New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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Article

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ACCOUNTABILITY OF INTERNATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION, Hans Born and Ian Leigh, eds., Forthcoming

Abstract

The prospect of the United Nations or any other international organisation developing an independent intelligence collection capacity is remote. This is due to the understandable wariness on the part of states about authorising a body to spy on them, though the United Nations itself has been reluctant to assume functions that might undermine its actual or perceived impartiality. At the same time, however, this position reflects a larger anomaly in the status of intelligence under international law as an activity commonly denounced but almost universally practised: empowering an international organisation to engage in espionage might give the lie to this example of diplomatic doublethink.

Efforts to address the threats posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction have led to a reconsideration of how intelligence can and should be used in bodies such as the United Nations. Understanding the threat posed and calibrating a response depends on access to national intelligence; if that response is to be multilateral, the legitimacy of any action taken may depend on sharing that intelligence. In the case of terrorist financing, this has led to legal challenges to the bases on which individuals’ assets are frozen, a topic addressed in this volume by Iain Cameron. Weapons inspections in Iraq through the 1990s and elsewhere have quietly drawn upon the assistance of “friendly” intelligence agencies, though the spectacular failure in Iraq severely undermined the credibility of this assistance. In a separate development, moves to pursue international criminal prosecutions through the 1990s in the Balkans and, to a lesser extent, Rwanda, required information that - in the absence of a meaningful investigative capacity - came from the intelligence services of governments.

Date of Authorship for this Version

May 2009

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