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The World of Intelligence Services

Vak 2014-2015

Admission requirements

• Students must be enrolled in the CSM Master program
• At least 8 students must enrol for the course to take place
• A maximum of 30 students can participate, on a first come, first serve basis


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, to 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 of 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.

On the basis of secondary and primary materials we will explore the function, position, and operating of intelligence and security service within the context of the democratic state. 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, as the problems of intelligence liaison and oversight.

Learning objectives

At the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Gain insight in the functioning, organization, and operating of intelligence organizations
  • Compare different intelligence organizations in terms of the genesis, organization, and practice of intelligence and security services worldwide
  • Analyze and criticize the main dilemmas surrounding the work intelligence and security services
  • Evaluate the most important definitions and characteristics of intelligence work and intelligence organizations
  • To write independently a scientific papers in which the tensions between policy makers and politicians on the one hand and intelligence communities on the other is addressed
  • To apply theoretical insights from the intelligence studies to a case study
  • To evaluate (the problems of) the study of intelligence and security services and critically reflect on the body of knowledge available
  • Relate different intelligence cultures in different countries and produce insights in the different developments of these intelligence cultures
  • Argue how different bodies of oversight and control function



Methods of instruction

This course consists of lectures.

Study load

  • total study load 5 EC x 28 hrs. = 140 hrs., of which: – contact hours: 3 hrs. per week x 7 weeks = 21 hrs. – self-study hours: 119 hrs.

Method of assessment

1. Midterm paper (25% of total grade)
The midterm assignment consists of a paper of 2500-3000 words (excluding footnotes and bibliography) on the strained relationship between policymakers and politicians on the one hand and intelligence and security services on the other. On the basis of this article by Richard K. Betts on politicization ( students will choose a topic in which this strained relationship between intelligence and the rest of government becomes apparent. Based on public intelligence, parliamentary, or other government reporting, press, and literature (books, articles) students should address how this intelligence-polity relation manifests itself, which values, interests, and views on the problems both ‘parties’ held, how they acted, and what the outcome was. In the end, the paper should give us insight in the role and function of intelligence in the policy and decision making process. Further details will be provided during the lectures.

  1. Written exam (75%)
    At the end of this course a written exam will test the students’ to what extent the learning objectives have been reached. The exam will have open-ended questions and essay questions.

  2. Note that the weighted average of two or more partial tests must be at least 5.5.


Yes, the course page will be made available two weeks before the course starts

Other course materials/literature

Literature list will be provided later


Registration for every course and exam in USIS is mandatory. For courses, registration is possible from four weeks up to three days before the start of the course.
For exams, registration is possible from four weeks up to ten days before the date of the examination.


Constant Hijzen: / 071-5272159/ Johan Huizinga building, Doelensteeg 16, 2311 VL, Leiden, Room 1.72a / Office hours: make an appointment by email