Attacks in Brussels happened unexpectedly. It killed over thirty people and injured about two hundred more. Yet, it was not unexpected. Russian and Iraqi secret services – as well as the Italian ones, according to internal sources – had warned about the imminent danger. In Belgium, as in France, during the multiple terrorist attacks in Paris, the intelligence turned out to be unintelligent, if intelligence is the ability to put information together and analyze the elements one is in possess of in order to solve problems, and anticipate and prevent behaviors. This applies even more so when the intelligence is a function of the State and not merely a personal virtue, that is, when it concerns the Information Service, which is responsible for the security of the State and that of its citizens, through retrieval, collection and analysis of information, so as to understand what is going on, prepare, and take appropriate decisions, taking effective actions to ensure security.
The intelligence feeds on knowledge. Such highly complex systems as the cultural, political and religious ones in our society is the fruit of collaboration, an active exchange of information and cooperation in view of the development of defense structures and shared strategies, since problems and risks grow more and more common and global, although they occur on a local level, once here, once there, on a chessboard where moves are sometimes random and chaotic, but more often programmed and predetermined.
Belgian police knew Salah Abdeslam’s address three months before the attacks, but this information was buried in a confidential report. The attackers – although reported to the police in some Member States – were able to move freely on the Old Continent.
The European Union must have a European Intelligence, with European 007 agents and a shared database. It seems almost trite to say so, but that is not the case. It has not happened so far, despite the fact that President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has declared that “cooperation between European secret services had already been decided at the end of 1999 and reiterated after September 11 attacks in US.” Back then and in 2005, as part of a reformatory project of the Intelligence in cultural and cross-cultural keys, I wrote that it was an urgency, starting with the most basic questions: What information is to be acquired in order to defend and control? Who decides? How does it work? Who controls the controllers? A cultural and cooperative European Intelligence System should be built around these questions.
A first reform of intelligence and security services had taken place in the eighties, making the purely military Intelligence embrace also the field of economy. Thus, intrusive economic and commercial competition becomes a national peril too, along with wars, (ideological) conflicts, and military invasions. The danger of jihadist terrorism requires a new reform, for a multidimensional and collective intelligence, which would collect and analyze information of several different kinds and in different areas (personal, environmental, international, hence: psychological, religious, political, motivational, family- and membership-related, financial, technological, commercial, ethnic and linguistic), considering all citizens as sources of knowledge for the security. Pierre Levi terms it “collective intelligence.”
The cultural paradigm and the way of life of our society has changed due to increasing migration flows and growing social and economic disparities, the complexity of multicultural environments in Europe, the explosion and fragmentation of war nuclei; therefore, they must change the concept of security itself as well as its tools. This reform cannot be reduced to restricting the citizens’ personal freedom. It is not about limiting privacy, but about reorganizing the Intelligence through the development, integration, and the interaction of new and different skills.
The science of complexity is referencing, a method and helpful tool for this new intelligence in cultural, cross-cultural and collective keys. In fact, “complexity thought” has replaced the classic paradigm of “certainty” and “precision” with the paradigm of “probability” and “uncertainty.” Only awareness of the fact that one is confronted with largely unknown and unpredictable people, and it is not possible to establish a linear relationship between cause and effect, a very flexible and comprehensive investigative methodology can be implemented, which values different capacities and forms of highly qualified intelligence (not only specialized), which may be “open windows of observation” onto the world. This implies also a revision of the concept of knowledge: not pyramidal any longer, but circular and elliptical; no piece of information is more relevant than others, relevance is the result of the context and of the relationship between the pieces of information.
A complex world needs a complex Intelligence, which integrates the classic security system with a systemic-horizontal methodology, which treats terrorism as a complex system in its turn, arranged according to increasingly higher degrees of complexity, with the formation continuous internal subsystems, oriented to the achievement of common goals, which cannot be understood with the criteria of classical logic, cause and effect, but through a con-causation, which considers disorder instead of order (as a rule), and the irrational and the non-rational rather than logic (as prevalent). Complex Intelligence means, open and flexible reason, which includes intuition, imagination, and sensitivity.