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The World of Intelligence Services


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can take this course.


To most people the world of intelligence and security services looks like a James Bond movie. As is the case with most movies, real life is quite different. But what these services actually do on a day-to-day basis, how they operate, what their tasks are, and on what legal basis they operate, is often unknown. Not only because the knowledge and modus operandi of secret services are preferably shrouded by mystery – since revealing that kind of information might help adversaries – but also because the scientific discipline of intelligence studies is relatively young.

It is important, however, strengthen our knowledge about the world of intelligence services, because they have played an important role in security affairs worldwide since the beginning of the twentieth century. Therefore in this course we will focus on the functioning of intelligence and security services worldwide and the study these organizations. Departing from perceptions of these bulwarks of secrecy, we will focus on the way these services are institutionalized and embedded. We will focus on the way secret services developed during the Cold War, and in the post-Cold War period, in order to understand their function today.

In addition to their qualities, intelligence and security services come with many dilemmas and problems. As for example the case of Iraq in 2003 exemplifies, politicians tend to ‘cherry pick’ intelligence – a specific form of the broader phenomenon of the politicization of intelligence. Other dilemmas, such as the lack of cooperation and the problem of ‘connecting the dots’ will be discussed as well. Finally, in order to unravel the world of intelligence and security services, we will focus on two current issues relating to intelligence and security services: intelligence cultures and oversight.

Course objectives

The goals of the course are:

  • The students will gain insight in dominant perceptions of secret services

  • During the course the students will be introduced to the genesis, organization, and practice of intelligence and security services worldwide

  • The students will gain insight in the main dilemmas surrounding the work intelligence and security services

  • In the course students will be introduced to the most important definitions and characteristics of intelligence work and intelligence organizations

  • The students will gain insights in intelligence cultures in different countries

  • The students will get to know the main bodies of oversight and control

  • The students will be familiar with (the problems of) the study of intelligence and security services and critically reflect on the body of knowledge available



Mode of instruction

The sessions are dedicated to lectures and discussion.

Assessment method

Midterm assignment and written exam.

The quality of the preparation for the course and the participation in the group discussions will be of influence on the grade (20%), so it is important to read and prepare the literature for each week. The midterm assignment will decide another 20% of the total grade, and the remaining 60% will be determined by the written exam.


To be announced.


Instructor uses Blackboard.



Contact information C.W. (Constant) Hijzen