(Security and Intelligence Scholar in Cyprus, obtained his MA in Security and Intelligence Studies, University of Salford, UK)
The situation in Cyprus at the given point is rather complicated and the state is in need for security and vigilance as never before. The current economic and financial situation, the alleged reserves of natural gas recently discovered off the shore of the island as well as the on-going occupation of a large part of the island by Turkish troops create a volatile situation. Intelligence is the most essential tool for providing security to the state and therefore to the people.
The term intelligence is rather vague with no specific definition therefore an all-inclusive term is provided by Gill and Phythian. They argue that intelligence is the umbrella term referring to the range of activities – from planning and information collection to analysis and dissemination – conducted in secret, and aimed at maintaining or enhancing relative security by providing forewarning of threats or potential threats in a manner that allows for the timely implementation of a preventive policy or strategy, including where deemed desirable, covert activities. (1)
In Cyprus, the agency responsible for providing this form of security and foreknowledge is KYP. The Cypriot Central Intelligence Agency (KYP) is theoretically a branch of the police. For administrative issues the police is responsible but operational matters are directly subordinated to the president of the republic. KYP is consisted of regional branches which are obliged to work closely with the regional police administrator but for operational and administration issues its own commander is
in charge. (2)
This structure is rather confusing and seems that there is a blurred line as to whether KYP is an independent agency or indeed a part of the police. This may lead to failures such as the recent case of an escaped convict in which KYP was extensively involved in, at least according to the media. (3)
This leads to the fair question, Is the issue of an escaped convict a matter of a national intelligence agency or the police? It is one of many issues raised by the way that KYP is structured and conducts its operations as there are quite a few failures in its record and unfortunately it seems that it is a bit more than the fact that intelligence failures are usually known unlike the successes because of the secrecy and the nature of work. Amongst the other problems the most severe ones include the lack of oversight and the pressing need of democratisation of such establishments as well as the need to quickly adapt to new situations and agility of movement.
The Cypriot state is in desperate need of restructuring its intelligence apparatus in order to outcome the challenges posed in the new era the island state has entered. It would be wise to create two new agencies, one for internal matters and one for external in the standards of the British MI5 and MI6. Furthermore, a new police intelligence agency should be created. Along with the National Guard’s second bureau, all these agencies should be incorporated under a national intelligence council. Last but not least, there should be a parliamentary, or other, oversight committee regulating and assuring the normal proceedings of the intelligence establishment’s work at hand.
As the situation is right now, there are issues at hand that must be addressed, such as the common popular belief that one of KYP’s main areas of action is the political profiling of people and the lack of accountability to any other regulator. A terrifying fact, that refers to other times and regimes. The last step towards a democratisation of such agencies is a legal framework that will allow for these agencies to work undisrupted but under the rule of law and oversight. As Gill argues a lack of secrecy endangers the comparative advantage sought from the intelligence.
This proposed devolved reforming of the intelligence establishment will also lead to the other significant advantage; the ability to quickly adapt to new environments and threats facing the state of Cyprus and its people. It will help avoid situations like the case of 9/11 in the United States when the intelligence apparatus was caught by surprise by the Al Qaeda terrorists due to the fact that its intelligence structure was designed to operate under the Cold War environment and failed to adapt to the new emerging threats. (4)
In its turn, this will eliminate the current limitation of KYP’s dependency on police personnel, allowing the new agencies to employ more diverse individuals able to cope with a broader spectrum of issues like most contemporary intelligence agencies around the globe.
What is proposed here is by no means easy or able to be done in a matter of days or months. It probably requires a lengthy transitional phase and careful study. It is nevertheless necessary in order to address issues like the new economic environment. The economy is under enormous pressure and it is the most fertile environment for economic subversion by enemies.
The same goes for the issue of the offshore natural gas reserves especially since Turkey, Cyprus’ traditional enemy has already began disputing the legality of the exploratory drillings and so forth.
The need for a reformed intelligence establishment and the creation of a solid and efficient intelligence community in Cyprus now is more pressing than ever.
1) Gill, Peter & Phythian, Mark, Intelligence in an Insecure World, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006), p.1
4) National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, Washington DC, 2004