The Disclosure Dilemma: Nuclear Intelligence and International Organizations

43 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2017

Date Written: October 27, 2017


Scholars have long argued that international institutions solve information problems through increased transparency. This article introduces a distinct problem that instead requires such institutions keep information secret. We argue that states often seek to reveal intelligence about other states’ violations of international rules and laws but are deterred by concerns about revealing the sources and methods used to collect it. Properly equipped international institutions, however, can mitigate these dilemmas by analyzing and acting on sensitive information while protecting it from wide disclosure. Using new data on intelligence sharing with the International Atomic Energy Agency and analyses of the full universe of nuclear proliferation cases, we demonstrate that reforms that strengthened the Agency’s intelligence safeguarding capabilities led to greater intelligence-sharing and fewer nuclear-related transgressions. However, our theory suggests that solving these dilemmas provides informed states with a subtle form of influence that creates tension with the normative goal of international transparency.

Keywords: Global Governance, IAEA, Intelligence, International Organizations, International Law, Nuclear Weapons

Suggested Citation

Carnegie, Allison and Carson, Austin, The Disclosure Dilemma: Nuclear Intelligence and International Organizations (October 27, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Allison Carnegie (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

1331 International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Austin Carson

University of Chicago ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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