"Gentlemen Don’t Read Each Other’s Mail": United States Intelligence and National Security

Registration closed



This course does not only deal with the American domestic debate on intelligence, but it is also about American intelligence activities abroad, ranging from covert actions to change the political balance in other nations, to efforts to check the on-line and cell phone activities of individuals globally.

This lecture series brings together the themes of national security and the right on privacy, two topics with a long history of debate, through the focus of United States intelligence work. Intelligence organizations are supposed to protect the nation against strategic and surprise attacks. The prevention of surprise attacks regularly failed, and in sometimes spectacular ways, such as with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the 9/11 attacks in 2001. We will analyze what intelligence organizations try and can achieve, and how American politicians respond to so-called intelligence failures. One type of response is to increase intelligence activities, and gather more information on individual Americans. Such activities lead to questions about the role and power of the state, and the right to privacy. The Bill of Rights, and notably the Fourth Amendment, plays an important role in the discussion about the right of American citizens to their freedom and the permissibility of the activities of intelligence organizations.

The focus of the course is on twentieth and twenty-first century events, when organizations like the FBI, CIA, and NSA came into existence and defined American intelligence activities. The role and activities of intelligence institutions is determined by the political context in which they function, and therefore the organization of the American political system will also be discussed. Notably, but not uniquely, President Trump has shown that the relationship between president and intelligence organizations determines the quality of both intelligence work and policy making.

Date, time, location and price

  • Date: 8 September - 15 December 2017
  • Time: Fridays 13:00 - 15:00
  • Number of courses: 14
  • Location: Oudemanhuispoort C0.17
  • Price: 180 / 162 (discount price for AUV-members)

Disclaimer: voor de actuele roostergegevens raadpleegt u altijd de roosterwebsite van de UvA. De Illustere School is niet verantwoordelijk voor wijzigingen in het rooster.

Important information

Course type Open UvA-Course
Education Lectures
Semester/block Semester 1, block 1 & 2
Language English
Study material
  • Mark M. Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2016), 7th edition (no earlier editions!), available in hardbound, paperback, and digital editions.
  • Readings from the UvA digital library.
Other You may only attend the lectures, not the seminars or other extras. It is not possible to partake in exams or obtain credits.
Deadline registration 28 August 2017 (subject to availability)


The registration for Open UvA Courses from semester 1, block 1 is closed. You can still register for courses from block 2 and 3.

After registration

Directly after signing up for a course you receive confirmation of your registration by e-mail. 


The tuition fee will be automatically deducted from your bank account. Registration for an Open UvA-Course for UvA employees is free. 


Blackboard is the digital learning environment of the University of Amsterdam and is used by all teachers and (regular) students of the UvA. Illustere School students may also use Blackboard. Your personal codes will be send to you by email.  


Gepubliceerd door  Illustere School