According to Nolte (2009), the phrase ethics of intelligence may seem oxymoronic, with intelligence understood to refer to espionage and related activities. Notably, intelligence services have been tools of regime survival for long from societies with relatively meaningful involvement in government to emerging democratic and constitutional politics. For example, in the 18th and 19th centuries England considered intelligence to be a secret service, a tool of the Crown to be protected from scrutiny and bound ethically to little more than serving the monarchy. Similarly, The United States leaders such as George Washington understood the importance of military intelligence and even resorted to the use of secret writings and spies (Nolte, 2009). Coyne, Bell, and Merrington (2013) assert that, in the modern world, a gathering of intelligence has increased significantly in response to the needs that affect national security, for example, following the September 11, 2001, attack in U.S.A. Such demands include countering espionage, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and peopling smuggling.
Following the nature of the profession, intelligence officers collect information using both overt and covert operations. Notably, the leaders and intelligence agencies encourage and teach intelligence officers to use unethical tactics, for instance, lying, deceiving, manipulating or stealing to obtain critical information. Consequently, some of these operations breach the set ethical standards, even with sometimes resulting in a denial of human rights (Coyne et al., 2013). One would consider the practices unethical and illegal if practiced in daily life. Nevertheless, they are ethically acceptable in the intelligence profession especially when the national security is at risk. Coyne et al. (2013) enumerate some controversial cases that underline the need for an increase in ethical guidelines surrounding intelligence practices. One of the most published examples is the detention if Binyam Mohamed at Guantanamo Bay. While in custody, Mohamed accepted interaction with al-Qaeda in including training at one of their terrorist camps. However, USA later dropped these charges because the evidence gathered against him was obtained through extreme, inhumane torture methods (Coyne et al., 2013).
However, Bellaby (2014) argues that intelligence must operate within an ethical framework for certain reasons. First, the intelligence profession is empowered to take actions in the publics interest and in the publics name that are typically prohibited to the public. For instance, regarding intelligence services, officials can infringe on private communications, interfere with internal affairs of a nation other than their own, or may lie or deceive. Second, public servants must not confuse an ethical consideration between public interest and personal interest. Notably, the laws proscribing the use public office for personal gain enforces this fundamental moral concern. Notably, for the 21st Century intelligence, ethical norms are critical because intelligence serves as an extension of the coercive authority of the state and because of the emerging notion that intelligence cannot be exempt from the norms imposed on other public services (Verble, 2014). Among these values is the need that intelligence agencies must operate within the law.
According to Jones (2009), intelligence work comprises mainly the collection and analysis of information that is available to anyone through the right sources. The first stage of intelligence is using open source materials such as books, journal articles, and newspapers to collect information. When the information is not available publicly, intelligence officers apply various techniques to uncover this information. According to Coyne et al. (2013), such methods include Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) and Human Intelligence (HUMINT). It is paramount to examine in detail the ethical considerations paramount in the critical intelligence functions of collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action (Nolte, 2009). First, intelligence collection takes multiple forms. For example, in the collection of HUMINT, the direct interaction between the intelligence officers and the asset creates real ethical issues. For instance, a degree of deception occurs in the situation of intelligence officers who certainly are not who they claim to be. Similarly, in the recruitment process of an asset, ethical issues become more fundamental as intelligence officers attempt to earn the trust of the potential asset through the expression of friendship or flattery. However, unlike HUMINT, technical intelligence uses technology to collect information, which eliminates direct contact with targets (Verble, 2014). Nevertheless, like HUMINT, the first ethical rule for technical intelligence is to obey the law, particularly the law of the country one is employed. For example, for American intelligence officers, it means that they are prohibited to collect technical intelligence on American citizens.
However, it is critical to note that limitations on imagery intelligence are unclear, partly because the expectation of privacy surrounding images of workplaces or homes is lower than for communications. For example, the Department of Homeland plans to use imagery more aggressively attracted immense public and congressional attention. Moreover, every American citizen knows that the use of cameras or radar for traffic enforcement can be a volatile issue. Therefore, the ethical issues in technical intelligence revolve around a public determination of what measure people may legally permit to handle a perceived threat to the countrys national security (Konstantopoulos, 2017).
Similarly, analysis has its ethical considerations that involve largely the application of the desire to bring truth to power. As noted on the wall of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)s headquarters building is the tagline, Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. However, no individual has developed the formula for an intelligence analyst or even the agency to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Mostly, the analyst emphasizes objectivity and avoids bias although, in reality, it is not possible to eliminate biases. Furthermore, Hudson (2009) asserts that the application of ethics into the intelligence operations is sustained persuasively by the claim that since intelligence collection is human endeavor that involves choice and deliberation it is necessarily susceptible to ethical scrutiny (Diderichsen & Ronn, 2016). Additionally, intelligence analysts face an ethical consideration presented by their interaction with information collectors, for example, the collection agency. Notably, the analysts are the output media for the collection and processing of information obtained from the sources. Therefore, in the all-source environment, analysts need to distance themselves from their collection sources. In other words, they have an ethical obligation to search for the most accurate information, whether the information originates from the parent agency, a different agency, or from an open source (Anderson, 2015). Notably, intelligence analysts must evade the temptation to become marketers for the intelligence collection agency they serve.
Counterintelligence refers to the function of preventing others from doing unto us what we hope to unto them (Nolte, 2009). Notably, counterintelligence is an important activity of any professional intelligence agency. However, it raises both ethical and legal issues of significance importance (Wiggins, 2015). Most obviously, spying on behalf of a foreign country is a crime in the U.S.A and even in any other state. In the American context, it means that intelligence analysts must conduct investigations along established platforms involving a presumption of innocence. Nevertheless, on an operational level, any counterespionage investigation places a relatively large number of innocent people under suspicion. Notably, as Verble (2014) argues, espionage in a foreign country might not harm individuals directly, but its existence commences from an unethical point. The ethical question that arises here is the skill of the counterintelligence analysts involved in culling through a large number of individuals in pursuit of one person involved in a crime. That is, what is morally questionable yet illegal.
Finally, covert action is more controversial than counterintelligence because it includes activities that a government undertakes to deny its role in events the fact of which may be impossible to deny. Typically, covert action ranges from intercepting private communications, interrogation, and sponsorship of political parties to propaganda and efforts to destabilize regimes (Coyne, et al., 2013), for example, what the United States did to Iran in 1940s and tried to do during Saddams reign. Verble (2014) asserts that the use of enhanced interrogation methods is an issue that has resulted in a fundamental questioning of intelligence and its significance in democratic societies in the 21st century. Notably, the first ethical question that arises in the use of covert action is whether a country conducts it under the limits of proper authority. For instance, for the United States, the President must carry out a covert action after a finding that such measures are paramount to American national security. As Nolte (2009) argues, covert actions will always be issues of ethical controversy. Mainly, governments use covert operations to prevent destructive situations that can be regarded as morally justifiable.
Clearly, the role of ethics and intelligence is not a traditional one. Similarly, the moral obligation involved in intelligence oversight attests significant attention. Notably, this significant process, by which a countrys most secret services come under scrutiny by legislative authorities, subjects a moral burden on overseers and those they oversee. First, for overseers, the moral obligation must comprise a sense of the uniqueness and vulnerability of the oversight process and the governmental activities it reviews (Raab, 2017). Apparently, the American experiment in oversight boasts of great success. The congressional overseers of intelligence have carried out their responsibilities efficiently to protect sources and techniques with minimal failure, which they have done with the confidence of approximately 500 House and Senate colleagues for whom they serve as proxies (Corey, 2014).
Intelligence oversight goes beyond the congressional oversight. Notably, issues linked to the proper role of intelligence alongside more traditional tools of statecraft, the diplomatic and military tools continue to evolve predominantly (Konstantopoulos, 2017). For example, in the United States, the Congress and the administration must deal with all intelligence-established issues that carried out orders may now in positions of leadership find objectionable if not abhorrent. Notably, on one level, giving new orders and interpretations while ensuring that the necessary oversight bodies are knowledgeable of proposed actions entirely make important sense. Nevertheless, a question arises. Should intelligence officers be held accountable for carrying out orders from proper authorities? In other words, does a democratic government want its intelligence services to overrule or ignore opinions from the Department of Justice?
Notably, there is one point that all intelligence officers in America should understand. If they do serve within an ethical framework, it is critical to know that they may be directed to take an action they will find abhorrent some day. It is at this stage that the indoctrination in th...
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