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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2017
Jan 19, 2018
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SEST 521 - Theory & Prac of Intelligence

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. 


This course will explore the organization and functions of the U.S. intelligence community, its interaction with national security policymakers, and the challenges it faces in defining its future role. Students will evaluate issues of intelligence collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and
covert action, including how decision-makers use intelligence. The course will highlight some of the major debates about the role, practices, and problems of national intelligence.

The course seeks to improve students’ writing skills and to cultivate the ability to engage in critical thinking, analysis, and independent learning. To that end, reading, discussing, and writing about the assigned material will be the central activities of the course. The goal is for students to
leave the class possessing not only a better understanding of specific concepts and events, but also an increased ability to express that knowledge in prose and speech.

Learning Goals
Students will:
1. Analyze national security events in the context of intelligence issues and understand the role of intelligence in the national security policy process.
2. Write, analyze, review, and brief in accordance with standards employed in the Intelligence Community.
3. Gain a broad view of the evolution of intelligence, the uses of intelligence in shaping policy, and the various aspects of intelligence, including collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action.
4. Develop an understanding of the complexity of intelligence and the kinds of issues that intelligence practitioners must consider.

3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours
0.000 Lab hours

Levels: MN or MC Graduate, Juris Doctor
Schedule Types: Seminar

Security Studies Department

Course Attributes:
SFS/STIA Science/Tech/Security

Must be enrolled in one of the following Majors:     
      Law/Security Studies
      Security Studies

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