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From Closed Past to Open Future

Strengthening formal and informal oversight of secret intelligence

The world of intelligence is changing faster than ever before and with ‘big data’ dominating the intelligence landscape, public concerns about spying have grown.

Professor Richard Aldrich and Dr Christopher Moran have advised governments across the world on how to adapt to this new age. They have influenced UK government policy, training of security practitioners, and public understanding through their work to promote openness, democratic oversight, and public knowledge of intelligence services.

The challenge

All governments keep track of their citizens and use intelligence to monitor threats from abroad. Press coverage of whistle-blowers has undermined confidence in agencies and public trust is undermined when their activities are completely shrouded in secrecy. In an age where state intelligence bodies no longer have a monopoly on our personal information, rebuilding public support is crucial.

Our approach

Professor Aldrich and Dr Moran developed a set of recommendations to help intelligence agencies engage better with the public, including:

  • Faster declassification of files

  • Sponsoring authorised histories

  • Creation of informational websites

  • More work with museums and universities

  • Helping more former intelligence officers to publish memoirs

Our impact

The Warwick team has become an essential resource for intelligence services seeking to reform how they engage with the public. Professor Aldrich and Dr Moran produced a modernisation plan for an element of the UK intelligence community and, following their recommendations, that element has moved away from a “defensive” strategy, under which it aimed to say and release nothing.

Instead, they have adopted a “forward” approach that commits to improving public understanding and building links with academics. This new strategy has yielded a new website, more public appearances by the senior leadership, and an intensification of declassification of historical records.

The German intelligence services have benefited from the team’s research. The German Federal Parliament has introduced new regulations based partly on Professor Aldrich and Dr Moran’s findings which have strengthened democratic control over Germany’s spy agencies, and given all citizens a codified right to privacy. Governments and think tanks around the world have requested the Warwick team’s help to train their staff and educate them about developing trends.

Key impact partners include the CIA, the US State Department, National Defense University, the National Security Adviser to the President of the Congo, the Romanian Intelligence Service, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP). Museums in Europe and North America have benefitted from Professor Aldrich and Dr Moran’s research including major roles in the redesign of the International Spy Museum (Washington DC) and the creation of the exhibition 'Spy Oxfordshire' at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum (Woodstock).

Aldrich and Moran have also achieved cultural impact by changing the way that TV producers represent intelligence to their audiences, resulting in more accurate portrayals that improve public understanding. Key projects include the three-part Channel 4 series – ‘Spying on the Royals’, ‘The King Who Fooled Hitler’ and ‘The Queen and the Coup’ – as well as the Sky History series ‘Secret Wars Uncovered.’

Across the world, Professor Aldrich and Dr Moran are helping intelligence services step into a new era of public accountability and trust.

Discover more of Professor Aldrich's research

See more of Dr Moran's past and present projects

Find out more about Professor Aldrich and Dr Moran's work with the Cyber Security GRP at Warwick