Devotees of John le Carre may think this an inauspicious trend, but a full-fledged academic discipline has grown up around the world of intelligence, spawning a "literature" all its own with titles like "Outsiders and Outside Information: Toward Systematic Assessment" and "Teaching Intelligence: Diagnosing the Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction."

Those are but two of the scholarly papers that will be delivered today in Washington at a conference on "teaching intelligence studies at colleges and universities across the United States and around the world."

The conference is being sponsored, appropriately enough, by what is known as the Harvard of the field, the Joint Military Intelligence College, a little-known institution at Bolling Air Force Base in Southeast D.C. run by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The college grants fully accredited bachelor's and master's degrees in strategic intelligence.

Beyond good grades, students must have a top secret/sensitive compartmented information (TS-SCI) clearance to attend, as courses use secret satellite imagery and the latest CIA analysis. The basic undergraduate course on counterintelligence, according to the course catalogue, examines cases involving "moles, espionage, double agents . . . honeytraps, defectors."

But A. Denis Clift, the college's president, makes clear the institution exists to examine intelligence as a tool of foreign policy, not to train spies in running agents and stealing secrets. "We discuss these subjects in our classrooms, but we're not training people in tradecraft," Clift said. "You won't find any costume supply rooms here."

CARDOZO'S TENET: He grew up playing ball in the church league and working at his father's diner in Queens, a kid from Benjamin N. Cardozo High School who went out into the world and made the neighborhood proud. It isn't every day that a lad from Queens grows up and becomes director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Only in America.

Which is pretty much what George J. Tenet said last week when he and his twin brother, William, a cardiologist, were feted at Cardozo as alumni of the year. "There is no place in any other country where kids like you can do whatever you want to do and aspire to be whatever you want to be," Tenet told a packed auditorium. "I promise you, it happens no place else. Love your country. Love your flag."

Tenet acknowledged that he was the last kid anybody would have picked to run the CIA.

"I had the biggest mouth in town," he said. "No one would ever believe I could keep a secret. I want to tell you that I have learned my lessons. I'm very discreet now; I don't say anything to anybody."

He credited his gym teacher and soccer coach, Ed Tatarian, for teaching him "more about how to run a big organization and take care of people, as I look back at it, than anybody ever taught me for the rest of my life."

As for the CIA, Tenet said, "I work with the greatest men and women on the face of the Earth. These are men and women who lay their lives down and put their families at enormous risk to make you safe. We steal secrets, we use satellites to acquire information, we write analysis for the president every day. You only hear about it when we get it wrong. Nine out of 10 times, we get it right. We stop terrorists, we stop drug traffickers, we made Mr. [Slobodan] Milosevic's life pretty miserable in Serbia."

NAMING NAMES: One name that never appears in the report of the House select committee probing Chinese espionage is Wen Ho Lee. He is the nuclear physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory whom federal officials publicly identified as an espionage "suspect" and fired in March for security violations, even though Justice Department officials concede they have virtually no hard evidence against him and will probably never charge him as a spy.

"All of this Wen Ho Lee business is not the doing of the select committee," Chairman Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) said this week in an interview.

"I think it's a bad thing that his face has been all over television like Richard Jewell," Cox said, referring to a security guard erroneously implicated by federal officials in the bombing of Atlanta's Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics. "I think [Energy] Secretary [Bill] Richardson was absolutely right to discharge him. But having said that he should have been terminated . . . I'm not sure that intentional juxtaposition of the theft of classified information on our nuclear weapons and this one person was a particularly American thing to do."