Institutionalising Intelligence Ethics: The Case for a Just Intelligence Theory

Adam Henschke, Patrick F Walsh

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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This chapter sets up the core themes of the book. First, that intelligence creates ethical tensions for decision-makers and practitioners in liberal democratic states and second, that key aspects of intelligence involve practices that are outside of what would normally be ethically permissible behaviour, but may be required due to national security competition. We argue that intelligence is not simply a set of practices, but that it also refers to institutions. The chapter draws this tension out by reflecting on the role of secrets in intelligence practice and looking at the ethics of dirty hands. It then turns to liberal democracies and national security to place intelligence in a context of national security and decision-making. The chapter then recognises important features of national security intelligence, marking the distinction between collection and analysis, and sets up a discussion of the ethics of institutions, to present a normative theory of intelligence agencies. This recognises the need for them not to engage in unlawful activity and to be accountable to their own democratically elected government, notwithstanding their national security function and consequent need for a high degree of secrecy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Ethics of National Security Intelligence Institutions
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Applications
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781040021958
ISBN (Print)9780367617561
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2024


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