Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas
Scholarly Text or Essay
Intelligence Ethics: A Key to Much Bigger Issues
Michael Andregg, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, April, 2014, firstname.lastname@example.org
For delivery at a conference of the US Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, USA.
To many people ethics for spies is the ultimate oxymoron. Wiser eyes see that the Revolution in Intelligence Affairs (RIA) highlights dilemmas common to the profession of arms in general. Without some self-restraint (a.k.a. discipline) the most powerful militaries on earth have been able to destroy civilization for about 50 years. Recent developments in information technologies may destroy liberty, because they empower police-states in particular to detect and repress dissent. So restraint of power in electronic intelligence is also prudent, but rare. To guard against police-states armed with WMDs, and the amorphous threats of non-state terrorists, military and internal security services naturally wish to know everything possible about everyone who might become a spy or a terrorist. That would be every person on earth. Thus overzealous security services risk destroying the very freedoms they were empowered to protect, even in democracies.
This dilemma has challenged traditions like just war theory that strive to restrain some decisions to start wars and some conduct during wars. What happens to discrimination and proportionality when it becomes more efficient (and far more powerful) to collect data on everyone continuously rather than waiting for “probable cause” to suspect criminal behavior by particular individuals? What happens to liberty? How should commanders react if political leaders prove indifferent to restraints like rule of law in their zest to detect every ‘criminal’ which so often includes rival politicians or critics of the state? How should officers at any level act when oaths to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” conflict with non-disclosure agreements to agencies?
Edward Snowden became well known when he revealed how the RIA was transforming signals intelligence. Critics call him a traitor for violating non-disclosure contracts, while supporters call him a patriot for defending the U.S. Constitution from damage by overzealous bureaucracies with no effective oversight. Whatever one thinks about Mr. Snowden, he was preceded by a long line of similar, if less successful “whistleblowers.” Such people develop slowly over time, so there must be other whistleblowers (and/or traitors) incubating. So now there is an extensive “Insider Threat” program that erodes the few freedoms left to those who volunteer to work hard and sometimes risk their lives for American intelligence services and national security.
This is more significant at the level of strategic versus tactical intelligence, where the logic of operational security is obvious to all. Keeping secrets saves friendly lives in operations. But we should not forget that Snowden was preceded by, and will be followed by, others who take their oaths to the U.S. Constitution very seriously. These themes will be expanded with reference to the historic development of professional ethics in law and medicine. Intelligence professionals are trying to develop an ethos up to the challenges of their roles in world affairs. The fate of nations and of core American values like freedom, democracy and rule of law hangs on whether they succeed in time, while guarding the perimeter against dangers known to all.
This essay attempts to grab the attention of mid-career professionals, taking one year of advanced, graduate level education under heavy reading requirements. If that succeeds, one can get some exposure to things like laws of war, Just War Theory, or the tens of thousands of real cases Army Majors and Colonels bring with them every year. But "intelligence ethics" must go deeper, so this essay also delves into the harshest questions of spy tradecraft that includes blackmail, extortion, theft, torture, and threats of worse. It concludes with quotes from a prominent Air Force General and Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese Master of Arts of War.
Andregg, Michael M..
Intelligence Ethics, a Key to Much Bigger Issues.
Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.