From abuse to trust and back again: Intelligence scandals and the quest for oversight

Emma Mc Cluskey, Claudia Aradau

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The revelations by Edward Snowden – that intelligence agencies routinely gather and share data on private citizens – were largely reframed by both governments and independent experts as arousing a “crisis of trust” between citizens and intelligence agencies. Abuse and mistrust are two different diagnoses of the relations between citizens and government, between intelligence agencies and parliaments whereby “trust” displaces an analysis of power. This chapter zooms in on two historical moments of crisis and tension in the UK context, tracing how “abuse” and “trust” are articulated by different actors and shape different practices of oversight and demands for accountability. In doing so, the chapter argues that the mobilisation of “trust” as a discourse in relation to the intelligence and security services constrains the terrain of possible democratic oversight, rendering some practices of oversight actionable and others not. Far from a virtuous policy goal, “increasing trust” in intelligence agencies should be viewed with caution in terms of human rights and democratic principles.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntelligence Oversight in Times of Transnational Impunity
Subtitle of host publicationWho Will Watch the Watchers?
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781003821182
ISBN (Print)9781032406541
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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