Course Syllabus Secret Intelligence

Course Code:
Valid from Semester:
Education Cycle:
Advanced level
7.5 Higher education credit
Grading Scale:
Fail, Pass, Pass with Distinction
Main Field of Study:
Political Science
Department of Political Science and Law
Political Science
Language of Instruction:
The education is partially in English
Decided by:
The Research and Education Board’s Course Syllabus Committee at the Swedish Defence University
Decision date:

Entry Requirements

Bachelor's degree worth 180 credits, of which 90 credits are in Political Science or another relevant subject.
English proficiency equivalent to English B or English 6 is also required.

Course Content and Structure

This course provides an advanced introduction to intelligence studies, with particular focus on the political dimensions of secret intelligence. The course deals with the meaning of intelligence studies both as a distinct research field and as part of other research traditions such as international relations, security studies and policy analysis. The theoretical basis for studying secret intelligence is supplemented with insights into concrete practices, in both Swedish and international contexts, in “normal” times as well as in crisis situations. Empirically, the course covers traditional espionage as well as new forms of information gathering and electronic surveillance. In relation to these empirical phenomena, a number of issues are discussed, concerning for example the relationship between intelligence officers and politicians; ethics and leadership; the difficulty of making accurate assessments of risks and threats; and the opportunities and challenges of international collaborations on matters of secret intelligence.

Intended Learning Outcomes

After completed course the student should be able to:
• Critically discuss what constitutes intelligence studies, both as a separate distinct research field and as part of other research traditions such as international relations, security studies and policy analysis.
• Systematically account for the political dimensions of secret intelligence, in particular with respect to the relationship between intelligence officers and political authorities.
• Independently analyze contemporary challenges related to covert intelligence work, including the difficulties of intelligence co-operation, threat and risk assessments, and ethics and leadership.

Type of Instruction

Instruction is in the form of lectures and seminars.


Scope: 7.5 Higher education credit


Grades are set according to a three-grade scale: Pass with Distinction (VG), Pass (G) and Fail (U). Grading criteria are specified by no later than the start of the course.
To earn the grade Pass (G), the student must actively and constructively participate in mandatory seminars and earn a grade of Pass (P) on the written assignment.
To earn the grade Pass with Distinction (VG) in the course, the student must meet the requirements for Pass (G) and earn a grade of Pass with Distinction (VG) on the written assignment.

Restrictions in Number of Examinations

The number of examinations is not limited.

Restrictions Concerning Degree

The course cannot be included in a degree with another course whose content fully or partially corresponds to the content of this course.

Transitional Provisions

When the course is no longer given or when the course content has changed substantially, the student has the right to be examined once per semester during a three-term period in accordance with this syllabus.


The course is given within Master's programme in Politics, Security and War. The course may also be given as a single-subject course. If a student has a decision from the Swedish Defense University on special educational support due to a disability, the examiner may decide on alternative forms of examination for the student. On the completion of the course, an evaluation will be conducted under the auspices of the course director, which will form the basis for any changes to the course.

Reading List Secret Intelligence

Course Code:
Alison, Laurence, Marek Palasinski, Sara Waring, Anne Humphrey, Michael Humann, Neill Shortland, and Lorraine Bowman Grieve (2017). Between a Rock and a Hard Place of Geopolitically Sensitive Threats – Critical Incidents and Decision Intertia. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 10(3): 207-224.
Andrew, Christopher et al. Secret Intelligence: A Reader. (London: Routledge, 2020) - Introduction: What is intelligence? pp. 1-3; Ch. 1: Warner (2002) Wanted: A definition of intelligence, pp. 4-12; Summary of the intelligence cycle, pp. 23-27; Ch. 8: Rovner (2013) Is politicization ever a good thing?, pp. 125-137; Ch. 3: Wipple (2016) Observations on successful espionage, pp. 28-37; Ch. 4: Aid (2003) SIGINT and the fight against international terrorism, pp. 38-76; Ch. 5: Omand et. al. (2012) Introducing social media intelligence, pp. 77-94; Ch. 6: Gibson (2013) Exploring the role and value of open source intelligence, pp. 95-106.
Arcos, Rubén and José-Miguel Palacios (2018). The Impact of Intelligence on Decision-making: the EU and the Arab Spring. Intelligence and National Security, 33(5): 737-754.
Ben Jaffel, Hager, Alvina Hoffmann, Oliver Kearns, and Sebastian Larsson (2020). Collective Discussion: Toward Critical Approaches to Intelligence as a Social Phenomenon. International Political Sociology, 14(3): 323–344.
Bigo, Didier, and Laurent Bonelli (2019). Digital Data and the Transnational Intelligence Space. In Didier Bigo, Engin Isin and Evelyn Ruppert (eds.) Data Politics: Worlds, Subjects, Rights. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 100–120.
Birchall, Clare (2011). Introduction to “Secrecy and Transparency”: The Politics of Opacity and Openness. Theory, Culture & Society 28 (7-8): 7-25.
Butler report (2004) Chapter 1: The nature and use of intelligence, pp. 7-16, available here:
Dylan, Huw and Thomas J. Maguire. (2022). Secret Intelligence and Public Diplomacy in the Ukraine War, Survival 64(4): 33-74.
Eriksson, Gunilla (2016). Introduction. In Swedish Military Intelligence: Producing Knowledge. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 1–11 & Ch. 7: Practice for creating knowledge.
Gill, Peter and Mark Phythian (2016). What is Intelligence Studies? The International Journal of Intelligence, Security, and Public Affairs. 18(1): 5-19.
Hoffmann, Sophia, Noura Chalati, and Ali Dogan (2022, forthcoming). Rethinking Intelligence Practices and Processes: Three Sociological Concepts for the Study of Intelligence. Intelligence and National Security DOI: 10.1080/02684527.2022.2113679
Horn, Eva (2011). Logics of Political Secrecy. Theory, Culture & Society 28 (7-8): 103-122.
Hulnick, Arthur S. (2006) What’s Wrong with the Intelligence Cycle? Intelligence and National Security, 21(6): 959-979.
Johnston, Rob (2005). Analytic Culture in the United States Intelligence Community: An Ethnographic Study (No. 14). Central Intelligence Agency. Available at, Ch. 2, pp. 9-29.
Marrin, Stephen (2012). Is Intelligence Analysis an Art or a Science? International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 25(3): 529-545.
Marrin, Stephen (2018). Evaluating Intelligence Theories: Current State of Play. Intelligence and National Security. 33(4): 479-490.
Menkveld, Christiaan (2021). Understanding the Complexity of Intelligence Problems. Intelligence and National Security, 36(5): 621-641.
Nilsson, Niklas, Mikael Weissmann and Björn Palmertz (2023, forthcoming). Hybrid Threats and the Intelligence Community: Priming for a Volatile Age. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (available on Canvas).
Odom, William E. (2008). Intelligence Analysis. Intelligence and National Security, 23(3): 316-332.
Ormerod, Owen (2021). Michael Polanyi and the Epistemology of Intelligence Analysis. Intelligence and National Security, 36(3): 377-391.
Petersen, Karen Lund, and Vibeke Schou Tjalve (2018). Intelligence Expertise in the Age of Information Sharing: Public–Private “Collection” and Its Challenges to Democratic Control and Accountability. Intelligence and National Security, 33(1): 21–35.
Tuinier, Pepijn (2020). Explaining the Depth and Breadth of International Intelligence Cooperation: Towards a Comprehensive Understanding. Intelligence and National Security, 36(1): 116–138.
Riemer, Ofek. (2021). Politics is Not Everything: New Perspectives on the Public Disclosure of Intelligence by States, Contemporary Security Policy, 42(4): 554-583.
US Government (2009). A Tradecraft Primer: Structured Analytic Techniques for Improving Intelligence Analysis, available at
US Government, DNI (2015). ICD 203 Analytic Standards, available at
Vrist Rönn, Kira and Simon Höffding (2013). The Epistemic Status of Intelligence: An Epistemological Contribution to the Understanding of Intelligence. Intelligence and National Security, 28(5): 694–716.
Warrell, Helen (2022). The secret lives of MI6’s top female spies. Financial Times Magazine (uploaded on Canvas).
de Werd, Peter (2021). Reflexive Intelligence and Converging Knowledge Regimes. Intelligence and National Security, 36(4): 512–526.