View Poll Results: Are there ethical responsibilities for Americans gathering intel versus the enemy?

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  • All people should be treated fairly despite the situation

    12 80.00%
  • Only enemy combatants should be placed under torture

    1 6.67%
  • Any individual with useful information should be placed under torture

    1 6.67%
  • No opinion either way

    1 6.67%
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Thread: Ethics in Intelligence

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Ethics in Intelligence

    There has been a great deal of talk within the news and the military communities reference ethical treatment of intelligence operations. Waterboarding, aggressive interrogations, and human source "burning" have been debated and the questions asked...is there an ethical quotient to intelligence gathering?

    My answer is that there is, but it does not apply to the threat. It is the ethical responsibility of the intelligence gathering to do EVERYTHING within his or her power to gather information that furthers the goals and needs of the United States. If water boarding or aggressive, even violent, iterrogations yields even one nugget of operational intelligence than it is validated in the sense that it may serve to save American lives sometime down the road.

    The challenge lies in training the operative to separate himself from whatever inherent value system he may have that would restrict his effectiveness. It is tough to knowingly elicit intelligence from a female source knowing that you will eventually expose her involvement which will lead to certain death. But if that information served the American public in any way, it is worth it and the intelligence community should feel compelled to do operations such as these as well as others

    What say you?

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    Hi Matthew, good to see this old chestnut again. Having voted, I'd like to make a couple of observations.

    "only enemy combatants" in an insurgency where the enemy does not wear uniforms or other distinguishing marks, or someone who has been picked up on a tip-off, who makes the decision that the captive is actually an insurgent and not a bystander? This can lead to torture of all individuals under suspicion.

    "any individual with useful information" how do you know that the captive has useful information before actual interogation? This can lead to torture of all individuals.

    If I were to add another category then I might possibly separate out "agressive interrogations" or something similar so that you can have a category between a friendly chat and wanton violence. Difficulty then lies in drawing the line between acceptable and beyond the pale.

    Mic

  3. #3
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Yes, I have

    stopped beating my wife...

    Of course, continued cessation depends upon future events and circumstances...

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Default Hey Ken

    Can I keep on beating my kids?

    I think we have been round and round the question of systematic torture quite well.
    I personnaly do not see any prone or effectiveness. But the clock is till ticking and I have to go beat my kids... Again

  5. #5
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Bon Courage, M.A

    Tres doux...

    (I can mangle anything... )

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    Default Good prescription, this

    from matthewholmes
    It is the ethical responsibility of the intelligence gathering to do EVERYTHING within his or her power to gather information that furthers the goals and needs of the United States. If water boarding or aggressive, even violent, iterrogations yields even one nugget of operational intelligence than it is validated in the sense that it may serve to save American lives sometime down the road.
    for prosecution under a number of statutes.

    For some reason, some folks seem to have an absolute fascination with torture - or at least with the word "torture" - and that on both extremes of the "debate".

    This, BTW - "one nugget of operational intelligence than it is validated in the sense that it may serve to save American lives sometime down the road" - is very much a "1% solution".

    Anyway, excuse me so that I can get back to my late afternoon sinew and nerve sheath yanking practice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    This, BTW - "one nugget of operational intelligence than it is validated in the sense that it may serve to save American lives sometime down the road" - is very much a "1% solution".
    It strikes me as more of a ten percent solution, but that's just me.

    Ethically, I have no problem treating known enemies or even probable/possible enemies worse than citizens. There are limits to that, but generally, I think nationalism does take precedence.

    However, more and more, it seems to me like the smart thing to do is to treat non-citizens equally. Yes, there are definitely short-term drawbacks to that approach, but in the long run, it removes fuel from the fire. The best way to drum up recruitment for various extremist groups is to give them more reasons to be extremist. Take away the ability of extremist leadership to point to western atrocities, and you take away much of their ability to support themselves in terms of materiel, personnel, and political cover.

  8. #8
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    Anyway, excuse me so that I can get back to my late afternoon sinew and nerve sheath yanking practice.
    Do you use Break-Free CLP when you do that?

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    Default No, Pete

    Break-Free CLP would defeat the purpose of inflicting the most pain for the pull. A Visegrips would be a modern add to the basic toolkit.

    -------------------------
    from motorfirebox
    Ethically, I have no problem treating known enemies or even probable/possible enemies worse than citizens.
    I've a problem with the logic here. OK as to "probable enemies" because a "probable" standard means 50 yds and a nose of evidence facing the shooter or interrogator. So, "probable" means more likely than not that the person is an enemy. Dependent on the ROEs, one between the headlights would be OK for the shooter.

    But, "possible" is not "probable". "Possible" is less than 50 yds and a nose of evidence. So, "possible" means that it is not more likely than not that the person is an enemy - might be, might not be.

    I'd also question what is meant by a "known" enemy. What's your test - does he carry a sign ?

    Finally, there may be some areas (e.g., habeas proceedings according to JJ. Scalia and Stevens in Hamdi - my dissent to their dissent) on which a "citizen enemy" will have different and more rights than a "non-citizen enemy". Interrogation is not necessarily one of those areas.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Default Acquiring Intelligence Information

    It's not just a question of doing everything possible to gather intelligence information.

    Some methods that will get lots of information now will result in the acquisition of less information later. Thus, in choosing tactics today one has to consider at what rate one discounts future intelligence.

  11. #11
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    I and my polices are ALWAYS ethical. Who would not be "Ethical?"

    Un-ethical actions are simply the things you would not do, because to do to them would undermine policy. Everything you are prepared to do is "ethical."

    Ends, Ways, and Means. The Means ALWAYS, justify the Ends.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default Internet 'gives militants access to top-level spy systems'

    There are many issues bundled up here and in the opening post matthewholmes stated:
    It is the ethical responsibility of the intelligence gathering to do EVERYTHING within his or her power to gather information that furthers the goals and needs of the United States.
    How does ethical intelligence fit when an Israeli comments (the Shin Bet Director, internal security agency):
    Intelligence once enjoyed only by countries and world powers can now be obtained through internet systems like Google Earth, internet cameras that are deployed all over the world and linked to the web, or applications for iPhone devices that allow for quality intelligence to be received in real-time..
    Link (not much more there):http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...y-systems.html

    Not much of a role for ethics here I would contend, a classic case of how technology has moved so fast it has escaped understanding, either by the public, agencies, governments and maybe opponents.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Stout View Post
    It's not just a question of doing everything possible to gather intelligence information.

    Some methods that will get lots of information now will result in the acquisition of less information later. Thus, in choosing tactics today one has to consider at what rate one discounts future intelligence.
    Game, Set and Match.

    So called "ethics" and "morals" is a strategic approach for dealing with people.

    Violating so-called "ethics" results in short term gains (or not even gains) and long term losses.

    Too many idiots watching "24" out there.

    And what would our Intel community do with this incredibly critical information one tortures for? Put it in a slide for the BUB?

  14. #14
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Hang on a minute....

    What is Ethical is not objective. It is very subjective. Context, context and context.

    A policy by it's very nature is ethical. Policy is doing what you believe to be right = thus ethical = thus Clausewitz never discusses it. He just assumes you have an an "ethical policy." Who would not? Wars are caused by different policies, thus different ethics. Ethics is usually politics. Is a free-market "Ethical"?

    Al Qieda is a highly ethical organisation. They just have different ethics, and Polices un-acceptable to most here.

    Ethics, morality and legality, are entirely different subjects and only loosely related.

    Intelligence operations are guided by policy and legality - NOT Ethics!
    Intelligence operations often require you to gain trust and then abuse that trust. Ethical? Who cares! What is the Policy? Is it legal?
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

  15. #15
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    This is a dangerous poll. Bad questions on the wrong aspects of a problem can only serve to rationalize the behavior one desires, or to condemn the behavior one is against; but is not likely to move the real issues forward much.

    One would need (and I have no training in this, so this is my guess) at least 10, and probably more like 30-50 questions that get at various aspects of morality, security, Justice, etc; never going to the Intel and torture question at all. Then once one has analyzed their results and applied all the statistical normalization processes, etc one might then have a body of data that helps them to get at the question asked here.

    I didn't check any of the blocks, and would recommend that others restrain themselves as well.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    I agree with the Bob--the poll is so blunt as to be meaningless. The notion that unethical behaviour (however defined) is tolerable so long as it saves just one American life is silly in the extreme: if overriding human rights is justified on those grounds, you might as well force all American cars to drive below 15mph (to avoid tens of thousands of fatal accidents), ban firearms and sharp implements (ditto), ban alcohol (ack!), and force everyone to wear giant inflatable suits in case they trip over their shoelaces (well, ban those too while you're at it).

    Heck, you could probably save far more American lives in the average year by adopting a proper system of socialized medicine than by allowing the intelligence community to have free unethical rein in the war on terror

    There are, I think, two sets of issues here:

    1) Ethics as a requirement of operational effectiveness. Sometimes the ethical and the effective go hand in hand. Sometimes they don't.

    2) Ethics as characteristic of those things that make the US worth defending, as a citizen or as an ally. Frankly, I would be reluctant (as a US ally) to fully cooperate with a US that engaged in systematic violations of human rights as a national interest. If it went the full Syria/North Korea route of systematic use of torture in interrogation, I would probably be inclined to see it as an unfriendly power and act accordingly. Much of the Western world would feel the same.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    The guys locked up at Abu Graib during 2003-2005 will hate the U.S. for the rest of their lives. When they finally got out they told their 10 best friends about it, who in turn told their 10 best friends, who in turn ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    Break-Free CLP would defeat the purpose of inflicting the most pain for the pull. A Visegrips would be a modern add to the basic toolkit.

    -------------------------


    I've a problem with the logic here. OK as to "probable enemies" because a "probable" standard means 50 yds and a nose of evidence facing the shooter or interrogator. So, "probable" means more likely than not that the person is an enemy. Dependent on the ROEs, one between the headlights would be OK for the shooter.

    But, "possible" is not "probable". "Possible" is less than 50 yds and a nose of evidence. So, "possible" means that it is not more likely than not that the person is an enemy - might be, might not be.

    I'd also question what is meant by a "known" enemy. What's your test - does he carry a sign ?

    Finally, there may be some areas (e.g., habeas proceedings according to JJ. Scalia and Stevens in Hamdi - my dissent to their dissent) on which a "citizen enemy" will have different and more rights than a "non-citizen enemy". Interrogation is not necessarily one of those areas.

    Regards

    Mike
    I was outlining a general priority system--acknowledging, basically, that an agent of any government has a larger obligation to the citizens of that government than to non-citizens. It's not that I think that 'enhanced' interrogation methods are okay so long as it's only brown people. Rather, I think torture is a bigger problem if it's American agencies torturing American citizens than when it's American agencies torturing foreign nationals. And it's a priority system, not a set of absolute tiers--if you have to choose between waterboarding one countryman versus waterboarding ten, or a hundred, or a thousand foreign nationals, there's a point at which the ethical choice is to introduce your fellow citizen to exciting adventures in simulated drowning.

    But like I said, the ethical question may be moot, because the more effective tact may also be the more ethical one.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by motorfirebox View Post
    I was outlining a general priority system--acknowledging, basically, that an agent of any government has a larger obligation to the citizens of that government than to non-citizens. It's not that I think that 'enhanced' interrogation methods are okay so long as it's only brown people. Rather, I think torture is a bigger problem if it's American agencies torturing American citizens than when it's American agencies torturing foreign nationals. And it's a priority system, not a set of absolute tiers--if you have to choose between waterboarding one countryman versus waterboarding ten, or a hundred, or a thousand foreign nationals, there's a point at which the ethical choice is to introduce your fellow citizen to exciting adventures in simulated drowning.

    But like I said, the ethical question may be moot, because the more effective tact may also be the more ethical one.
    My friend, there is a bias there. The question of making a difference between the individuals based on so called objective criterias is a door that has already been opened.
    It took a world war to close it in Europe and Martin Luther King in the US.

    Also, if you accept that inhuman treatment are acceptable for foreigners then accept that US citizen are target of any act of violence everywhere, anytime without anyreasons. What works for the others does work for you...

    But we are running in circle here

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    Of course there's a bias. A government has to be biased in favor of its own citizens--that's the whole point of having a country in the first place. That's why, for instance, American politicians are more concerned with creating jobs in the US than they are with raising the standard of living in Mexico, for all that the standard of living in Mexico is far lower than in the US even during the worst of the recent economic downturn.

    Now, just because there's different priorities for citizens versus non-citizens isn't carte blanche to do whatever you like to anyone who doesn't speak American. Hippie liberal that I am, my feeling on torture, specifically, is that it shouldn't ever be used because it's unethical and immoral and, oh yeah, it doesn't work all that well.

    I haven't voted in the poll because none of the options accurately represent my views. "All people should be treated fairly despite the situation" comes closest, I guess, with the caveat that "fairly" doesn't necessarily mean "equally". An American citizen who is prosecuted for murder is going to get different treatment from an American soldier who is prosecuted for murder; the soldier's treatment will probably be worse, but it's still "fair". This logic continues when considering enemy soldiers, or enemy combatants, or possible enemies of the state. We should treat all of them fairly, but there are (rightly) different sets of rules governing how we treat each of them.

    I don't accept that inhumane treatment is ever okay. But there are many, many degrees of separation between inhumane treatment and equal treatment.

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