Espionage in the 20th Century


What has been called the world’s second oldest profession truly came of age in the present era. Never before have so many countries—ranging from superpowers to aspiring third-world regimes—invested such vast resources into the creation and maintenance of permanent intelligence organizations. This course will explore not only the reasons behind this major historical development but also the different branches of intelligence, specifically cryptography, covert action, estimates and analysis, and counterintelligence. Besides examining how espionage has influenced the larger course of events, we will discuss the ethical dilemma of a secret government agency operating within a democratic society and the obstacles in providing reliable intelligence for policy makers. Particular attention will be given to the Cold War conflict, as well as to the more recent War on Terrorism. Relying on a variety of sources and approaches, the class assignments will consist of autobiography, historical analysis, case studies, fictionalized accounts, and film. For conference, some past topics have included the evolution of the Mossad, the case of the double agent Robert Hanssen, the life and writings of Lawrence of Arabia, and women in the OSS.