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Varia Historia

versión impresa ISSN 0104-8775

Varia hist. vol.28 no.47 Belo Horizonte enero/jun. 2012 




Priscila Brandão

Organizer. Department of History, UFMG. Av. Antônio Carlos, 6627. Belo Horizonte. MG. 31270-901. Brazil.



The present Dossier History and Intelligence is devoted to the study of themes related to intelligence-gathering, an activity that many societies, including some that have only recently emerged from civil and/or military dictatorships, are slowly beginning to recognize as being both legitimate and necessary. This recognition has propelled a whole new line of research, turning Intelligence Studies into a multidisciplinary academic pursuit that has met with growing international accreditation.

Over the last few decades, research on intelligence has largely centered on the institutional reform of intelligence agencies in post-authoritarian political contexts, the creation of international intelligence cooperation bureaus in the post-Cold War world, institutional analyses of the power balance between civilians and the military, and on debates concerning access to information.

In Brazil, the number of historiographical studies on the subject remains low. As such, this Dossier covers a range of correlate themes, as the strikingly recent chronology of intelligence studies attests to its incipience as an academic discipline, albeit one heavily influenced by the output of political scientists.

Given the diversity of the articles, we have opted to separate them by theme. The two opening papers approach the history of intelligence in Brazil from different perspectives: the first focuses on an event - the military dictatorship and the institutionalization of its repressive system -, while the second offers an analysis of the consequences of that event, namely accounts of violence contained in documental records from the time.

The article by Samantha Viz Quadrat, entitled The Training of Information Agents and the Civil-Military Dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985), takes a detailed look at the training and instruction given to the agents responsible for intelligence-gathering during the recent military dictatorship, a corps here considered one of the main instruments of political repression in Brazil. In broaching her subject, the author not only addresses the concept of national security and the impact National Security Doctrine (NSD) had on the way military missions were perceived, but also analyzes the influence which the concept of revolutionary warfare developed by the French after defeat in Indochina would come to have over the type of repression exercised in Brazil. This analysis rests, first and foremost, on the manuals drawn up by the Escola Superior de Guerra - ESG (Superior War College), which predate the dictatorship itself.

Besides the institutionalization of the intra-national use of violence by the Armed Forces, one of the consequences of investment in the information/repression binomial during the dictatorship as analyzed by Samantha was the production of vast amounts of documentation on the actions and behavior of those suspected of being what were pejoratively labeled subversives and terrorists, and the sheer volume of this paperwork reflects a characteristically archival tradition within the military. In this sense, in an article entitled History of the Present, Historic Events and Sensitive Documents: The Brazilian Experience, Carlos Fico analyzes the existence of, and difficulty in gaining access to, the documents generated by this repressive system, considering the History-of-the-Present focus and the dilemmas historians face in the methodological and epistemological fields, where research can sometimes encroach on individual privacies - hence the tensions with which this whole debate on access is fraught - , and signal the historian's intervention in society, invoking the right to the truth. The tension between the state and the citizen when it comes to access to information constitutes the crux of this debate.

The third article debates how, in the post-Cold War world, the State has to manage its information production not so much as a means of generating truths about its activities, but in order to potentize its handling of sensitive information in a context of presumed regional leadership. In the article The Informational State: Implications for Information and Intelligence Policies at the Beginning of the 21stCentury Marta Kerr looks at the process of transformation of the bureaucratic state, characteristic of the 19th and 20th centuries, into the so-called "informational state". The emphasis is on the development of new Information Technologies (ITs) and the changes they demand to the information policies practiced in the 60s and 70s. More specifically, the article addresses how this advent, associated with the new dynamic of globalization and the multi-polar distribution of power, has required efficacy on the part of intelligence, which is essential not only to security, but also to the competitiveness of economic structures and national development in a global context ruled by an IT-based technical and economic paradigm and the escalating economic rivalries that go with it.

In the fourth article, the authors seek to identify patterns of institutional and political behavior that have led to failures and inefficiency in intelligence-gathering since the Cold War. In Explaining Governmental Intelligence Failures, Marco Cepik and Christiano Ambos draw upon case studies in the intelligence literature in order to identify behavioral patterns seen to have obstructed the efficient running of intelligence operations in certain countries at different times. The cases analyzed range from the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s to the howling failures of the early 21st Century, such as the US analyses that led to the invasion of Iraq or those that failed to pick up on the attacks carried out in Madrid and Russia in 2004. The emphasis is on the cognitive distortions created by intelligence analysts during intelligence production and by posterior producer-consumer interaction.

Closing the Dossier is a set of three articles that considers regional analyses. In Some Aspects of Reforming Intelligence in Latin America, Peter Gill looks to outline the main characteristics of security intelligence sector reform in Latin America, considering the relations between the state and other players in the security area. In conducting his analysis the author dialogues with the literature on civilian/military relations, authoritarian legacies, and processes of democratic transition and consolidation, with special emphasis on the Brazilian and Argentinean cases.

Also dealing with Latin America, José Manuel Ugarte's The Regulatory Scope of Domestic Intelligence in Latin America establishes a conceptual debate on the term domestic intelligence and conducts a comparative analysis of the legislation established to regulate homeland intelligence in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers. While the focus is on Latin America, Ugarte's analysis also considers certain model countries he describes as being "significantly institutionally evolved", namely Canada, Italy, the UK and US, in order to establish comparative parameters. The author's aim is to verify whether or not post-9/11expansion in the domestic intelligence sector was accompanied by a strengthening of the control mechanisms in place to protect the home population.

Bringing the Dossier to a close, Antonio Diaz's The Evolution of European Cooperation in Intelligence analyzes the development process that has driven European intelligence cooperation since the 1970s in the face of the growing threats posed by the illegal drugs trade and terrorism. The author highlights how this cooperation influenced, and was influenced by, institutional changes within the intelligence field in various European countries that also foster the institutionalization of intelligence activities in the sphere of public security. The challenges inherent to organ instrumentalization, information classification (the issue of "secretism"), and the difficulties of inter-operability are all essential aspects in the debate.

In short, our hope is that the Dossier History and Intelligence can contribute to studies on intelligence in Brazil, especially within the field of History, and we would like to thank the authors for their collaborations and to invite the reader to sample the results of their research.


Belo Horizonte, April 2012.

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