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The CIA and Covert Action (PO978)

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a vital instrument in the defence of US national security, yet it attracts enormous controversy. Having been pilloried for its faulty intelligence that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it has since been criticised for its use of so-called “black sites” and enhanced interrogation techniques. Meanwhile, through films like the Jason Bourne series, Hollywood has populated the view that the CIA has mindless - if often bungling - assassins roaming the world.

This module poses a series of interesting and important questions: What role has the CIA played in the protection of US national security? How far has the CIA gone beyond its chartered responsibilities and undermined American core values? To what extent has the CIA operated as a “rogue elephant”? Which Presidents have been good “users” of the CIA? And finally, what does the public have a “right to know” about the CIA?

From start to finish, you will pay particular attention to the use of covert action – attempts by the CIA to influence the world through inter alia psychological warfare, propaganda, and coup d’états. You’ll be given a thorough understanding of the place of the Central Intelligence Agency CIA in history, culture and international relations. Close attention will be given to the fine lines that exist between: a) national security and civil liberties; b) secrecy and openness; and c) privacy and security. Covert action is also a central element of this module. You’ll study a whole range of covert actions from economic warfare to paramilitary operations and assassination.