Individual Research Projects

Learning Intelligence: The Exchange of Secret Service Knowledge

Research project of Sophia Hoffmann

This project investigates whether the international relations between Arab and German secret services resulted in an exchange of knowledge, and whether this exchange resulted in similarities and/or differences in the shape, conduct and politics of German and Arab secret services. Knowledge is here conceptualised as modus operandi; as the ideas and practices about how to develop, justify and run a secret service. Secret services are an extremely widespread institution of modern states, yet social sciences’ empirical and theoretical understanding of their functioning remains very shallow, and strongly focused on the Anglo-Saxon world. Coming from a political science perspective, with interdisciplinary cross-over into history, sociology and Middle East studies, this project proposes archival, literature and interview research to develop innovative answers about the nature, impact and role of secret services across different types of states and regimes.


The Exchange of Intelligence between East Germany’s Ministry for State Security and the Syrian Intelligence and Security Apparatus, 1960-1990

PhD Project of Noura Chalati

The intelligence exchange and security cooperation, between the numerous distinct Syrian (Mukhabarat) and the East German (MfS – Ministry for State Security) intelligence agencies is treated very marginally in academia. Thus, this PhD project sets out to comparatively study the East German and Syrian intelligence work between 1960 and 1990 to uncover their similarities and differences and to investigate forms of knowledge exchange that characterized their interaction.

Special emphasis will be put on the role that bureaucracy and institutionalization, such as the standardization of language, practices and procedures, play for modern statehood and authority, and how intelligence agencies learn from one another - even services in countries with histories as distinct as in East Germany and Syria.

Besides that, the Mukhabarat and the MfS used omnipresent surveillance and violence which strongly affected the Syrian and East German societies. Thus, the centrality of surveillance and violence for the everyday work of both intelligence apparatuses will be scrutinized.

Furthermore, this project will examine if and how ideology shapes the work and cooperation of bureaucracies and these two intelligence agencies in particular, which embraced Socialist ideologies under the Soviet sphere of influence.

Finally, this project will focus on the role of (shared) secrecy as a form of governmentality and a practice of collaboration in bureaucracies and especially intelligence agencies. Secrecy creates various power relations and might induce complicity and a feeling of belonging among those who share secret knowledge.

Intelligence Agencies as Preservers of Raison d'État. Comparison and Analysis of Collaboration between the Bundesnachrichtendienst and Jihaz Al-Mukhabarat Al-Amma from 1969-1990.

PhD Project of Ali Dogan

In my dissertation I compare the German foreign intelligence service - Bundesnachrichtendienst - and the Iraqi intelligence service - Jihaz Al-Mukhabarat Al-Amma - and analyse their cooperation. I examine and compare the organization and operation of these intelligence services with Machiavelli's understanding of raison d'État and realpolitik. I apply Machiavelli’s understanding, with reference to Francis Bacon's and Michel Foucault's ideas, on the existence and work of intelligence services.

By comparing both agencies, I want to highlight the similarities of both intelligence services in two different state systems. While both secret services differ in their secrecy and execution of intelligence methods, both intelligence agencies pursue the same interest: the preservation of raison d'État through authorizations for the services that resemble a "permanent coup d'état" (Foucault).

By analysing the cooperation, I argue that the preservation of raison d'État for modern states has expanded to a transnational level. Foreign intelligence services play a significant role as the maintainer of raison d'État at the transnational level. The realpolitik cooperation between the Bundesnachrichtendienst and Jihaz Al-Mukhabarat Al-Amma in the period from 1969 to 1990 reflects the preservation of raison d'État abroad.