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The world’s spies agree Belgian intelligence is broken


The attack on Europe’s political capital on Tuesday has been widely blamed on bad intelligence; not just the dysfunctional separation of powers in Belgium, but on the lack of sharing of information among the many intelligence services of the 28 states of the European Union. The services in the former Communist states to the east were reconfigured after the collapse of the Soviet-backed regimes in 1990, but some still contain habits — and in a few cases personnel — from the days when they saw the West European states’ agencies as the enemy. Sharing, even at a low level, is tentative.

I interviewed several former officials of the secret services of the United States, France and the UK for “Journalism in an Age of Terror,” a book to be published later this year. In comments that were inevitably off the record, they spoke about how they rated their allied services — and also how they saw their main opponents, the Chinese and Russian services.

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