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Art-Intelligence Programs: The Relevance of the Clandestine Art World to Foreign Intelligence

International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 355–374, 2008

Posted: 3 Jul 2011 Last revised: 5 Jul 2011

Erik Nemeth

Cultural Security; RAND Corporation

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

In the background of immediate threats of terrorism and political violence, a non-physical, insidious threat to international security develops. Progressive abuses against cultural heritage support campaigns of terrorism while simultaneously undermining the political credibility of targeted nations. This paper emphasizes the need for art-centric intelligence to counter the political and financial benefits that terrorist groups gain from the erosion of cultural heritage. Primary types of erosion include wanton destruction of cultural property in campaigns of ethnic cleansing, looting of undocumented cultural artifacts, and collateral damage to historic buildings and religious monuments during military action against terrorist groups. While all types of destruction confer political clout on terrorist groups, wartime destruction and looting of cultural artifacts directly impact nations that combat terrorism. During armed conflict, invading nations incur political liability by negligently damaging cultural property. Similarly, so-called collecting nations incur political liability as private individuals encourage erosion of cultural heritage by creating a viable market for looted antiquities. Through an informal proposal for an art-intelligence program, this paper examines immediate political risks engendered by physical erosion of cultural heritage and speculates on evolving threats to international security as transnational terrorist groups capitalize on the intangible value of manipulating cultural identity.

Keywords: foreign intelligence, illicit markets, antiquities, trafficking, cultural property

Suggested Citation

Nemeth, Erik, Art-Intelligence Programs: The Relevance of the Clandestine Art World to Foreign Intelligence (2008). International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 355–374, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1877484

Erik Nemeth (Contact Author)

Cultural Security ( email )

Santa Monica, CA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://culturalsecurity.net

RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.rand.org/about/people/n/nemeth_erik.html

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