SEST-521 Theory and Practice of Intelligence
Fall for 2016-2017
Spring for 2016-2017
Marquis, K
This course explores two primary questions: what is intelligence good for, and how can we know?

Intelligence is generally viewed as an applied subject, studied primarily by practitioners. This course bridges the gap between theory and practice, encouraging students to examine the role of intelligence organizations in government and how the secrecy surrounding intelligence contributes to, and challenges, national security and transparency in governance. While the primary focus will be on the American intelligence system, the course addresses comparative issues in the study of intelligence, including themes and examples that transcend particular national and political contexts.

This course will introduce students to fundamental issues in intelligence studies, including the role of intelligence in national security decision-making, elements of intelligence success and failure, and oversight. Class participants will gain a working understanding of the different types of intelligence, the range of responsibilities that elements of an intelligence community hold, and the relationship between intelligence and the policy-making process. Beyond technical aspects of intelligence functions, students will explore the political context that frames intelligence operations, evaluating how intelligence information relates to high-level government decision-making and to the conduct of foreign policy. Finally, students will consider some of the major normative questions regarding intelligence, such as: what the appropriate role for intelligence should be in a democracy, how transparent intelligence should be to the public, and how its vast array of activities should be supervised.

Course Format
This course is a seminar; the course is formatted to facilitate student-driven learning. Participants will be expected to come to class prepared and to demonstrate active, critical exploration of course material throughout the semester. Class meetings will focus on group discussion of course material, led each week by student presentations on class readings.

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Course syllabi
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Spring '17: Arsenault, L (file download)
Fall '16: Marquis K (file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.


SEST-521-01 Theory and Practice of Intelligence
Spring for 2016-2017
Parchini, J.
Intelligence is an element of statecraft that alerts national leaders about threats and opportunities, helps them understand the complexities of foreign situations and actors, and provides guidance for tactical military, diplomatic and law enforcement operations. In this course we will examine theoretical underpinnings of intelligence and the role it plays in statecraft. Throughout the course a central line of inquiry for class will focus on intelligence as a means of statecraft and how it may change in the future. Since 9/11 the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) has undertaken several significant reforms.

The course begins with some historical accounts of intelligence with an emphasis on the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) and evaluates the efforts to reform it. These reforms are the result of real or perceived flaws in the performance of the U.S. IC prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the run up to the 2003 war in Iraq. Layered on top of recent reforms in the IC are new developments in the international system such as continuing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are now just part of a troubling global environment that includes Islamic State violent activities in several regions, assertive Russian military and Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea. As these global developments have evolved in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the global digital information revolution continues to shape virtually every facet of modern life. All combined these developments force tremendous change on the business of intelligence.

Throughout the class students will be asked to consider the question “how will the digital information revolution influence the future of this or that aspect of intelligence?” Similarly, how will the U.S. IC re-balance its analytical and operational posture after more than a decade of focusing on counter terrorism (CT) and counter insurgency (COIN) operations?” The challenges of CT and COIN will not go away, but they will likely be re-dimensioned as the portfolio of challenges expands. Students will consider this question through course readings, class discussions and written assignments. Students will have written assignments where they consider how the information revolution influences the sources and methods used by collectors, the nature of intelligence analysis, the relationship between intelligence agencies and policymakers, and how global futures are envisioned to inform national security strategy.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: SSP Students Only
More information
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