Colloquium: The Ethics of Intelligence Gathering

A McDonald Centre Research Colloquium

Are there ethics for spies?  Are there limits to how we may keep ourselves safe?  These were among the questions discussed at a recent private colloquium, hosted by the McDonald Centre, entitled, ‘How May We Keep Ourselves Safe? The Ethics of Intelligence Gathering.’

There is widespread public recognition of the importance of intelligence work in keeping us safe. The intelligence services enable the government to promote national security, now defined as the management of risk so as to sustain confidence that normal life can continue. But there is at the same time public concern that the work of the services brings with it ethical hazards and dilemmas, both in the methods used by those services and in the impact of their work on our privacy. The mistreatment of detainees by our US ally, and the standards of interrogation and detainment in many countries who may possess intelligence of value to our national safety at home, have raised difficult questions which threaten to compromise public trust in our intelligence services.

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