Intelligence Elites and Public Accountability

Relationships of influence between intelligence elites and civil society is an under-researched area within the study of persuasion. This is a core finding in Vian Bakir's recent book, Intelligence Elites and Public Accountability (2018), where she examines scholarship from international relations, history, media and journalism.

She definesintelligence elites as comprising that small number of leaders in interlocking political, economic and military domains that make fundamental decisions on policies concerning intelligence that have far-reaching consequences for all citizens. For her, the term evinces the normally close relationship between top politicians and intelligence agencies; and the exclusion of civil society in the process of intelligence oversight. Indeed, academic research shows that, with some notable exceptions, civil society largely does a poor job in holding intelligence elites publicly accountable.

To address this, Vian has been co-developing with investigative journalism expert Paul Lashmar, and with civil society more broadly, some best practice guidelines to encourage critical researching and reporting in this difficult area. This work has been funded by Bangor University's ESRC-Impact Accelerator Account.

In related work, in October 2016, Vian helped to independently evaluate advocacy group CAGE's report, The Science of Pre-Crime: the secret radicalisation study underpinning PREVENT, on the secret research base underpinning Channel's extremist risk guidelines. Reflecting on this, and other secret research in the USA, Vian published a piece in Open Democracy about the problems with secret research that informs security policy.

More broadly, Vian has been interviewed, or asked to speak on the relationship between intelligence agencies, national security and surveillance laws. In 2015, she was an invited Panelist on Journalism in post-Snowden era for Eurovision's 10th News Assembly, European Broadcast Union, the largest association of broadcasters in the world (held in Berlin).  Vian participated in the Emwazi External Review (held at SOAS, Univ. of London) where she discussed CAGE's reaction to media coverage of 'Jihadi John' and intelligence agencies. Vian and Andrew McStay introduced CitizenFour, Laura Poitras' (2014) documentary on national security whistle-blower Edward Snowden, at Caernarfon Arts Gallery. This included a pre-screening talk on the national security whistle-blowers and media representations, and the importance of privacy.