Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Matthew DiLorenzo

Committee Member

Peter Schulman


Since its inception, the global community has been marred by insecurities about the intentions of other states, which led to states creating intelligence agencies to engage in human intelligence operations. In defense against foreign intelligence services, the U.S. has implemented policies and procedures, informed by defection research, to prevent and detect defection. However, this leads to the question does current research on motivation for defection adequately inform government policies and procedures to prevent and detect defection within the intelligence community? To interrogate this question, I present an in-depth analysis of motivation; the ways in which these conclusions have or have not been applied in defection studies; and current ways the government prevents and detects defection. Utilizing an understanding of these components, I present five case studies that demonstrate defection studies failure are unable to explain motivation, absent the incorporation of theoretical assistance from psychologists, sociologists, or social psychologists. In concluding, I assess that those studying motivation for defection within the intelligence community have not been studying motivation for defection, but ways in which to assist intelligence officers in eliciting defection from an individual. This focus, while advantageous for the intelligence community, fails to adequately inform the U.S. government in support their prevention and detection of defection. Faced with this failure, I bring forward two proposals that would enhance the government’s understanding of motivation for defection and the development of effective policies.


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