As rays of light to the human soul? Moral agents and intelligence gathering

Erskine, T 2010, 'As rays of light to the human soul? Moral agents and intelligence gathering' in Jan Goldman (ed.) Ethics of Spying: A Reader for the Intelligence Professional, Vol. 2, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD, pp. 120-143.


Document type: Book Chapter
Collection: Book Chapters

Title As rays of light to the human soul? Moral agents and intelligence gathering
Author(s) Erskine, T
Year 2010
Title of book Ethics of Spying: A Reader for the Intelligence Professional, Vol. 2
Publisher Scarecrow Press
Place of publication Lanham, MD
Editor(s) Jan Goldman
Start page 120
End page 143
Subjects Political Theory and Political Philosophy
Summary Calls to evaluate ethically the practices of intelligence collection have been prompted by debate over the decision to go to war in Iraq and by consideration of how best to respond to terrorist threats. Recently, they have been bolstered by allegations of prisoner abuse that some have linked to intelligence organizations. Such demands for judgment are articulated with equal measures of urgency and apprehension: There is a perceived need to make clear statements about what constitutes morally prohibited and permissible conduct with regard to intelligence gathering, and yet the tools with which one might perform such a task are not readily apparent. This article begins with three basic assumptions. First, intelligence collection does not exist in an amoral realm of necessity, but rather is a human endeavor involving choice and deliberation and therefore is vulnerable to ethical scrutiny. Second, there is no consensus on the moral guidelines to be invoked to engage in such scrutiny. There are many distinct ethical perspectives from which intelligence collection might be evaluated-and from which one might provide disparate judgments of the same action. Finally, the practices involved in intelligence gathering are equally multifarious and it would be unhelpful to attempt to cover them with a blanket justification or condemnation (from any perspective). Following on from these assumptions, this article sets out a simple typology of "realist," "consequentialist," and" deontological" ethical approaches to intelligence collection and explores how different practices might be variously evaluated from each. The aim is to provide an initial step toward thinking about ethics and intelligence collection.
Copyright notice © Copyright 2010 by Jan Goldman
Keyword(s) ethics
spying
intelligence
Iraq
terrorism
prisoner abuse
intelligence organizations
ISBN 0810871653
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