One reader sent me this question: “By far the most important thing to happen to intelligence since the end of the Cold War is technological advancement.” Is this claim accurate? Why or why not?
Here is The Hacking Cough’s response:
The Cold War has a profound effect on the intelligence community. The events that transpired underscored the role of intelligence in government functions and strategies. During the height of the Cold War, the United States intelligence agencies found themselves with bigger responsibilities to be able to cope with the present challenges. In the 1960s, there were significant technological advancements and the intelligence community expanded further. In the years that followed, technical systems were upgraded and the budget was increased to strengthen intelligence and counterintelligence operations and strategies. There were precision-guided weapons and combat systems to assist warfighters. Through these advancements in technology, there was a huge increase in the volume of information acquired. They were able to spy on different people from different regions of the world. The developments in the fields of imagery and geospatial technology and materials and weapons science offered critical tactical battlefield support. Information and communication technology (ICT) altered the threat and warfare setting. Cyberspace allowed public access to qualified information thus increasing the challenges for intelligence. ICT provided a new form of sabotage in government, business, and social concerns. Terrorists had access to more information and have a wider audience to promote their ideologies. On the bright side, it has also made spy handling easier and safer.
Technological advancements alone do not always assure us of success. For example, there were heavy repercussions during the Gulf War when the military did not know how to use the modern systems effectively. In other words, technology is only as good as the humans taking charge of them. But this does not take away the fact that technological advancements are important in intelligence missions. Scientists devised them for the benefit of humankind. They are there to help us achieve a safer world.