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Next: Conclusion Up: The Geheimschreiber Secret Arne Previous: What happened later? When

Experiences and lessons tex2html_wrap_inline384

When the new Defence Staff started functioning on 1 July 1937 the conditions were not the best for the intelligence and crypto departments. They did not have a solid foundation to build on. The procedures applied in the intelligence department were rather simple: namely, they were suited to producing compilations of open material and to making glossaries. Incoming messages from signals intelligence and e.g. attachés were passed on ``in extenso'' to the concerned parties without making any overall assessments and conclusions. This was left to the individual reader. The information was therefore not turned into intelligence.

The crypto department worked under very frugal conditions during its first development phase. However, through considerable efforts, where limited means were used in the best possible way, impressive results were achieved.

Swedish military intelligence collection deserves very good marks for the period just before Operation Barbarossa and during its opening phase. The Swedish military attaché in Helsingfors had given a warning in good time about a German attack on the Soviet Union in which Finnish participation was highly probable. The continuous decryption of the Geheimschreiber's messages also indicated clearly and unambiguously an imminent outbreak of war.

No inquiry will probably ever be conducted to see if the organization was a pure military endeavour, or a common one for the foreign department and the military commands to study and analyse the incoming information jointly. At least no documents exist showing this to be the position. Evidently it was considered adequate to circulate attaché reports and decrypted messages without any attached intelligence evaluation. However, the most essential messages were probably discussed by representatives from the Foreign Office and the military commands at their weekly meetings which they started in the beginning of April 1941.

Yet the incoming information gave the impression that Sweden would not be pulled into the war on the German side. The Swedish government and the commander-in-chief were therefore not surprised on 22 June 1941 as they had been on 9 April 1940. Nor was it necessary for Sweden to take any precipitate measures. They could afford to lie low and show surprise in order not to expose the exclusive source of the decrypted German teleprinter messages. No information exists about this, but the view is not unreasonable.

As mentioned, no organization existed for compilation, study, analysis and synthesis in preparing intelligence evaluations. Nor was the establishment of such an organization considered. The assessment of the circulating messages' intelligence value and the conclusions were left to the individual readers, whether with good or bad results.

Any long-term analysis and assessment of the war's course and end was never carried out, but considering the turbulent developments ahead that was perhaps best.

When one looks back to see whether it is possible to learn from that time's events one must also take into consideration the classical dilemma of a professional intelligence service. Incoming intelligence rarely or never gives information about planning prerequisites, considerations and objectives of the supreme command's inner circles, and even less about chosen alternatives. For this to be possible one must have access to a traitor or a planted spy in the enemy's supreme command (e.g. the CIA's Oleg Penkovski in the Soviet Union or Mossad's Eli Cohen in Syria). Normally one is simply reduced to using information which can give intelligence about possible actions and when they are likely to be realized. When different readers, each studying from varying positions, preconceived opinions and needs to assert his preserve, draws intelligent conclusions from raw information which will be the basis for decisions, the result can be disastrous. The lonely decision-maker may very well take non-optimal, irrational decisions. However, if the decision is made in full session, the delay caused by the decision-making process can produce catastrophic consequences before everybody agrees after a long discussion. These are two of the conditions for a strategic attack to succeed, like the German attack on Denmark and Norway. A third risk also exists. A joint, balanced intelligence estimate, which is carried out by a whole organization, can in the end be so diluted that it has no value for the decision-maker. The balance between the different extremes demands a lot from those carrying out intelligence work, irrespective of grade or service rank. It should also be pointed out that it is nearly impossible to assess all undercurrents influencing a historic event so as to make a forecast. Unknown as well as known events, which an intelligence service will not be able to interpret and describe, can create unknown forms of interference in a chain of events so that they can hardly be predicted.

next up previous
Next: Conclusion Up: The Geheimschreiber Secret Arne Previous: What happened later? When

Frode Weierud
Fri Jul 11 11:23:37 METDST 1997