Saturday, January 28, 2006

New York Times piece (free registration required) on a conference examining the ethics of spying provides some interesting insights into everyday moral reasoning (albeit in a somewhat exotic profession). Some of the issues seems like traditional wartime dilemmas: are civilian deaths justified in a Predator missile strike to kill terrorists (and if so, how many)? One participant "came up with her own ad-hoc ethical checklist" (including what her mother would say about an action). Another, a 33-year retired veteran, explicitly disavows the whole endeaver: "Depending on where you're coming from, the whole business of espionage is unethical." How does he sleep at night??

The NYTimes points out how one of the speaker's comments weren't approved for public release, "gutting" her paper. Security from one angle always looks like censorship from another, especially when you're a major media outlet. Does it all matter? "My feeling is that every problem with the intelligence in the run-up to the war was an ethical question," said a 24-year veteran analyst.

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