Ethics in Intelligence
Ethics in Intelligence
On a clear, late summer day in September of 2001, the hectic yet peaceful lower portion of Manhattan, New York City was turned into the site of one of the largest mass murders in world history when terrorist attacks turned the once imposing World Trade Center complex to a smoking pile of debris and left thousands of Americans dead, physically and psychologically scarred for life. In the aftermath of this act of aggression, the United States, with the cooperation of allies around the world, launched intelligence collection efforts on a scale that had never before been seen.
Some nations would be able to do so as they wished without regard for the privacy or rights of their people, but for a nation conceived in liberty and human rights as the US was, issues of ethics and the preservation of individual rights had to be balanced against the dire need to protect the masses from further violence. This research will focus on the ethics of intelligence collection in the US, Constitutional implications of these efforts for American citizens, and the consideration of how much liberty US citizens should be willing to sacrifice for the greater good.
Ethics of Intel Collections, Means and Methods Intelligence gathering has always been an essential part of the preservation of American security, dating back to the days of the American colonies and beyond. In the late 1990s, for all of the violence brewing in other nations and the potential for domestic terrorism in the US, the intelligence gathering efforts of American officials consisted mostly of the analysis of data from the comfort of offices located in the US and some offices scattered across the globe.
However, these efforts were initially proven to be weak by international terrorist acts against American military installations in other nations, and the original emergence of Osama Bin Laden as an international terrorist to be closely monitored. With such formidable enemies to consider, it became obvious that the old ways of gathering intelligence were badly in need of change, including the introduction of more field intelligence agents, enhancements to technology, better networking with other nations, and many clandestine activities.
With the need to increase and improve all levels of intelligence gathering in the US, the question arises as to how far a nation like the US, which stands as a beacon of righteousness and safety in the world, will be willing to go to gain the level of security that is needed to protect American citizens at home and abroad? The child of this need emerged, known as the Department of Homeland Security, an organization which put on a public front of protection of the US in a manner that is illustrative of ethical behavior and forceful yet proper action.
With the introduction of the Department, the public gained a higher level of confidence in the protection they would be receiving. However, many of the methods that were necessary, at least behind the scenes, were of the nature that the general public would frown upon at the very least, and rise up in heated protest against at worst if it were known the full extent of what the Department was forced to resort to in the interest of intelligence gathering.
Among the steps that were taken, such actions as the monitoring of telephone and Internet communications, the detention of suspected terrorists and the like began to raise the issue of the appropriateness of such activities in line with the promises and obligations of the US Constitution. Constitutional Implications of United States Intel Collection on United States Citizens
The war against terrorism is unlike any other war that the US has seen; fighting an enemy that does not wear a recognizable uniform or hails from any specific geographic location poses quite a challenge and makes the application of conventional warfare tactics all but impossible. Therefore, as with those conventional warfare methods, it is necessary for certain drastic measures to be taken.
However, it is important to understand that there are Constitutional implications for such actions, especially in the areas of intelligence collection which require frequent intrusions into the privacy that Americans hold so dear and have fought and died to protect for hundreds of years. First, there are misconceptions about the Constitution that are necessary to point out.
Specifically, there is a thin line between the investigation of criminal activity and suspected threats to national security, which of course are in and of themselves criminal but take on an added dimension when one realizes that the safety and future of the nation hangs in the balance. In the interest of national security, it is permissible for the surveillance of Americans, domestically and abroad without the obtaining of search warrants, which are usually the standard procedure when an American is being investigated as a possible criminal, under any ordinary circumstances.
In this instance, permissible and acceptable are two entirely different things. While authorities may be allowed to basically spy on their fellow citizens so that the nation is protected, where does this leave those who are the target of the surveillance? The argument can fairly be made that if one is not doing anything wrong, if they are being monitored, they actually have nothing with which to be concerned. Further, if that surveillance yields information on other wrongdoers who are in fact a threat to America, the net result makes all of it worthwhile.
The issue of habeas corpus also is a key element in the consideration of the rights the accused. In the past, this legal remedy, in place since the days of the Magna Carta, existed to protect the rights of the accused. Constitutionally speaking, it had been established in the early 1940s that habeas corpus would stand if: “(1) the conviction is void for lack o f personal or subject matter jurisdiction; (2) the statute defining the offense is unconstitutional, or the conviction was obtained in violation of a federal constitutional right;
(3) the statute authorizing the sentence is unconstitutional, or the sentence was obtained in violation of a federal constitutional right; (4) the sentence is contrary to the applicable statute, in excess of the statutory maximum, or otherwise unauthorized by law; or (5) the conviction or the sentence is otherwise deemed subject to collateral attack. ” In times of crisis, this right has been suspended in the interest of national security, and has been suspended in the age of terrorism due to the need to make terrorists who are evading capture by authorities accountable in courts of law for their crimes.
This, also, however is one of those fine points of law that draw criticism and scrutiny in many cases because anytime a right is suspended, innocent people are affected and their rights are often sacrificed, albeit for the sake of the common good. A closer look at the underpinnings of the Constitution itself reveals some interesting powers that many do not realize exist. For example, the Constitution does in fact give Congress the right to make laws as necessary to allow the Constitution to function as it was intended.
This right, however, is akin to a broad stroke of a paintbrush, when the finer details of the stroke are really where the beauty lies. In other words, on the surface, it is true that Congress possesses such power, but this is also a power that is open to interpretation and debate. Where one draws the line between permissible monitoring and the trampling of the rights of the majority is an issue with which the American people are currently wrestling and undoubtedly will continue to do so for many years to come.
With this in mind, there surely must be a balance to be obtained between sacrificing for the common good and giving up everything that Americans are constitutionally guaranteed. How Much Liberty Should US Citizens Give Up Under the Notion of National Security? It has been said that liberty is something which can be gained all at once, but often is stripped away one small piece at a time, like the gradual erosion of a mighty mountain. If this is true, the question of how many small pieces the citizens of the US can give away before a landslide consumes them?
After the horrible events of September 11, 2001, it became readily apparent that there was a need for American governmental agencies to gather additional power if they were to properly mount an offensive against terrorism and to avert a repeat of the horrible events of that tragic day. This need to gather additional power was viewed by many as a feeble excuse for those within the government who craved power to grab as much as they wished, regardless of the inevitable fallout.
Still others saw the sacrifice of a small amount of liberty as the necessary toll that needed to be paid for a much larger amount of overall protection and the long-term survival of the US while others around the world plotted to destroy the most powerful nation on earth. Again, however, as was mentioned at the beginning of this passage, small surrenders can sometimes lead to large damage over a period of time.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 8 January 2017
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