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Intelligence and the next pandemic

By Phil Gurski      

Good intelligence requires that the best people be assigned to the job. We must allow our spy agencies to get the resources they need to accomplish the task before the next pandemic hits.

The Canadian Security Establishment building in Ottawa. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a new requirement: information on this and other viruses that can wreak havoc on our economy and our lives, as we have all witnessed over the past few months. Solid, accurate intelligence on future outbreaks can help governments prepare in advance and perhaps lead to responses that were not as fly-by-night as those for the novel coronavirus, writes Phil Gurski. Photograph courtesy Eshko Timiou/Wikipedia Commons

OTTAWA—When you work in intelligence you take your direction on what to collect or investigate from the government of the day. This applies differently depending on the organization in question. CSIS’ marching orders are spelled out in the CSIS Act. CSE’s tend to shift. CSIS’ directions take the form of ‘intelligence requirements’ and they do change over time. During my initial years at CSE of what would become a three-decade career in the Canadian intelligence apparatus, most of what we focused on was what the Soviet Union and its allies were up to, and mostly military shenanigans at that. This was still the Cold War after all (remember that era?).

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