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World of Intelligence


Admission requirements

  • Students must be enrolled in the CSM Master program.

  • At least 8 students must enrol for the course to take place

  • max. 30 students


To most people, the world of intelligence and security services might seem like a James Bond movie. As is the case with most movies, reality is quite different. But what these services actually do on a day-to-day basis, why they do what they do, 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. This course will enable students to examine the nature of intelligence services and their role and interaction within a larger societal context.
It is important 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. In this course we will study these organizations and focus on the functioning of intelligence and security services worldwide. Departing from perceptions of these bulwarks of secrecy, we will analyze the way these services are institutionalized and embedded. We will reconstruct the way secret services developed during and after the Cold War, in order to understand their function today.
On the basis of primary and secondary materials we will explore the position and day-to-day operations of intelligence and security service within the context of the democratic state and the rule of law. Aside from their qualities, having intelligence and security services comes 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 a lack of cooperation and the issue of ‘connecting the dots’ will be discussed as well, as will problems of intelligence liaison and oversight.

Course objectives

  • Students will obtain advanced knowledge and understanding of the multidisciplinary field of intelligence studies and its relation to the social sciences, history, political sciences, and public administration. This will help students to increase their knowledge of the state of the art in the academic literature in this field as well as to better understand how to conduct research in this field.

  • Students will be able to address the main questions (What is intelligence? What do intelligence and security services do? How are they embedded in the democratic state in terms of oversight and control? Who benefits from intelligence, how do policy makers and politicians perceive intelligence officials and analysis?), and define, analyze, and apply the main theories (intelligence cycle and matrix, intelligence bureaucracies, oversight and control), concepts (intelligence definitions, modus operandi, consumers, producers, products, processes), and insights to the field of intelligence studies.

  • Students will be able to define and analyze the main activities of intelligence and security services, the history of intelligence and security organizations in the West, and the relation between intelligence communities on the one hand and policy makers and politicians on the other.

  • Students will be able to critically reflect (in terms of historical developments, modus operandi, oversight, control, and added value to policy makers and politicians) on the position of intelligence communities in their broader societal, bureaucratic, and political environments.

  • Students will be able to build, present, and defend well-grounded and concise arguments in a research paper on one of the most difficult issues of the intelligence-policy nexus: the process of politicization.

  • Students will develop a critical mind-set and awareness to reflect on intelligence related issues such as their modus operandi, their political sensitivity and the issue of oversight, not only in an academic setting but in a broader public debate as well.


On the right-hand side of the programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

This course consists of 7 seminars. Attendance for this course is compulsory.

Course 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.

Assessment method

  • Midterm assignments (20% each, 60% of total grade)

The midterm assignments consist of three rolling exam assignments that will test students’ knowledge of the assigned literature and the topics discussed in the course. The assignments will focus on combining the assigned literature with relevant issues in intelligence as well as students’ abilities to present arguments.

  • Final paper (40%)

The final assignment consists of a short essay of 3000 words (excluding footnotes and bibliography) on an intelligence and security services-related subject to the course. Students will select a topic based on the themes and issues discussed in the course, related to intelligence services and their broader environment. Based on public intelligence, parliamentary or other government reporting, press, and literature (books, articles) students should present a statement and argue how this intelligence issue manifests itself, which values, interests, and views on the problems the relevant ‘parties’ held, how they acted, and what the outcome was. In the end, the paper should provide us with more insight in the role and function of intelligence. Further details will be provided during the lecture.

Compensation rule: Only assessments with the weight of 30% or lower are compensable. This means that one does not have to pass an assessment if it weighs 30% or lower in order to pass the course, if the average of all assessments combined is at least a 5.5. In addition, assignments weighing 30% and lower are not re-sitable, meaning that if one failed an assessment of less than 30%, one is not allowed to redo it.

The resit takes the same form.

Details for submitting papers (deadlines) will be posted on Blackboard.


The corresponding Blackboard course will become available one week prior to the start of the first seminar.

Reading list

To be announced on Blackboard.


Register for every course and workgroup via uSis. Some courses and workgroups have a limited number of participants, so register on time (before the course starts). In uSis you can access your personal schedule and view your results. Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.

Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted there.


Course coördinator: Liesbeth van der Heide: