Ian Jenkins

Ian Jenkins

Department of History
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: The emergence of US Counter Terrorism policy Post-Watergate 1975-1989
SupervisorDr Steve Hewitt
PhD Modern History


  • M.Litt in Terrorism Studies from University of St Andrews (2015)
  • MSt from Wolfson College, University of Oxford in Historical Studies (2017)


I graduated with MLitt from the Centre for Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at University of St Andrews  in 2015. My dissertation was ‘Students for a Democratic Society to Weather Underground – how did a non-violent, anti-war, peace movement became a violent   terrorist group advocating the violent overthrow of the US Government? This dissertation looked at the social, political and psychological elements that drove this escalation from non-violence to political insurrection and presented a multi-causal explanation for this process with particular focus on the role of the State response to political dissent. The dissertation supported the contention that an extravagant and ill-conceived response to political dissent by the Nixon administration played a significant part in the escalation.

Following St Andrews, I graduated from Wolfson College, Oxford in 2017 with MSt in Historical Studies. My second dissertation was ‘The British Left and Malayan Independence, 1954-1957’. This dissertation looked at the role of the British Left in promoting Malayan independence during the Malayan Emergency and wider policies of the British Government in the post-colonial period. The dissertation centred on recently de-classified Hanslope Park archive of former restricted (‘Secret’) correspondence. The dissertation concluded that at Malayan ‘Merdeka’ in 1957, Britain maintained all the levers of external power. That is to say that Britain maintained control over their strategic commercial and defence related interests in Malaya and that Malayan independence ipso facto represented neo-colonialism and could not be considered to be a benevolent transfer of power. 

Outside of academia, I am a company director with a British supply chain management group with a global network of offices and I am fortunate to be able to travel widely – particularly to the USA.


My research will look at the emerging US counterterrorism policy post-Watergate to the end of Reagan’s second term. Immediately post-Watergate the US Senate sought to regain Congressional oversight of law enforcement after the abuses of the Nixon administration and as well as from Hoover’s FBI. The checks-and balances that were enacted during the Ford & Carter Presidencies, were swept away by Reagan’s so called ‘unleashing’ of the FBI and an invigoration of the CIA.

The policies that a State should adopt to successfully combat terrorism represents a key debate today and has contemporary relevance as nations struggle to find a balanced response to the contemporary terrorism threat. As state responses do shape the world and its politics my research will examine the post-Watergate period to 1989. ‘Were the restrictions introduced post-Watergate ultimately too restrictive? Were they a knee-jerk reaction to Watergate? Were they effective? Did Reagan’s reversals of these restrictions repeat the earlier excesses of the Nixon era? Was Reagan’s counter-terrorism policy effective? Did Reagan use counterterrorism policies as means to investigate and mute domestic political dissent? Central to this element of my research will be an examination of the potential use of the FBI to investigate the domestic opponents of his El Salvador policy on grounds of counter terrorism? Was this a throwback to COINTELPRO?

My research suggests that in mid-1970s the USA was groping to find an effective law enforcement model that met the challenges of the post-Cold War period.

The domestic insurgency represented by the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers demonstrated in the early 1970s that there were different types of terrorism – namely ‘corrigible’ threats and ‘non-corrigible’ threats to US Law Enforcement. Accordingly my research will examine whether US counter-terrorism policy during the above period sufficiently evolved to deliver a flexible solution that could counter both corrigible and non-corrigible threats?