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The Impact of Populism on Government Security and Intelligence Agencies

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conference contribution
posted on 06.05.2020, 10:53 by R Dover

The ‘age of populism’ that the post-industrial world is living through has generated many challenges to existing security and intelligence structures. Some of these challenges are new versions of ‘classic’ problems: tracking the movement of money and people across borders, attempts to undermine Parliamentary democracy and societal cohesion, internal subversion and counterintelligence are old problems, updated for the 21stcentury. The magnitude, scale and precise targeting of foreign interventions in the 2016 referendum, for example, provides unique challenges to intelligence agencies, and indeed to the system of laws and law enforcement agencies who have struggled to effectively respond to these foreign interventions, and those willing to engage in norm breaking activity. This paper advances a new understanding of how information campaigns are conducted. There are profound opportunities and challenges to the technological and technical underpinnings of intelligence agencies currently, including a technological arms race and persistent debates around the scope and appropriateness of their actions. There are fundamental questions of politicisation raised by the ceaseless march of populists: we know that one of guiding mantras of intelligence agencies is ‘speaking truth to power’, but evidence suggests that there is currently a disjuncture in some jurisdictions that hinders this exchange. Indeed, in many populist jurisdictions intelligence agencies have been placed in a ‘them or us’ dynamic that is the antithesis of effective intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination. Because much of this populism is premised upon the disruption of existing rules and traditions, its precise nature needs to be more accurately defined to allow intelligence agencies to operate within it



Political Studies Association conference paper - work in progress

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of History, Politics and International Relations


Political Studies Association


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