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Intelligence and the Law

Judge's gavel resting near open law book

IWP 681
4 credits

The course aims to: introduce the student to the U.S. Intelligence Community, its organization, functioning and the issues it faces; give the student an understanding of the legal structure on which the Community is founded and within which it operates; and support and strengthen the student’s understanding of material presented in other Institute courses, especially those on intelligence and policy, covert action, counterintelligence, and national security policy.

We begin with an overview of basic concepts in law and intelligence. Next, we exam the Constitutional framework for the conduct of foreign affairs and national defense and see how intelligence activities fit within that framework. Moving through American history up to World War II, we look at the creation and development of laws and systems of law that interact with U.S. intelligence activities, including: treason, espionage, neutrality, immigration/naturalization, export control, and foreign agents registration.

We then examine the creation of the modern national intelligence structure in the aftermath of World War II, focusing on the National Security Act, Executive Order 12333, and the statutory charters of the various Intelligence Community agencies. We see how and why that structure changed through various periods in recent history: the Vietnam War; the Watergate era; the Reagan Presidency; and 9/11, the War on Terror and the creation of the Director of National Intelligence.

Various topical subjects are then treated: classified information and how it is protected generally and in various legal proceedings; intelligence collection on U.S. persons and the mechanisms by which that is done, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); the interaction between intelligence and the criminal law, especially in the areas of terrorism, “leaks,” espionage and treason; the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA); and interactions between the Executive and Legislative Branches involving the conduct and the reporting of intelligence activities, including covert action. We conclude with an examination of specific legal issues of interest including assassination, cyber and other developing issues.

Course Video