Thursday, December 17, 2020

Intelligence Services Overrated, Independent Researchers Underrated, Mironov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 15 – The new information about how Moscow poisoned Aleksey Navalny has prompted suggestions by some that these data must have come from one or another intelligence service because a few independent investigators could not possibly come up with these findings, Maksim Mironov says.

            But while it may surprise many, the Russian scholar at Madrid’s IE Business School says, “the power and analytic possibilities of government agencies is strongly exaggerated and the amount of data that is easily available to an ordinary individual is underrated” (

            His own research has proved that to him again and again. Often when he has come up with findings that people find it difficult to imagine did not originate in some government agency, Mironov says he has had to acknowledge that he doesn’t know whether they have the same data but that one can easily obtain the information even if one is on the outside.

            There is now so much data available free or at low price online that individual researchers if they are clever can do more than heavily funded government agencies whose employees are less so and who all too often dismiss what unclassified sources of information can provide.

            With regard to the new report on Navalny, the Madrid-based scholar says, he is “one hundred percent certain that all the analytic work described in the investigation could have been done by a single individual or a small group for no more than several thousand dollars.” No secret government agency leaks were needed.

            Indeed, “having 15 years of experience in the analysis of various government data bases,” Mironov continues, “I do not see a single moment in the investigation which they could not have completed independently.” They didn’t need the help of any special service. They only needed “creativity and analytic thinking.”

            We long ago entered an era, he argues, “when human brains play a much more important role than budgets and administrative resources. Navalny and the employees of RBC have first-class brains. Bellingcat and The Insider do as well.” At the same time, Mironov says, the situation in the special services of Russia and other countries is much less good.

            They are heavily bureaucratized and inclined to overrate classified information only they can see even as they ignore unclassified materials available to everyone that would provide more answers.

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