Accueil > Introduction to u.s. intelligence


Type d'enseignement : Lecture alone

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies



Course Description

This course is an introduction to U.S. intelligence, focusing on the role of intelligence in the policy process; key events that have shaped U.S. intelligence; how intelligence is collected and analyzed; the role of Congress in intelligence policy; current intelligence issues; and moral and ethical issues raised by intelligence activities. Many of the issues discussed are generic to intelligence in any country but especially in democracies.


  • LOWENTHAL, Mark (President & CEO)
  • MA, Aifang (Doctorante à Sciences Po)

Pedagogical format

This course is conducted as a seminar. Students are expected to take an active role in discussions on a regular basis.

Course validation

Grading is based on a mid-term paper and a final paper.

Required reading

  • Mark M. Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, 6th edition
  • Loch Johnson & James Wirtz, eds., Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies, 4th edition

Plans de cours et bibliographies

Session 1: What Is Intelligence?
Required readings:

Key questions:

  • What do we mean by intelligence?
  • Why do states have intelligence agencies?
  • Which factors in the role and function of intelligence are fairly stable; which have changed over time?

Session 2: Historical Development of U.S. Intelligence
Required readings:

Key Questions: 

  • What have been the major events, trends in the development of U.S. intelligence?
  • What do these events and trends tell us about how U.S. intelligence operates today?

Session 3: The Intelligence Process: Who Does What for Whom?
Required readings:

  • Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, chap. 4
  • Johnson & Wirtz:  Part II, 5 (Hulnick)

Key Questions: 

  • What are the parts of the intelligence process?
  • What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of each part?
  • Assess the overall success or failure of the intelligence process.

Session 4: Intelligence Collection
Required readings:

  • Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, chap. 5
  • Johnson & Wirtz:  Part II, 6-8 (Warner, Hitz, Mercado)

Key Questions: 

  • What are the five INTs?
  • What are their relative strengths and weaknesses?
  • Which issues are best addressed by which INTs?
  • How might collection change over the next 5-10 years?

Session 5: Intelligence Analysis
Required readings:

Key Questions:  

  • What are the key stresses and strains in intelligence analysis?
  • How would you define “good” analysis?  “Successful” analysis?  What are the obstacles to achieving “good analysis”?

Session 6: Operations:  Counterintelligence; Covert Action
Required readings:

Key Questions: 

  • What is meant by counterintelligence? 
  • What are the differences between offensive and defensive counterintelligence?
  • Why do people become spies?
  • Is covert action legitimate?
  • How does covert action affect the policy-intelligence relationship?
  • What are the risks of different types of covert action?

Session 7: The Role of the Policy Maker
Required readings:

Key Questions: 

  • What do policy makers want or expect from intelligence?
  • What are the major stresses and strains in the policy-intelligence relationship?

Session 8: Oversight & Accountability:  Executive and Congress
Required readings:

  • Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, chap. 10
  • Johnson & Wirtz, Part VIII, 27, 29 (Treverton, Manget)

Key Questions: 

  • What do we mean by oversight?
  • Why is it necessary in a democracy?
  • Are there limits to oversight?
  • What are the stresses and strains in oversight?

Session 9: The Old Intelligence Agenda
Required readings:

  • Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, chap. 11

Key Questions: 

  • What were the main hallmarks of intelligence performance during the Cold War?
  • Are any of the lessons learned applicable today?

Session 10: The New Intelligence Agenda
Required readings:

Key Questions: 

  • How has the intelligence agenda changed?  What are th key differences between the Cold War and modern intelligence agendas?
  • What are the most daunting policy issues for intelligence?

Session 11: Ethical & Moral Issues in Intelligence
Required readings:

  • Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, chap. 13

Key Questions: 

  • What are the moral and ethical dilemmas posed by all intelligence activities?
  • Can we establish moral and ethical guidelines for intelligence?

Session 12: The Future of Intelligence
Required readings:

  • Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, chap. 14
  • Johnson & Wirtz, Epilogue

Key Questions: 

  • Where is intelligence going over the next 5-10 years?

Biographical Information

Dr. Lowenthal is the President of the Intelligence & Security Academy, in Arlington, Virginia.  He has held a number of senior positions in U.S. intelligence, including: Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis & Production; Vice Chairman for Evaluation, National Intelligence Council; Staff Director, House Intelligence Committee; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence.  He also served as the Senior Specialist in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Library of Congress.  Dr. Lowenthal currently teaches a course on intelligence at the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, the Johns Hopkins University.  From 1994-2008, Dr. Lowenthal taught at the School for International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.  Dr. Lowenthal has written eight books (including two novels) and over 100 studies or articles.  His book, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, now in its 7th edition, is the standard college and graduate school textbook on the topic in the United States. Dr. Lowenthal’s degrees are all in history:  a Ph.D. and A.M. from Harvard University and a B.A. from Brooklyn College.  Ijn 1988, Dr. Lowenthal was the Grand Champion on the television quiz show, Jeopardy!.