This article explores a number of debates that have dominated intelligence studies since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. It examines a number of inherent tensions, involving individuals and institutions, which threaten the long-term compatibility of the national security state with liberal democracy. The notion as to whether or not the use of extreme coercive measures (such as torture) can ever be justified is examined, as is the question as to whether such measures are self-defeating. The piece examines how liberal democracies seek to protect themselves in the light of rapid changes via a globalised media, the Information Revolution, and the proliferation of advanced technology and weapons of mass destruction amongst state and non-state actors. These issues are discussed with particular reference to the use of intelligence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and other global trouble spots. Finally, the article speculates on the future of the increasingly enmeshed relationship between policy-makers, intelligence agencies and the media. It is concluded that, without a clear agenda for the modification of the mechanisms for accountability and oversight, this triangular relationship will, despite its interdependence, be fraught with increasing difficulties.