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Higher Seminar in Statecraft and Strategic Communication | Tony Ingesson

Predictable Professionals or Artistic Agents? The Role of Creativity and Originality in Deception and Manipulation


Tony Ingesson is Assistant Professor of Intelligence Analysis at Lund University. His research interests include counterintelligence (in particular responses to Soviet espionage in the 1960s-1980s), clandestine communications, tactical/operational deception and manipulation, industrial espionage and methods for intelligence analysis. His current work includes studies of photographic miniaturization techniques for concealment of information, tactical/operational deception and manipulation in law enforcement and intelligence, as well as a historical analysis of the practice of counterintelligence in a high-trust society (Sweden in the 1980s).


Professionalization is a growing trend in intelligence organizations. However, unlike the traditional professions, intelligence practitioners frequently find themselves locked in a struggle with an intelligent antagonist. One key aspect of professionalization, the teaching of structured, scientifically based knowledge and best practices, can lead to predictability. This creates a vulnerability that can be exploited by an antagonist. Using a theoretical framework built on contributions from Clausewitz and Reflexive Control theory, together with examples from Napoleon’s campaign in Northern Italy and a 1980s KGB deception operation to conceal a mole in the CIA, it is shown how personal qualities, creativity and unpredictability rather than conformity are required to prevail against an intelligent, well-informed and capable antagonist. In this sense, intelligence analysis in relation to an antagonist is like a chess game: structured approaches and best practices serve the same purpose as standardized game openings, mid-game strategies and checkmate patterns. But, just as in chess, a game cannot be won without the addition of individual talent and unique responses to the moves of the adversary.


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