Effectiveness fettered by bureaucracy–why surveillance technology is not evaluated

Michelle Cayford*, Wolter Pieters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


The evaluation of the effectiveness of surveillance technology in intelligence agencies and oversight bodies is notably lacking. Assessments of surveillance technology concerning legal compliance, cost, and matters of privacy occupy a solid place, but effectiveness is rarely considered. Bureaucracy may explain this absence. Applying James Q. Wilson’s observations on bureaucracy reveals that effectiveness is minimally treated because it is more difficult to evaluate than budget assessments and legal compliance, and because intelligence outcomes are unobservable and difficult to oversee. Effectiveness evaluation is thus fettered by bureaucracy. Considerations of bringing in effectiveness assessment must appreciate the realities of bureaucratic constraints to be successful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1026-1041
Number of pages16
JournalIntelligence and National Security
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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