Forschungsgruppe „Learning Intelligence“

Learning Intelligence: The Exchange of Secret Service Knowledge between Germany and the Arab Middle East 1960 - 2010

The research group Learning Intelligence investigates and analyses the exchange of secret service knowledge between German and Arab intelligence agencies between 1960 and 2010. The group carries out the project titled “Learning Intelligence: The Exchange of Secret Service Knowledge between Germany and the Arab Middle East”, which is funded by a Freigeist Fellowship Grant from the Volkswagen Foundation.

Although intelligence agencies are a near-to ubiquitous institutions of states, very little research has been conducted about them; existing works largely focus on the Anglo-Saxon world. Our project addresses this significant gap and develops an understanding about the role intelligence agencies play as a central feature of modern international relations.

Our focus lies on the questions, whether German and Arab agencies exchanged knowledge and if so, whether this led to similarities and/or differences in their form and conduct. On the basis of an in-depth and wide-ranging empirical study, our group breaks innovative empirical and theoretical ground about secret services’ role and function across different types of states: democratic, communist and authoritarian. Beyond our comparative work, our research of knowledge exchange focuses on practices such as transnational training courses, high-level meetings between agencies, mutual assistance for specific operations, as well as informal circulation of knowledge.


Individual Research Projects


2020 (forthcoming), Hoffmann, Sophia. “Arab Students and the Stasi: Agents and Objects of Intelligence”, Security Dialogue.

2019, Hoffmann, Sophia. "Why is there no IR scholarship on intelligence? Some ideas for a new approach", ZMO Working Papers Nr 23, Berlin: ZMO.

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