Espionage and Ethics

David R. Shedd, the recently retired acting director of the U.S. Defense Department Intelligence Agency, has written a review of the book, Just War and the Ethics of Espionage.


As the title of Darrell Cole’s book suggests, boundaries on what constitutes acceptable and non-acceptable behavior in the use of espionage techniques is something that merits the kind of in-depth, serious, and Christian analysis that Mr. Cole provides. In his exceptionally well-written and argued case, the author links a nation’s proper use of espionage as state craft to the long established just war theory framework which traces its origins back to St. Augustine (354-430 AD).

In essence, just war theory recognizes and makes the case on moral grounds that peace, order, and justice will at times only be preserved by engaging in armed conflict. Mr. Cole makes a strong and convincing case that espionage is a justified practice by a nation using the same just war theory applicable to the use of a country’s military….
He not only makes a strong justification for spying as a contributor to maintaining justice and peace but also warns that in the absence of checks and balances in a free society, espionage leads to abuses. His book is replete with historical examples of espionage ranging from the intricate, brave, and honorable work done by American intelligence professionals in the lead up to and the conduct of the operation against Osama bin Laden to the application of covert action recorded throughout annals of U.S. history. But this is no hagiography…
And this:
By definition, the very characteristics that make for a successful career in espionage seem to run counter to Biblical moral principles. How does one justify lying and deception when as a Christian one is taught that such actions are sin? Is torture ever justifiable? Should assassination be condoned as statecraft? What comes alive in Mr. Cole’s 155 pages is not only a wrestling match in one’s mind over extraordinarily difficult questions, but his profound insights in how to reconcile the moral dilemmas without gleefully dismissing the moral quandaries. If not every- thing is neatly resolved by the end of the book, the reader is given much to think about in attempting to  find a way to make it across what might have seemed a profound and unbridgeable moral chasm.
Read the rest here.

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