The 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.

Intelligence Practice: Rapidly changing technology, epochal geopolitical shifts, and evolving conflict dynamics, will all severely challenge the work of intelligence agencies in the decades to come. Traditional threats such as terrorism, great power competition, and espionage, have been joined by new challenges posed by cyber-attack, massively scaled disinformation, and climate change. The Intelligence Project examines the intelligence methodologies, technologies, human cadres, and organizational structures, which will shape how well intelligence agencies protect nations facing these challenges. It does so through weekly term-term speaker and discussion events, which explore fundamental questions about the use and abuse of intelligence by governments— past, present, and future.

Intelligence and Policy: For many aspiring policy-makers, the first time they are exposed to the capabilities and benefits of the intelligence community in policy-making happens when they arrive at their first government job authorizing them a security clearance.  This is too late to prepare to wade through the reams of classified data, which can either illuminate or obfuscate reality depending on the ability of a reader to interpret it. The Intelligence Project acquaints students and Fellows with the intelligence community and its strengths and weaknesses for policy making.  Discussions with active and retired intelligence practitioners, scholars of intelligence history, law, and other disciplines, help students and Fellows prepare to best use the information available through intelligence agencies while avoiding the pitfalls of over-reliance on intelligence products in making policy.

Recanati-Kaplan Fellows Program:  The Intelligence Project sponsors the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation Fellows Program, which educates the next generation of thought leaders in national and international intelligence and supports their research to develop policy-relevant knowledge for the most pressing security issues.

Elbe Group: As US and Soviet forces converged in Germany in the final days of WWII, soldiers from both armies met at the River Elbe near Torgau. That historic meeting of comrades, united in the face of common threats, is the inspiration for the creation of the Elbe Group to maintain an open and continuous channel of communication on sensitive issues of US-Russian relations.  The members of the Elbe Group are senior retired military and intelligence flag officers, all of whom have strong connections back into their governments. It is an unprecedented gathering of senior veterans from the Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU), Ministry of Defense, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Department of Defense (DoD).


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The Intelligence Project is no longer accepting applications for the Fall 2023 Study Group. The Study Group will be offered once again in Spring 2024.

The Intelligence Study Group is designed for Harvard students considering careers in government or the private sector as well as those interested in a broad introduction to intelligence. Over the course of 11 sessions, participants study fundamentals, history, methodology, and organizations. The group uses case studies, scholarly works, and vibrant discussion to examine how intelligence enhances decision-making, supports policy, where it fails, and the differences between democracies and one-party states. Sessions are co-convened by members of the Belfer Center Intelligence Project including Harvard Lecturer Dr. Michael Miner, Intelligence Historian Dr. Calder Walton, and Project Manager Dr. Maria Robson-Morrow. In addition, many sessions feature special guests from the Belfer Center Intelligence Project's core group of fellows, offering deep practitioner experience and insight on world affairs.

Part One: Developing Intelligence

Session 1 – Introduction: What is Intelligence?

Session 2 – Intelligence Collection: HUMINT 

Session 3 – Intelligence Collection: Technical Collection 

Session 4 – Part A: Intelligence Analysis. Part B: Private Sector Intelligence


Part Two: Using Intelligence

Session 5 – The Intelligence-Policy Nexus

Session 6 – Covert Action and Influence 

Session 7 – Counterintelligence

Session 8 – Intelligence Failures, Intelligence Successes


Part Three: Intelligence Systems and Frameworks

Session 9 – Ethics and Intelligence 

Session 10 – Intelligence in Democracy and Dictatorships