Oversight and Intelligence Networks: Who Guards the Guardians? (GUARDINT)

Research Background 
What are the potentials and limitations of democratic control of intelligence agencies in their use of digital and transnational surveillance? The revelations by Edward Snowden and subsequent inquiries have highlighted a gap between increasingly transnational, technically sophisticated surveillance practices and largely national, often poorly equipped oversight mechanisms. Closing this gap is a key challenge for democratic societies in a digital, transnational world.

The main goal of the GUARDINT project is to collect, assess, understand and transfer knowledge on intelligence oversight practices in different European countries. Stiftung Neue Veranwortung (SNV) and the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) contribute to GUARDINT by developing the “Intelligence Oversight Index” (IOI) in order to scrutinise the oversight practices of different stakeholders, across countries and over time.

The project’s aim is 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 pertinent aspects of the countries’ 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 or 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.

Research design and output
The research team will develop the methodology for the IOI 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 legal database of surveillance law, relevant case law, and official oversight reports from the three countries. An academic advisory board as well as a stakeholder advisory board will consult the project team throughout the index development process. The methods used include expert interviews and analyses of legal frameworks, news coverage, official reports, and litigation cases.

GUARDINT consortium:


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