreements differ is how much one state directly controls another state’s collection and analysis of intelligence. During the cold war, instead of direct control, the United States and Britain collaborated closely, but each retained the authority to determine its own intelligence activities. The United States, however, directly managed and oversaw West Germany’s intelligence activities and, more recently, has supervised the restructuring of intelligence and security agencies in Latin America corrupted by drug-trafficking organizations.

The gains from sharing intelligence are greater if the participating states specialize. Specialization allows each to develop greater expertise regarding the targets and to create more focused and higher-quality collection and analysis techniques than one country could manage alone. Examples are countries that exchange intelligence from their signals intercept stations, reconnaissance aircraft, or satellites covering different areas of the world; that employ different means of collecting intelligence on the same target and sharing the results with one another; or that coordinate their networks of agents providing human intelligence so that they do not overlap. Cooperating states that agree to specialize in particular intelligence efforts can together generate more and better intelligence than would be possible if they each tried to provide adequate coverage of the same targets. This reasoning assumes that the intelligence resources developed for one target cannot be shifted at low cost to another target, which often is the case. For instance, a network of human intelligence agents providing information about one country or issue typically has little information about other countries or issues; listening posts for collecting signals intelligence are often aimed at particular targets and cannot be easily redirected to other targets; and analysts are trained in the language and history of one target and thus would require substantial retraining to address other targets.

Secrecy and Sharing

Why might two states not share intelligence with each other? Often one country simply is not interested in another state’s intelligence. Costa Rica, for instance, might have little to gain from sharing intelligence with Nepal. In other cases, though, two states could benefit from sharing. During the Second World War, the United States shared a great deal of intelligence with its allies Britain and Canada, but much less with another ally, the Soviet Union. But both the United States and the Soviet Union could have benefited by sharing more intelligence on German tactics, battle plans, or troop movements. Why did they fail to realize these gains? Theories of international negotiation identify two general barriers to cooperation in such situations: the bargaining problem and the enforcement problem. The bargaining problem pertains to disputes over how the participating states will share the costs and benefits of a cooperative arrangement, such as an agreement to share intelligence. Governments may refuse to share intelligence if they cannot negotiate an agreement to apportion these costs and benefits acceptably. Then, once countries do agree on how to share intelligence, they must enforce the agreement. Some parties might have incentives to renege on their promises to share intelligence, and others must either prevent this or suffer the consequences.

First consider the bargaining problem. Those states interested in sharing intelligence need to identify potential partners with useful intelligence, negotiate an agreement on what intelligence each will collect, how they will share it, whether they will offer any compensation such as military assistance or diplomatic assistance, and how much each state will invest in developing or redeploying intelligence resources to service the sharing agreement. Each of these issues provides benefits to one state and imposes costs on the other.

Countries may find it difficult to negotiate an agreement that divides these costs and benefits in a way that is acceptable to every participant. The first difficulty is the cost of negotiating. Each state must decide what intelligence it will send or wants to receive, the value of this intelligence, and the ability of its prospective partner to provide it. Each country will want the agreement to focus on its own priorities for intelligence collection and analysis. The participating countries also may have different preferences regarding quality control, human rights, and security standards. Countries with a strong tradition of protecting human rights, for example, might insist that their partners refrain from abusing these rights, and those without such protections might oppose such requirements as new and unnecessary burdens on their intelligence agencies. The participating states also have to construct a sharing arrangement that can withstand both anticipated and unforeseen contingencies, such as if the targets of the intelligence collection efforts unexpectedly change their behavior. Which state will pay which costs to set up and maintain the sharing agreement may also lead to disagreements. The intelligence-sharing agreement may try to benefit from specialization by calling for each country to concentrate on particular activities. Such specialization would require both countries to pay some costs to hire or retrain personnel and to invest in new equipment and technology, and they might differ over which country should pay for such changes.

The enforcement problem arises when states renege on a promise to share intelligence. Such a promise may be either deliberately broken with the approval of the relevant authorities or be involuntary in that lower-level state officials renege without such approval. For example, a sender may defect by altering or fabricating the intelligence it shares, withholding relevant intelligence, or exaggerating the accuracy of its sources. The motives for these forms of defection are the same: the sender manipulates the shared intelligence with the intention of influencing the recipient’s subsequent actions. Or the defection may not be authorized by the government leadership. Individuals in a sending government may actually be operating under the control of another power or group that controls the intelligence they pass to other states. Corruption or other administrative weaknesses may limit a state’s ability to collect intelligence efficiently in the first place. And the sending state may not share fully or honestly if some of its personnel disagree on political or policy grounds with the decision to share the intelligence. A recipient also can defeat the sender’s interests by how it uses the shared intelligence. For instance, a recipient may deliberately share intelligence with a third party. This would constitute reneging, since intelligence-sharing agreements usually prohibit sharing with other states or actors. In such cases, the recipient believes that its interests are best served by passing along the intelligence in violation of the agreement, perhaps as a way to influence the third state’s foreign policy, but the original sender most likely would not find this to be in its interests. A recipient also may inadvertently share intelligence with others. Individuals who have access to intelligence may be agents of a third state or other outside group and violate their government’s policy by sharing intelligence with their controllers. Or officials in a receiving state may disagree with their government’s policies, leading them either to publicize or fail to act on intelligence shared by another state. The sending state thus must worry about the loyalty of individuals and politically influential groups in the receiving state before it agrees to share intelligence.

The costs of defection can be great for both senders and receivers. Recipients may be deceived into providing valuable political, intelligence, and economic benefits to senders that reciprocate with poor intelligence. More important than this, however, are the indirect costs of cooperating with a sender that defects. A recipient may base important foreign policy decisions involving the use of force on flawed or misleading intelligence supplied by other states. The costs for the sending states can also be substantial. Recipients of their intelligence may either deliberately or inadvertently share vital secrets with hostile third parties or may reveal sources and methods of intelligence collection to enemies. These costs increase when the participating states have developed specialized and complementary intelligence efforts. Although such specialization increases the benefits produced by cooperation, it also raises the costs considerably if a partner defects. The most valuable partners—those with large quantities of valuable intelligence and with whom partners can develop complementary technical and human intelligence assets—can do the most damage when they renege on promises to share intelligence. The objective of specialization is to allow one partner to provide most of the coverage of a target of mutual interest, thereby freeing resources to be devoted to another target (or another purpose entirely). Defection can block access to the partner’s specialized assets and seriously weaken its ability to gather useful intelligence on a target. Consider an arrangement in which two states agree to share intelligence on the same target country. One partner specializes in high-resolution reconnaissance images of the target’s military facilities, and the other establishes a network of human agents in the target’s government. Defection by either partner will harm the other’s ability to generate a complete intelligence picture of the target. If the partner specializing in reconnaissance defects, perhaps by redirecting its imaging facilities to another target of more immediate interest, the other may be left with little reliable information about, say, the target’s production of missiles. Conversely, if the state specializing in human intelligence defects, perhaps by failing to adequately secure its network from the target’s counterintelligence operations, the other partner may lose valuable information about the goals or intentions of the target’s leadership. Thus while specialization can offer many benefits, it also makes the partners far more vulnerable to defection.

The enforcement problem is a particularly powerful barrier to intelligence sharing because of the difficulties of determining whether a partner has defected. The three parts of the definition of intelligence provided earlier demonstrate how easy it is for states to defect without being detected. The first is the assumption that decision makers face uncertainty about important aspects of foreign policy, such as the true intentions or capabilities of another actor or the likely consequences of available policy options. Decision makers value and seek out intelligence provided by their own intelligence agencies or those of another state because it reduces this uncertainty. This uncertainty also creates a demand for intelligence that a sending state may be able to exploit by altering its intelligence to influence the receiving state’s subsequent foreign policy choices.

Second, intelligence differs from raw information, or “facts,” in that intelligence analyzes raw information, attempting to place it in the proper context and to use it to draw conclusions about those attributes of other actors or the state of the world that are not directly observable. For example, intercepted signals traffic and other forms of electronic communication among military units may seem to need little interpretation. But even this intelligence source is largely meaningless without proper analysis:

"Armed forces’ and other messages are in specialized language which needs interpretation, and the intelligence interest is often less in what is being conveyed to the legitimate recipient than in what can be inferred. Uninteresting military administrative messages are the classic leads for reconstituting order-of-battle. Intercepted conversations on any subject are even more allusive and full of half-stated meanings. . . . For reasons of these kinds most of it needs a significant element of interpretation; good intelligence is never handed out on a plate."

Decision makers in modern states rarely seek access to an individual piece of intelligence, instead relying heavily on their analysts to process such information. This analytical component of intelligence, however, can be more easily manipulated by the sending state than can the raw information on which it is based.

The third reason why an intelligence-sharing agreement is difficult to enforce has to do with the secret nature of intelligence. Intelligence draws on both open (publicly available) sources of information and secret or clandestinely obtained information. Governments have legitimate reasons to secure their intelligence activities so as to prevent their targets from discovering their sources and methods of collecting and analyzing intelligence. Consequently, intelligence agencies rarely reveal the full details of their sources, even to other agencies of the same government. This understandable concern with security poses a real problem for states trying to verify that their partners are complying with an agreement to share. That is, keeping secret many of the details of intelligence collection and analysis means that the sending state can easily alter or fabricate the information that it passes on to others, in order to influence their subsequent actions. Secrecy and security also create difficulties for sending states. The sending states want to ensure that recipients keep secure the intelligence that they share, for example, by limiting its distribution among government personnel and instituting effective safekeeping procedures. Likewise, the recipient governments want to keep these security efforts secret in order to prevent others from gaining access to their intelligence. But this secrecy also makes it difficult for the sending government to ensure that the security procedures are in fact protecting the secrets that it is sharing. This is the difference between the exchange of intelligence and the exchange of a tangible good. Tangible goods can be inspected after purchase to ensure that they conform to the buyer’s expectations. But “buyers” of intelligence cannot easily monitor the “seller” to determine whether the intelligence it provides has been collected diligently and analyzed properly. Sellers of intelligence have difficulty ensuring that buyers are treating the intelligence as carefully as they should.

What We Know About Intelligence Sharing

How can states resolve the bargaining and enforcement problems of sharing intelligence? Many practitioners and scholars draw attention to mutual trust as the key to intelligence sharing. Stéphane Lefebre writes that “trust in, and respect for, other [countries’ intelligence] agencies is foremost when the time comes to decide on the extent of intelligence sharing arrangements” and that “confidence and trust are essential ingredients” for intelligence sharing. Chris Clough concludes that “mutual trust is the most important factor” driving sharing, and Derek Reveron holds that “engaging foreign intelligence services . . . requires high levels of trust on the part of all countries involved.” In regard to intelligence sharing, the most relevant definition of trust is the expectation by one state that the other state will not exploit its cooperation to secure immediate gains. How can states gain enough trust in each other that they will be willing to rely on the other’s information? Different research traditions in political sociology, social psychology, social constructivism, and rational choice theory all cite similar interests as the principal condition for creating trust and thus sharing information. The rationale is essentially the same for all these understandings of trust. A party will discount the value of shared information that it cannot verify itself when it suspects that its partner’s interests diverge from its own. This divergence of interests may create an incentive to deliberately communicate incorrect intelligence to convince the receiver to select the action that will produce the outcome most favorable to the sender.

Although the argument that mutual trust facilitates intelligence sharing is powerful, it is important not to push it too far. These claims posit that trust is a necessary condition for intelligence sharing; that is, countries would not share intelligence if they did not trust each other. Lefebre’s conclusion that trust is an “essential ingredient” for intelligence sharing and Clough’s that it is the “most important factor” driving sharing suggest that trust must exist in order to share intelligence. But as this book later makes clear, countries may share intelligence even when they do not have much trust in each other. They do so by substituting a hierarchical relationship for trust. The United States managed, for example, to share intelligence with West Germany in the 1950s despite serious concerns about the Nazi pasts of the leaders of the German intelligence service, worries that the West German government might seek a rapprochement with the Soviet Union, and convincing evidence that the same government had been penetrated by Soviet spies. The United States also shared intelligence with its ally South Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s, even though American officials could not trust their Vietnamese counterparts with any secret information about their war plans, knowing that it would soon be leaked to the enemy.

An alternative that addresses some of these concerns is liberal institutionalism. Liberal institutionalism seeks to understand the conditions under which states that do not have a great deal of trust in each other can nonetheless cooperate by deploying carefully crafted bargaining strategies aimed at reassuring its partner and by creating institutions to monitor for defection. Liberal institutionalism has a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the conditions facilitating cooperation than do explanations that focus solely on trust. But its ability to explain intelligence sharing is limited by the fact that it assumes the international system is anarchic, in that it lacks a central authority to enforce agreements to cooperate. Liberal institutionalism instead holds that states can develop bargaining strategies and monitoring techniques to counter defection.

But secrecy makes it difficult to implement these measures for intelligence sharing. States interested in participating in a cooperative venture but worried about defection by other participants can ask an independent third party, such as an international organization, to monitor their compliance. The international organization’s evaluation of how well each state is complying with the cooperative agreement gives states the information they need in order to punish defectors. But this option of an independent third party’s monitoring compliance conflicts with states’ desire to secure and keep secret their intelligence activities, since it requires that their intelligence agencies divulge detailed information about their actions. This explains why attempts at multilateral intelligence sharing through formal international organizations or ad hoc multilateral arrangements are so rare. States sharing intelligence in this way must calculate the likelihood of each of the other participants’ defecting. They also must worry that the international organization itself might inadvertently or deliberately share intelligence with the other parties. It is much easier, therefore, for states desiring to share intelligence to do so with only one other participant to monitor.

Another way that states can address concerns about enforcement is ensuring that a defection from cooperative agreement will harm the defecting state’s reputation. Because a reputation for living up to promises is valuable, states with a reputation for defecting from agreements may find it more difficult to persuade other countries to cooperate with them. Sometimes the desire to maintain a reputation for honest dealing leads states to forgo the short-run benefits from defection. But maintaining a good reputation influences this choice only if the state knows that its decision will be communicated to other states. These concerns about security complicate efforts to reassure partners, however, because the details of most intelligence-sharing arrangements are kept secret from third parties. Therefore, if one partner tries to hurt another’s reputation by accusing it of defection is difficult, since doing so necessitates revealing details about the intelligence that has, or was supposed to have, been shared.


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About the Author

James Igoe Walsh is associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of European Monetary Integration and Domestic Politics. His research and teaching interests include national security policy, human rights, and international cooperation.

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