Intelligence Agencies and the Use of Lethal Force

Shannon Ford

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paper


In this paper, I examined the notion that lethal force, as a form of covert action, should be part of the intelligence mission and that, in some cases, intelligence agencies are better placed to use lethal force for dealing with certain â''in-betweenâ'� or â''greyâ'� areas of conflict (such as terrorism and the use of drones) than the military. First of all, I examined morally justified uses of lethal force within the modern State. In particular, I described the moral presumption against killing and examine morally justified killing on the basis of individual self-defence and defence of others. Then I argued that there is a general duty to use forceful intervention to protect an innocent person when she is threatened with a situation where serious harm is imminent and likely.In the second section, I provided a brief analysis of the conventional state-based perspectives for morally justifying the use of lethal force. I argued that there are two fundamental aspects to the Stateâ''s responsibility in using lethal force. First, the State has the important responsibility for using lethal force to protect the moral rights of jurisdictional inhabitants. This means that the police can use certain specific types of forceful options, not available to other persons, to ensure individuals are complying with the laws of the State. Second, the State is also responsible to protect and preserve the â''lifeâ'� of a political community. Accordingly, the military have special responsibilities for using force. The conventional account for justifying the military use of lethal force in armed conflict grants military combatants special permissions for killing enemy combatants. Finally, I examined the claim that problems of modern warfare are better addressed by a distinct intelligence paradigm for using lethal force. It is sometimes argued that one of the missions of intelligence agencies is to undertake covert killings on behalf of the State. I examined the debate between Mary Ellen Oâ''Connell and Gregory Oâ''Neal on the use of drones and conclude that the use of lethal force outside the jurisdiction of the modern state should remain a distinctly military responsibility
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Studies Association
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventInternational Studies Association - Toronto
Duration: 26 Mar 201429 Mar 2014


ConferenceInternational Studies Association

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    Ford, S. (2014). Intelligence Agencies and the Use of Lethal Force. In International Studies Association