The Fourth Eye

Intelligence Ethics: Laying a foundation for the second oldest profession

Andregg, M.; Johnson, L. K. (2007). Handbook of intelligence studies. New York;London;, Routledge.

Ethics is the study of moral logic and paradigms, but it not just lists of rules or laws. If ethics where that simple, attorneys would have a different reputations.

  • The author opens by explaining that ridicule is usually the reaction to the idea of any ethics for spies, and use of the word ‘oxymoron” because spies lie, cheat and deceive, manipulate and worse. Why have ethics? “…because the nation is in danger, and our world is at war with “terrorists” who don’t obey any rules at all. To win, spies must be better than mere terrorists.” P. 52
  • Different kinds of spies and spying
    • Collectors who gather information, data or both, by means of tech, satellites or humans, and feed it up the chain. Protecting methods, sources and their own anonymity are cardinal virtues to them.
    • Analysts, who process the information and combine it with open sources to make more useful information for policy makers, avoiding politicization is important for them, altering opinion to suit prejudices is a special but common sin among analysts
    • Operators go places and do things, mundane and sometimes dramatic, of all the intelligence professionals more likely to kill, extort, torture and handle spies, so guarding operational security is a core value to them to protect operations, people they employ and themselves
    • Managers, organise the work and budgets, and contend with bureaucratic forces
    • Policy Makers – in theory make the decisions and have the greatest impact, “all lie, it is required by the job. So in contrast to analysis, “truth” is far less important to most policy people than expedience, or practical utility in their political struggles, 80 percent of which are domestic.” P. 53
  • The world of official intelligence involves activities in many grey areas of moral thought, and generates perplexing dilemmas where agents must balance the national interest in security, which they are bound to protect, against some other virtue like the ancient rules against lying, stealing, killing and so forth. P. 53
  • Spies are extremely important to the question of whether wars start or do not start, as well as to who wins and loses
    • Deontological group – rules must be obeyed, such as against torture, regardless of consequences. While others would conclude that it would be cruel to let a rule from saving thousands of lives. But breaking rules like Raygun did with the Contras meant that “No longer would the USA been seen as a genuine moral leader in the international effort to establish and strengthen human rights.” P 54
  • When a person is bravely blowing the whistle on wrong doing, and when are they merely leaking secret information for bad purposes? These are two interpretations involve exactly the same act, telling a reporter something that he or she wants to write about, but that someone else wants to keep a secret. Finally, leaking information is as common as direct among politicians. Who prosecutes them? P. 57
  • Hubris, dangerous arrogance, overweening pride, occupational hazard for kings, spies and professors. Any of these may come to believe that they are so special or so smart that rules which apply to lesser people need not be obeyed by them. Such overweening pride can lead to serious disasters if combined with power. Hubris is also extremely corrosive to wisdom, which is quite a different thing from intelligence. “taught from the beginning that revealing secrets can harm many people far away. But when they see something criminal, or dangerously wrong, which cries out ot be revealed to the public that, in theory, the state is created to protect. What should spies or junior commanders do if their leaders become insane or grossly corrupt? …
  • Here there may be (should be) a significant different between dictatorships, police states, and constitutional democracies. In constitutional democracies all power is ultimately derived from and vested in the people, and states are empowered in order to protect the people primarily. In kingdoms and police states power is held by a single man, or by one political party or government, not by the people per se. to legalists this is a very significant difference, because the relevant laws are certainly different.
  • “In fact it is much easier to monitor everyone if you are routinely but secretly recording everyone, which is the darkest secret of modern eavesdroppers. When the “echelon” system was adopted by the signals intelligence agencies of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, they relied on trapdoors built into almost every communications satellite deployed in space or major relay station on the earth’s surface. These trapdoors split the signals, sending a copy to massive arrays of supercomputers whose job was to scan everything looking for keywords or codewords or simply picking off all communications to any designated number for review by human analysts. That was 20 years ago; we have come a terribly long way since then. … The surveillance society is here. The question for professionals and for ordinary citizens is what to do about that.
  • “restoring a more healthy relationship between spy agencies more sharply focused on consensus endeavors (like protecting the people) with the academic and media communities is the key to a revolution in intelligence affairs more fundamental than mere computer power. “ p. 60
  • Spies often immune from laws that apply to ordinary citizens special rules.
  • Globalization and the information revolution cause problems everywhere to metastasize much faster than before

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