Legal and Ethical Contradictions

Legal and Ethical Contradictions

The concepts of law and ethics are meant to work hand in hand and complement each other. However, the laws under which intelligence gathering is conducted may result in contradictions with the ethical principles of moral practice (Nolte, 2009). In other instances, legal provisions appear unethical with other cases presenting ethical choices. Whenever there are contradictions in the processes of intelligence and counterintelligence, the personnel must determine the existence of a conflict and seek solutions towards the reconciliation of the laws and the respective ethical values. Normally, personnel in intelligence gathering may opt to carry out the procedures allowed in law regardless of their unethical nature (Herman, 2004). In other instances, still, the personnel determine the need for a conscientious objection in the conduct of their work. The incidence of these contradictions presents a need for different actions to remedy the same.

It is no doubt that intelligence must operate within an ethical framework guided by the legal provisions of the country. This assertion is quite straightforward and easy to implement theoretically. However, trouble begets when the legality of the practice collide with the ethical values enshrined in the practice. The personnel of intelligence must operate within the confines of the legal provisions permitted by the people they are serving (Herman, 2004). In attaining this endeavor, the development of future intelligence practices must conform to ethical frameworks allowed in the respective countries. The solution of contradictions between laws and ethics is also an important aspect in the success of the intelligence profession. Ideally, the solution of such contradictions is dependent on a thorough process of ascertaining the most viable option. In most cases, therefore, the process will bend towards legal provisions while complying with ethical values (Nolte, 2009).


Nolte, W. (2009). Ethics and intelligence. Joint Force Quarterly: JFQ, 54, 22-29.

Herman, M. (2004). Ethics and intelligence after September 2001. Intelligence & National Security, 19(2), 342-358.


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