Can Spies Be Ethical?
In an Age of Terrorists, Agents for Liberal Democracies Must Balance the Need to Stop Bad Actors With Moral Responsibility
Codes of ethics help define our expectations of the professions. Teachers should not seduce their students; fund managers should not embezzle clients’ money; doctors should not harm patients. So too, we need rules for spies: Of course we want our intelligence officers to act on our behalf to gather essential secret information to keep us safe, but there are also things we don’t want them to do.
In a liberal democracy, the purpose of collecting secret intelligence is to obtain information vital to our interests that potential adversaries—hostile leaders, dictators, terrorists, …