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
Date Written: 2008
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
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