International Security and Intelligence Programme

Twenty-First Century Perspectives on Intelligence and Contemporary Threats
Syllabus 2024


Professor David Gioe is a British Academy Global Professor in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and an Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Professor Gioe spent 23 years of active then reserve service working in the U.S. intelligence community, including analytical and operational roles in the FBI, CIA, DIA, and the Office of Naval Intelligence.

Professor Michael S. Goodman, BA(Hons), MA, PhD, FRHistS, is the former Head of War Studies and Professor of Intelligence and International Affairs at King’s College London. He is the official historian of the British Joint Intelligence Committee and also a Visiting Professor at the Norwegian Defence Intelligence School.  He is a British army reservist and has spent many years seconded to the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence.



The International Security and Intelligence (ISI) programme offers a unique opportunity to study with leading academics and practitioners. With a special emphasis on human intelligence, students will explore the role of the intelligence and security agencies, applying their enduring principles to cutting-edge problems. Participants will consider the 21st Century threat landscape from an historical perspective. We will explore, through a vast panoply of optics, the intelligence cycle, the competing claims of state secrecy, information operations, terrorism, the problems generated by the demand for regional security, and the security aspects of digital revolutions. Intelligence collection, analysis of the product, and its dissemination to customers remain at the core of the intelligence cycle. Counterintelligence and covert action play more opaque but still vital roles at the heart of the nation state and international alliances. Understanding these perspectives on what intelligence can achieve, but also its limitations, are major course themes.

Setting the tone and direction of the programme will be a series of outstanding guest lectures covering a broad spectrum of contemporary intelligence and security challenges. Speakers in recent years have included practitioners – the Heads of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ; the Chief Judge to the Appeals Court of the United States Armed Forces, and the CIA Deputy Director for Operations – and leading academics working in the field of Intelligence and Security studies.

The multitude of threats facing Western democracies is diverse, and the issues which preoccupy the highest levels of government will be discussed and analysed. With its emphasis on contemporary and future challenges and practice, this is a Programme which will appeal to those with an academic or professional interest in intelligence and contemporary threats.

This Syllabus describes the:

  • Aims of the programme
  • Learning outcomes
  • Teaching methods
  • Assessment methods
  • Class details and reading



  • To promote a multidisciplinary understanding of concepts, issues, and debates regarding intelligence and national security issues more broadly.
  • To encourage reflection on the meaning, value, and nature of intelligence and types of intelligence as evidence and bases for action.
  • To encourage an understanding of the interactive processes of assessment and analysis.
  • To foster conscious critical reading and discussion of issues concerning information, intelligence, policy, and action.
  • To promote an understanding of scholarly activity in relation to intelligence.
  • To foster an appreciation of intelligence skills and tools for understanding future developments.
  • To foster understanding and application of a range of transferable intellectual and study skills.
  • To foster understanding and application of a range of transferable key skills – communication, listening, and teamwork.


Students and practitioners with an intellectual or professional interest in statecraft and the interlocking themes of intelligence, security, defence, and foreign policy.


  • Familiarity with key concepts in intelligence.
  • Understanding of the variety of factors affecting the collection, processing, and use of information.
  • Command of key concepts such as human intelligence, counterintelligence, signals intelligence, assessment and analysis, and information operations.
  • Understanding of intelligence as both a challenge to and a support of international order.
  • An understanding of different approaches to intelligence in history and other forms of social science.
  • Knowledge and understanding of intelligence and security in relation to specific empirical cases.
  • The problems and possible practical solutions to issues of intelligence, war, and security.
  • To have contributed to and participated in the formation of co-learning, investigating and assessing the relevance and relationship of intelligence to future developments in policy and practice.
  • Development of career and employability skills.



    At the core of the programme are a series of Key Theme Lectures covering a broad spectrum of contemporary intelligence and security challenges. Each lecture has a number of corresponding small-group seminars led by the lecturer where these key themes are debated and discussed. All teaching is conducted with strict adherence to the ‘Chatham House Rules,’ which all students must respect (when a meeting is held under the Chatham House Rules, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed).


    *Please note the Lecture titles and order may be subject to change. These will be reflected on Moodle and in the Timetable.

    1. The ISI Introduction to Intelligence Studies

    This, the first lecture, considers the historiography of intelligence and the development of intelligence studies as a distinct field of academic inquiry. Guidance will be given on research methods, interpretative approaches, and analytical writing when exploring this exciting but challenging field. Required readings (in advance) are:

    – Tony Paterson (2014), ‘Germany to spy on US for first time since 1945 after ‘double agent’ Scandal,’ The Independent, July 7,  

    – Michael Warner (2007), ‘Sources and methods for the study of intelligence,’ in Loch K. Johnson (eds.), Handbook of Intelligence Studies (London), pp.17-27.

    – David V. Gioe (2017), ‘The History of Fake News,’ The National Interest, July 1,

    – Widget Finn (2014), ‘Why Intelligence Studies are a Smart Career Move,’ iNews, February 19.

    2. The British Approach to Intelligence

    Here we will examine the ways in which the British intelligence community has developed what can be seen as a specific, characteristic approach towards its work over time and in response to the changing nature of the threats it has encountered. Required readings (in advance) are:

    – Michael S. Goodman (2016), ‘Creating the Machinery for Joint Intelligence: The Formative Years of the Joint Intelligence Committee, 1936-1956,’ International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 30:1 (November), pp.66-84.

    – Lawrence J. Lamanna (2007), ‘Documenting the Differences Between American and British Intelligence Reports,’ International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 20:4 (August), pp.602-628.

    – Jack Davis (1991), ‘The Kent-Kendall debate of 1949,’ National Archives Catalog, (Summer),

    – ‘A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The National Security Strategy,’, October 2010,

    – Richard K. Betts (2008), ‘Policy-makers and Intelligence Analysts: Love, Hate or Indifference?’ Intelligence and National Security, 3:1 (January), pp.184-189.

    3. Human Intelligence and Operational Tradecraft

    This lecture uses a Cold War case study to illuminate the potential and pitfalls of humans as intelligence agents. We will focus on intelligence collection, counter-intelligence, and agent security – timeless tradecraft issues. Required readings (in advance) are:

    – Randy Burkett (2013), ‘An alternative Framework for Agent Recruitment: From MICE to RASCLS,’ Studies in Intelligence, 57: 1 (Extracts, March), pp.7-17.

    – Espionage and Other Compromises of National Security: Case Summaries from 1975- 2008, Defense Personnel Security Research Center (November 2009),

    – David V. Gioe (2017), ‘The More Things Change’: HUMINT in the Cyber Age,’ in R. Dover et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Security, Risk and Intelligence (London: Routledge), pp. 211-225.

    – John Sano (2014), ‘Guide to the Study of Intelligence: The Changing Shape of HUMINT,’ Association of Former Intelligence Officers Intelligencer Journal (November).

    – Jason Matthews (2013), ‘The Spy Who Turned Me,’ The Wall Street Journal, May 31,

    – Kate Brannen (2015), ‘To Catch a Spy,’ Foreign Policy, April 6,

    4. Surprise Attack and Warning Failures

    Here we will consider classic examples of surprise attacks, including the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, and will identify some of the general lessons that emerge from them. We will consider whether there are ways to remedy the failures apparently inherent in intelligence work.

    – James J. Wirtz (2013), ‘Indications and Warning in an Age of Uncertainty,’ International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 26:3 (May 20), pp. 550-562.

    – Michael I. Handel (2008), ‘Intelligence and the problem of strategic surprise,’ Journal of Strategic Studies, 7:3 (January 24), pp. 229-281.

    – Mark A. Jensen (2012), ‘Intelligence Failures: What Are They Really and What Do We Do About Them?’ Intelligence and National Security, 27:2 (April 27), pp. 261-282.

    – Michael S. Goodman (2007), ‘The Dog That Didn’t Bark: The Joint Intelligence Committee and Warning of Aggression,’ Cold War History, 7:4 (November 1), pp. 529-551.

    – Richard K. Betts (1978), ‘Analysis, War and Decision: Why Intelligence Failures Are Inevitable,’ World Politics, 31:1 (October), pp. 61-89.

    5. Intelligence Liaison

    The focus here is on intelligence sharing, exploring the nature and importance of, and obstacles to, liaison between specific intelligence agencies and between international communities.

    – Michael S. Goodman (2015), ‘The Foundations of Anglo-American Intelligence Sharing,’ Studies in Intelligence, 59:2 (June), pp. 1-12.

    – Arthur S. Hulnick (2008), ‘Intelligence Cooperation in the Post-Cold War Era: A New Game Plan?’, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 5:4 (January 9), pp.455-465.

    – Patrick F. Walsh and Seumas Miller (2015), ‘Rethinking ‘Five Eyes’ Security Intelligence Collection Policies and Practice Post Snowden,’ Intelligence and National Security, 31:3 (January 22), pp.345-368.

    – John Cary Sims (2010), ‘THE BRUSA AGREEMENT OF MAY 17, 1943’, Cryptologia, 21:1 (June 4), pp. 30-38.

    6. Intelligence, Ethics and Accountability

    This session will look at issues related to ethics and accountability and will consider how we might balance questions of morality and legality. It will also look at the evolution of various different national approaches to oversight and accountability.

    – Michael M. Andregg and Peter Gill (2014), ‘Comparing the Democratization of Intelligence,’
    Intelligence and National Security, 29:4 (July 10), pp. 487-497.

    – Jennifer Kibble (2010), ‘Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Is the Solution Part of the
    Problem?’ Intelligence and National Security, 25:1, pp. 24-49.

    – Ian Leigh (2012), ‘Rebalancing Rights and National Security: Reforming UK Intelligence Oversight a Decade after 9/11,’ Intelligence and National Security, 27:5, pp.722-738.

    – Claudia Hillerbrand (2012), ‘The Role of New Media in Intelligence Oversight,’ Intelligence and National Security, 27:5 (October 5), pp. 689-706.

    7. Assassination, Covert Action and Political Theatre

    Is Assassination a form of covert action? A form of political theatre? Who is the audience? Who is the messenger? Is it an oxymoron to have a deniable political assassination?

    – David V. Gioe, Michael S. Goodman & David S. Frey (2019), ‘Unforgiven: Russian Intelligence Vengeance as Political Theater and Strategic Messaging,’ Intelligence and National Security, 34:4, 561-575. (See PDF provided)

    – Adrian Hänni and Miguel Grossman (2020), “Death to Traitors? The Pursuit of Intelligence Defectors from the Soviet Union to the Putin Era,” Intelligence and National Security, 35:3, pp. 403-423. (See PDF provided)

    – Rory Cormac and Richard J. Aldrich (2018), ‘Grey is the New Black: Covert Action and Implausible Deniability,’ International Affairs, 94:3, pp. 477-494. (See PDF provided)

    – David V. Gioe and Michael S. Goodman (2017), ‘The Intelligence Costs of Underestimating Russia: A Warning from History,’ War on the Rocks, March 31,

    8. HUMINT in the Digital Age

    The session will be on whether / how HUMINT can adapt (or be adapted) to the digital/cyber age, but the seminar will be a case study on 9/11 and intelligence failure through an exercise examining primary source documents.

    – Malcolm Gladwell (2003), ‘Connecting the Dots,’ The New Yorker, March 2,

    – David V. Gioe (2018), ‘Cyber Operations and Useful Fools: The Approach of Russian Hybrid Intelligence,’ Intelligence and National Security, 33:7, pp.954-973.

    – David V. Gioe (2017), ‘The More Things Change’: HUMINT in the Cyber Age,’ in R. Dover et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Security, Risk and Intelligence (London: Routledge), pp.211-225. (PDF provided in resources)

    – Stephen Marrin (2011), ‘The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: A Failure of Policy Not Strategic Intelligence Analysis,’ Intelligence and National Security, 26:2 (May 20), pp.182-202.

    9. Treachery – a framework for the assessment of the damage wrought by betrayal.

    Cambridge University has produced its fair share of spies and traitors – not least the famous Cold War Five. Were any of these more outstandingly treacherous than Edward Snowden? We will look at the claims of these and others to the title of ‘the greatest traitor ever.’

    – Andrew Higgins (2017), ‘Even in Death, the Spy Kim Philby Serves the Kremlin’s Purposes,’ The New York Times, October 1,

    – Review of the Unauthorized Disclosures of Former National Security Agency Contractor Edward Snowden (2016), U.S. House of Representatives, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, September 15,

    – Malcolm Gladwell (2014), ‘Trust No One: Kim Philby and the hazards of mistrust’, New Yorker, July 28,

    – Eric A. Posner (2013), ‘Before you Reboot the NSA, Think About This: The Paradox of reforming the security-industrial complex,’ New Republic, November 6,

    – David V. Gioe (2014), ‘Tinker, Tailor, Leaker, Spy: The Future Costs of Mass Leaks,’ The National Interest, January 7,

    Each supervisor delivers a ‘methods lecture’ designed to focus on their current research area of expertise, focusing on the findings but also paying close attention to the nature of the research and associated methodological concerns.
    Recent methods lectures have included the following titles:
    – Intelligence Cooperation and Security Assistance in the Global South
    – The Future of the State in the Middle East
    – Intelligence History: from Spies to Said
    – Legal and Ethical Dilemmas of Targeted Killing


    ISI offers an integrated programme of lectures, seminars, supervisions, and Conference which all participants will be expected to attend. The Programme has two tracks which, again, all participants take:


    ISI participants will follow a research track exploring in detail a particular security or intelligence theme through a series of ‘supervisions.’  Supervision, central to Cambridge teaching and learning, brings together a small group of students under the guidance of an expert in the field to conduct research-based work, culminating in the production of an extended essay of 3,500 words. Applicants to ISI will submit a supervision proposal as part of their application. If admitted, will be allocated to a supervision group to undertake a tailored, in-depth study of their chosen security or intelligence theme guided by a CSi expert. Each group meets for five x 1.25hrs sessions backed up by office hours.

    The following are previous research topics which students are encouraged to bear in mind before they submit their proposals (we will endeavour to accommodate proposals that fall outside these areas wherever possible, but students should keep in mind the research interests of the ISI faculty when submitting proposals). The Programme Directors may, if necessary, suggest ways in which your topic might refined or focused.

    Recent Research Topics:

    • Science and Security, i.e., Pandemics and Nuclear Proliferation
    • Human Intelligence / the US and UK intelligence communities
    • Cyber and information operations
    • Regional security topics covering the Middle East, Africa, and Asia
    • Islamist and other extremist terrorism and violent non-state actors
    • Intelligence analysis, liaison, oversight, policymaking, and accountability
    • Russian and European security and intelligence issues
    • Security cooperation (especially in the Global South)

    Supervision group allocations are made in the weeks leading up to the programme once fees have been paid in full.

    Example essay titles include:

    • Dangerous, Fanatical, Fantasists: Conspiracy and Government in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy
    • How Should the UK Deal with Captured British Islamic State Foreign Terrorist Fighters?
    • Is Clandestine Diplomacy Compatible with Liberal Democratic Values of Transparency and Accountability?
    • Understanding the Drought-Conflict Nexus in Africa: A Case Study from Northeastern Tanzania
    • Is NATO’s eFP a Successful Countermeasure to Russian Hybrid Warfare?

    Track 2: Topics in International Security and Intelligence

    The central themes of the Programme are explored through core lectures and seminars given by ISI Faculty.

    Key themes include:

    • The role of intelligence and security agencies
    • The 21st century threat landscape in an historical perspective
    • The intelligence cycle
    • Transparency, oversight, and competing claims of state secrecy
    • Information operations
    • Terrorism and conventional warfare
    • Topics in regional security
    • The security implications of digital revolutions

    Intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination remain at the core of the intelligence cycle while counter-intelligence and covert action play more opaque but still vital roles at the heart of the nation-state and international alliances. Understanding what intelligence can achieve, and its limitations, will be major themes for analysis and discussion and will be further explored at the annual Conference.

    The Programme also hosts a series of outstanding Special Subject Lectures covering a broad range of contemporary intelligence and security issues. These have been given, in recent years, by former Heads of MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the French Security Services; the Chief Judge to the Appeals Court of the United States Armed Forces, and the CIA Deputy Director for Operations as well as by leading academics working in the field of Intelligence and Security studies.

    The total contact time for this track is a minimum of 40 hours.

    ISI uses Moodle, an Online Learning Platform, where the Independent Research Project is uploaded, the timetable can be accessed, and resources can be downloaded.


    Entitled Intelligence and Security in the Changing World, the Conference programme is built around a series of lectures and panel discussions. The range of topics and quality of speakers makes this a unique opportunity for ISI students to hear, question and interact with those who have worked at the highest levels in the fields of Intelligence and Security.

    Additional information, including past conference brochures, can be found here.


    TRACK 1
    All participants submit a 3,500 essay having completed Independent Supervised Research. This essay will be assessed and graded, and the grade will appear on the transcript.

    TRACK 2

    Students opting for such assessment must follow any application process required by their University and ensure that they discuss transferring credit with their academic advisors before the start of ISI.

    If you wish to discuss Credit, please contact before 3rd June 2024.

    ISI will provide a transcript and syllabus to help students applying to receive credit and can be contacted by your Registrar via email ( if further information is required.


    Participants successfully completing ISI will receive a transcript showing a grade or grades, expressed as a % and a letter (A – E), together with guidance on how grades are awarded and compare.

    While it is, of course, ultimately for participants’ home institutions to determine the amount of academic credit to be awarded, as a guide each track is usually accorded 3-4 US credits or 7.5 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits.

    All participants successfully completing ISI will receive a transcript showing their grade expressed as a % and a letter. Students will also receive grading guidance notes in early September after external validation has been completed. All work is moderated to ensure consistency and is assessed in relation to the mark schemes produced by the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

    Students will be assessed in relation to their highest academic qualification. For example, if students are currently enrolled in a BA degree the essay will be marked using the BA standard marking criteria. An MA student will be subjected to the MA grading criteria.


    As a guide it can be noted that for completion of each of the two tracks a student usually receives 3-4 US credits or 7.5 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits. All credit transfers are solely at the discretion of the Student’s Home University registrar- who will make their own determination about what credit, if any, the ISI Programme might be worth. Students are encouraged to have this discussion with their Home University registrar to avoid disappointment.

    First 80-85 A*
      70-79 A
    Upper Second 65-69 A-
      60-64 B+
    Lower Second 55-59 B
      50-54 B-
    Pass 45-49 C+
      40-44 C

    ISI 2024 Grades will be issued on Friday 6th September 2024.

    Transcripts will be issued on Friday 20th September 2024.


    ISI attracts a diverse range of participants, from working professionals in the field of security and intelligence to students preparing for undergraduate and postgraduate courses. In 2023 there were sixteen different nationalities represented across 75 students. The range of academic interests and experiences creates a unique learning environment, supported by the Cambridge model of lectures, methods lectures, seminars, and supervisions. All students are expected to do the required readings, preparations for supervisions and contribute to seminar discussions.


    Any of the following volumes are all good introductions to the field of Intelligence Studies and students may wish to bolster their knowledge and understanding of intelligence terms and topics before the beginning of the programme:

    • Rob Dover, Michael S Goodman and Claudia Hillebrand (eds), The Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies (Routledge 2013)
    • Rob Dover, Huw Dylan, Michael S Goodman (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Security, Risk and Intelligence (Palgrave, 2017)
    • Christopher Andrew, Richard Aldrich and Wesley K. Wark (eds.), Secret Intelligence: A Reader (2009)
    • David Omand, Securing the State (2012)
    • Peter Gill & Mark Pythian, Intelligence in an Insecure World: Surveillance, Spies and Snouts (2006)
    • Loch Johnson, Handbook of Intelligence Studies (2009)
    • Loch Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence (2010) – exceedingly good resource available in ample hardcopy and as an eBook from the library.
    • Mark Lowenthal, Intelligence from Secrets to Policy (2016– various older editions are available and fine to use)
    • Richard K. Betts, Enemies of Intelligence: Knowledge and Power in American National Security (2007)
    • Abram Shulsky & Gary Schmitt, Silent Warfare (2002 – various older editions available)

    In addition, students might find it helpful and interesting to regularly read the following Blogs as they deal with aspects of intelligence and national security:


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