Oversight and intelligence networks:
Who guards the guardians?

GUARDINT builds empirical and conceptual tools to shed light on the limitations and potential of oversight mechanisms. It theorizes intelligence oversight through an International Political Sociology (IPS) approach to understand the concrete practices and the formal and informal roles of oversight. Using the IPS approach, the project examines intelligence oversight in a threefold way: as a democratic mechanism, as socio-technical networks, and as an emerging transnational practice. Second, it compares the efficiency and legitimacy of oversight bodies in different European countries. Third, it examines the possibilities and challenges for oversight bodies to operate at a transnational scale. By doing so, the project will generate tools and platforms to promote transnational collaboration. Overall, GUARDINT seeks to revitalise our democratic imaginary and to reinforce transnational connections by proposing creative solutions for effective democratic control of transnational intelligence cooperation within and beyond the EU.


Intelligence oversight index & surveillance Oversight database

Stiftung Neue Veranwortung (SNV) and the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) contribute to GUARDINT by developing a “Intelligence Oversight Index” (IOI) in order to scrutinise the oversight practices of different stakeholders, across countries and over time. The objectives of the IOI are twofold. First, the index seeks to indicate the quality of oversight of surveillance by intelligence services within the respective countries, as well as from a transnational perspective. Second, the IOI renders aspects of each country’s respective oversight practices comparable. In addition to indices such as those for freedom, democracy or corruption, an intelligence oversight index will become an important device for strengthening democratic practices. We hope to establish a common point of reference for a growing range of stakeholders with an interest in intelligence oversight and initiate transnational exchange among oversight professionals.
The research team will develop the methodology for the Intelligence Oversight Index and will conduct a pilot study comparing France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The indicators and components of the index will be selected in consultation with oversight practitioners and experts from civil society organisations and academia in order to guarantee the practical and theoretical relevance for all stakeholders. The index will be accompanied by an open source database of surveillance law, relevant case law, and official oversight reports from France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Socio-Genesis of intelligence oversight & oversight gaps

Sciences Po and University Jean Moulin Lyon 3 will contribute to GUARDINT with an analysis of the gaps between transnational practices of intelligence services and the capacity of (largely national) oversight bodies to have a proper democratic control. To that end, the GUARDINT team will combine a sociological, legal, historical and anthropological approach to the study of transnational networks in order to investigate the possibility for oversight bodies. In turn, this approach will allow identifying areas of secrecy in the relations between the actors, or cases of ‘abuse of secrecy’ under the argument of third party rule (a strategy, in intelligence sharing, to obtain immunity regarding gross violations of human rights). To date, studies on intelligence oversight have either lacked a theoretical foundation or these foundations have been locked within disciplinary boundaries. Against this backdrop, we will examine the trajectories and sociological processes whereby different oversight professionals enact the respect of limits regarding intelligence, as well as, through an approach based on a socio-genesis, how scandals and controversies have translated—or not—into stronger oversight.

Oversight as a democratic practice & visualisations of transnational oversight networks

King’s College London (KCL) will contribute to GUARDINT by examining oversight as a democratic practice and the relationship between surveillance, oversight and changing understandings of democracy. In doing so, they will undertake an analysis of various disputes (particularly legal disputes) which have emerged around mass surveillance by intelligence agencies, and the ways in which governments and intelligence actors have been forced to answer to their critics. Starting with ‘tests’ of the practices of intelligence agencies; public challenges and contestations which necessitate a response by the actors denounced- KCL will map and analyse the grammars of critique and contestation of oversight and intelligence actors (and other actors involved in the broader landscape of holding intelligence agencies to account), as well as examine the transversal connections and solidarities between these actors. Secondly, they will use digital methods to develop a visualisation platform of transnational relations and transformations of oversight in Europe. The result will not be only a territorial map aggregating national data, but a visualisation of transnational professional networks of actors involved in holding intelligence agencies accountable.


Guardint publications

Forthcoming guardint Publications

Publications by Guardint team members