Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Jennifer Taw

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Intelligence agencies have always suffered from internal inefficiencies. By nature, their opaqueness and deliberate ambiguity in what they bring to the table disincentivizes scrutiny or critique from other government entities and the general public. There is very little accountability to be had for intelligence agencies, even in Western liberal democracies: no amount of voting will change how they are structured or operated, and thus incentive to change usually does not arise from domestic pressures, but rather from large-scale failures. Methods used to obtain intelligence are often presented very objectively, without context or accounting for the ideological values influencing them. It is therefore necessary to examine how intelligence is processed and used by Western intelligence institutions through a critical lens, viewing it less as a dispassionate tool of state and more of a direct outgrowth of self-preservation. The existence of a singular perceived existential threat—for example, the Soviet Union in the Cold War, or al-Qaeda in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks—produces a situation in which intelligence agencies have amplified powers, influence, and authority, especially with regard to decision-makers. This increased influence, in combination with the internal inefficiencies, make intelligence agencies far more prone to poor outcomes and failures, which in turn go unpunished due to their inherent secrecy and the way they present themselves as vital to the security of the nation.