Universiteit Leiden

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Intelligence and National Security (MSc)

In the track Intelligence and National Security you will be introduced to intelligence and security services in their political, societal, and bureaucratic contexts. The track will give you a thorough understanding of the modus operandi of these agencies, their interaction with the surrounding world, and the challenges they face.

What does this Master’s program entail?

Intelligence agencies play a profoundly important role in protecting national security.  They are tasked with acquiring the information that policymakers need to take the decisions that keep us safe.  But they are also controversial.  Their dependence upon secrecy often comes into conflict with the democratic values of openness and government accountability.  Their methods, such as the collection of vast amounts of data from the internet, can conflict with the right to privacy.  And increasingly, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, they have been called upon by policymakers not just to watch the world, but secretly, to change it.  By studying the history, theory and practice of intelligence in the 21st Century, you will navigate the evolution of intelligence work to meet new security challenges, and you will learn the methods, techniques and forms of critical thinking that equip future intelligence analysts with the ability to weigh hypotheses, detect patterns, and derive logical conclusions about the world.  You will also explore intelligence in its wider societal and political context, and analyze and evaluate how intelligence services should be governed and held to account in democratic societies.

Which Courses Will I Take on this Specialization Track?

  1.  Global Perspectives in Intelligence
  2. Espionage and War in Cyberspace
  3. International Intelligence Cooperation and Covert Action
  4. Intelligence and Policymaking

Intelligence and security services are tasked with protecting state security and democracy. As gatekeepers they try to foresee whether there are individuals, organizations, or other states that have the intention and capabilities to attack, damage, or subvert the democratic order. To be able to do so, these organizations have been granted specific and infringing powers, such as tapping citizens’ telephone and email communication, running agent operations, and hacking computers. Intelligence and security services are also very dependent on secrecy to do their work: it cannot become publicly known what they actually know at this moment about specific people and organizations, nor can it become public knowledge how they operate specifically – if such knowledge pours into the public domain, then the adversaries or opponents can protect themselves against the intelligence activities. Secret services, therefore, are not able to meet the democratic needs for transparency.

How do states negotiate this tension? What do they expect from their agencies? How do they keep them in line? From the moment intelligence and security services have been institutionalized, it has been debated who in the broader democratic state is politically responsible for these organizations, who manages them, who gets to set their priorities and requirements, and who – within the democratic state – receives their reports and briefings. Other aspects, related to their powers, cooperation with other agencies and institutions, threat perceptions, and modus operandi, have been discussed as well, thus negotiating who decides what these organizations do, what they focus on, which powers they can use, who benefits from these activities, what their legal boundaries are and who oversees that they do not cross them, and what their missions and goals should be.

In this track you will

  • Be familiarized with the way intelligence is institutionalized, organized, practiced, and conceptualized in general as well as in different national contexts.
  • Study and discuss the inherent tensions between intelligence communities and the broader democratic state, from the perspective of, for instance, transparency versus secrecy, infringements on constitutionally guaranteed rights versus the protection of national security, political tasking and management versus ‘talking truth to power’, oversight, etcetera.
  • Be introduced to themes such as intelligence leadership, intelligence cultures, and intelligence methodology.
  • Follow a course on how intelligence services have changed since 9/11, and the emerging and new security challenges they must face. In particular, it asks students to reflect on how developments in the field of information, communications and technology affect the work of intelligence services.

>> Check the application requirements

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