I started writing this stuff as a mini 40k supplement in my spare time just before the birth of my son back in December 2011. I thought "oh, I'll just finish it off during my paternity leave while the baby's sleeping…" Anyone with young kids will know how ridiculously naive that thought was! The original plan was to write a whole bunch of backgrounds, a couple of alternate ranks, an Ascended career and a short armoury section. Suffice to say, I got a few backgrounds in and then spent the next year up to my eyes in nappies/diapers…
Anyway, rather than never put it out there, I thought it may as well see the light of day. Feel free to use it as you wish. If some brave soul wants to finish it off, be my guest!
Intelligence gathering in the Imperium
The Imperium is a vast empire which consists of countless smaller empires. The threats it faces are so diverse and its geographical scale so colossal that centralised intelligence gathering efforts at anything other than the broadest strategic scale are doomed to failure.
At many junctures in the history of the Imperium, attempts have been made to consolidate the control of humanity’s countless intelligence gathering agencies. Typically, a great reformer on Terra would rise to power, and earnestly seek to bring all secret intelligence work under one roof; only to discover that the whole of Terra was incapable of providing a roof large enough to contain the raw data subsequently obtained. Indeed, on the few occasions where such attempts were made, theintelligence services created rapidly became unworkable, as they became mired in minutiae, fatally slow to react to changing situations occurring thousands of light years from Terra.
Given the enormous bureaucratic obstacles to the creation of any centralised intelligence agency within the Imperium, it is unsurprising that espionage is carried out by tens of thousands of balkanised organisations operating at a local level to gather intelligence about specific opponents of humanity operating in fixed galactic regions.
Such an approach has its merits and flaws. On the one hand, the Imperium rapidly responds to extremely serious new threats; where it cannot destroy a foe militarily immediately, the local Imperial authorities tend to excel in the formation of highly specialised intelligence gathering agencies, often consisting or personnel drawn from a number of different Imperial organisations. These “ad hoc” formations, usually created in response to a monumentally powerful hostile opponent (tyranid hive fleet, Ork Waaagh, Black Crusade, etc) or alternatively assembled during the course of a major offensive Imperial campaign (such as a crusade) have a remarkable track record in gathering relevant military intelligence and it distributing it rapidly to those who need it most. The quality of the Imperium’s intelligence gathering efforts, as is so often the case with humanity, reach their peak in wartime.
However, on the other hand, the lack of central coordination of strategic or political intelligence, and the large number of disparate organisations employing spies and other agents renders the Imperium’s intelligence communities vulnerable to squabbles, infighting and the eternal problem of pointless internal intrigue, especially in regions that lack major external threats. Peaceful Imperial sectors of space are invariably rife with wars of assassination conducted by the covert branch of one major Imperial organisation against another.
Given the wide variety of Imperial organisations that employ clandestine intelligence gathering departments, it is also unsurprising that the Imperium as a whole is rather poorly served in the matter of intelligence analysis. Most analysis of intelligence gathered by Imperial agents is conducted by organisations that tend to have a specific institutional bias. For example, intelligence gathered by covert agents of the Ordo Malleus will always be viewed through the paranoid prism of the Daemonhunter, meaning that otherwise valuable information regarding the political intentions of, say, a potentially rebellious planetary governor, may be discarded or misinterpreted as operationally irrelevant due to the narrow focus of the analyst.