Oct. 26, 2020

What We Are Learning This Week with Dr. Gavin Cameron

This week in POLI 575 Intelligence and Policy, Dr. Gavin Cameron is exploring signals and imagery methods of intelligence collection.
POLI 575 Cameron
POLI 575 Cameron

October 26, 2020 in POLI 575  Intelligence and Policy

Dr. Gavin Cameron is exploring signals and imagery methods of intelligence collection


Can you tell us a little more about this topic?

Signals intelligence and imagery intelligence are major means by which states gather information against rivals and potential threats. We will examine how states do this, the advantages and disadvantages of these types of collection compared to other types such as human or open source intelligence, and the challenges associated with having too much information to be readily usable.  We then will focus on the democratic implications of states' collection efforts. 

What else do you cover in your course?

The course is heavily focused on the interaction between the intelligence community and policymakers.  We examine the structure of those communities in four democracies and ask how key bureaucratic challenges such as coordination, budget allocation and oversight are handled in each country.  We also look at each stage of the intelligence process, assessing the policy challenges that arise from that part of the process.  Finally, we examine several high profile examples of intelligence failure, asking why that occurred in each case. 

Dr. Gavin Cameron

What are some your most rewarding moments from this course?

As part of the course, we typically have two simulations, each for the duration of one class. One of these focuses on one aspect of intelligence collection and the other focuses on either analysis or the intelligence-policymaker interaction. It is a fun and different way of illustrating a key aspect of an issue we will have covered in a lecture and discussion earlier. The simulations are especially helpful for highlighting the significance of competing organizational objectives and imperfect information within these interactions.

Finally, what other courses would you recommend for students interested in this topic?

For students interested in public policy, the key courses are POLI 357 Introduction to Public Policy Analysis and POLI 447 Comparable Public Policy. Many of the issues around security are covered in POLI 439 Strategic Studies. Two of the countries of focus in the course are the US and Canada: US politics is covered in POLI 477 American Politics; Canadian security is covered in POLI 435 Canada and World Politics and POLI 523 Canada and the Circumpolar World. The history of intelligence is covered in HTST 489 Espionage and the State, 500 BCE-1939 and HTST 490 Espionage and the State, 1939 to the Present.


Thanks to Dr. Gavin Cameron for sharing your course with us!