The Belfer Center's Intelligence Project will host two information sessions on Thursday, September 3rd from 9:00-10:00am EST and Tuesday, September 8th from 5:00-6:00pm EST.  In these sessions, we will go over the different opportunities to get involved with the Intelligence Project, including:

  • The Fall 2020 Intelligence Study Group
  • Seminars and Event Series
  • Networking & Mentorship 
  • Research Opportunities 

About the Intelligence Project:

The Belfer Center's Intelligence Project seeks to build a new generation of intelligence practitioners prepared to serve in a rapidly changing world and to help future policymakers and intelligence consumers understand how best to interact with intelligence to gain a decision advantage. Building on multi-disciplinary research being conducted at the Belfer Center, from history to human rights and cyber technologies, the Intelligence Project links intelligence agencies with Belfer researchers, Faculty, and Kennedy School students, to enrich their education and impact public policy.

Please register using the link below for access to the zoom meeting link.

Harvard Belfer Center’s Intelligence Project 
17 September – 19 November | Fall 2020  
Thursdays, 4:15-5:30pm 

Study Group Facilitators: 
Paul Kolbe, Director of the Belfer Center’s Intelligence Project  
Dr. Calder Walton, Intelligence Project Research Director  
Caitlin Chase, Intelligence Project Coordinator  

Contact Emails:  

The Intelligence Study Group is designed for students considering careers in government or private sector intelligence, as well as for those interested in a broad introduction to the use and abuse of intelligence. Over the course of 10 sessions, participants will become familiar with intelligence history, methodology, organizations and practice. The Study Group will use historical examples (‘Applied History’), current readings, and discussion to examine how intelligence enhances policy decision-making, where it fails, and the differences between intelligence in liberal democracies and one-party states. The sessions will be led by former senior CIA officer Paul Kolbe, Director of the Belfer Center Intelligence Project, and intelligence historian, Calder Walton, Belfer Intelligence Project Director of Research.  

Participation is limited to 20 students and is determined by application. 

Core Text: Lowenthal, Mark M, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, 8th edition (2019)

Key Learning Outcomes: 
Participants will:

  • Gain an understanding of the intelligence cycle and its relevance to the government and private sector, including the relationship between intelligence professionals and their policy maker customers. 
  • Learn major intelligence collection disciplines and their application to analytical problems faced by the governments and private sector. 
  • Apply analytic methodologies and identify common impediments to accurate intelligence analysis. 
  • Develop understanding of covert action principles and techniques and assess their relevance and limitations. 
  • Examine counterintelligence issues to include insider threats and cyber espionage. 
  • Explore the use and abuse of intelligence by governments-- both democratic and dictatorial-- and the impact that intelligence can have on international affairs. 
  • Assess present-day intelligence and national security crises through lens of historical precedents. 
  • Discuss why intelligence failures occur and what can be done to prevent them. 


Participation is limited to 20 students determined by application. The study group is open to all Harvard students, faculty, fellows, and staff; however, preferential seating will be designated for current Harvard Kennedy School graduate students. No prior experience with, or knowledge of, the topic is necessary. Participation in discussion and weekly attendance is highly encouraged. As with all Intelligence Project seminars, the study group operates under Chatham House Rules.

The application window will run from Thursday September 3 to Friday, September 11. Determinations and notification of acceptance will be made Monday, September 14. To apply, please use the application button below.

Course Syllabus: 

17 Sept. 2020, Session 1 – Introduction: What is Intelligence?  

  • Study group intro, overview, and expectations 
  • Intelligence Authorities and Organization: the US Intelligence Community 
  • The Intelligence Cycle: from initial tasking to final intelligence assessment; customers and stakeholders; what are the questions? 
  • Key definitions: FI, CA, CI; what is intelligence and what is not? The difference between intelligence and espionage 
  • Intelligence Oversight 

24 Sept. Session 2 – Intelligence Collection: HUMINT

  • Human intelligence, from ancient times to present 
  • Agents – the epitome of espionage  
  • The agent acquisition cycle 
  • Vetting and Validation, handling and termination 
  • Traditional vs war-zone collection 
  • Cases: Penkovsky, Tolkachev, Gordievsky 

1 Oct. 2020, Session 3 – Technical Collection 

  • Cyber Intelligence                                                                                         
  • SIGINT Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 
  • Big collection, big data, big problems, big results 
  • Intelligence, surveillance and privacy 
  • Private Sector Surveillance State  

8 Oct. 2020, Session 4 – Intelligence Analysis  

  • What is the Question? 
  • Embedded assumptions of analysts, policymakers and executives 
  • Needs of decision-makers - pros and cons of accommodating them
  • Analytic Traps:  Psychological bias, past is prologue, ethnocentrism, mirror imaging, politicization. 
  • Estimative language and assessment of probability                             

15 Oct.  2020, Session 5 – Intelligence Failures, Intelligence Successes 

  • How and why intelligence failures occur  
    • 9/11 
    • Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction 
  • Intelligence successes  
    • Cuban Missile Crisis 
    • Afghanistan - anti Soviet campaign 
    • Bosnia and Kosovo 

22. Oct. 2020, Session 6 – Covert Action and Influence 

  • Political and economic operations  
  • Para-military operations 
  • Cyber and media  operations
  • Presidential Findings 
  • Iran, Bay of Pigs, Dr. Zhivago 

29 Oct. 2020, Session 7 – Counterintelligence: The Wilderness of Mirrors 

  • Definitions of counterintelligence (CI), counterespionage and counter-surveillance  
  • Insider Threats – Espionage, Workplace Violence, Cyber and Terror. 
  • Vetting and validation tools – investigation, polygraph, ops tests. 
  • The five ‘Cambridge spies’ 
  • Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, Edward Snowden, Jerry Lee  

5 Nov.  2020, Session 8 – Intelligence in Democracy and Dictatorships 

  • Compare and contrast of intelligence use in one party dictatorships and liberal democracies 
  • Intelligence as a political tool. 
  • FSB and MSS 
  • Authorities, legitimacy, accountability and transparency. 

12. Nov.  2020, Session 9 – 2020 Intelligence/Policy Nexus 

  • Intel Providers and Policy Customers 
  • Barriers to effective use of intelligence 
  • How intel providers fail their customers 
  • Getting it right: systems, products, relationships and trust 

19 Nov. 2020, Session 10 – Ethics and Intelligence 

  • Ethics in liberal democracies governing intelligence collection (“spying”) and covert actions 
  • Case study examples of ethical dilemmas. 

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