The old saying “war is hell” has been around since the Civil War, and there’s little doubt the tactics of war challenge the moral codes of most every civilization, explains Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
But where should the line of behavior be drawn for America’s intelligence corps in times of conflict?
It may be no more precise than “personal standards,” according to a new Congressional Research Service report.
The “CIA Ethics Education: Background and Perspectives” report explains there are two elements of ethics education, one that applies to all government agencies and another regarding the conduct of the intelligence community.
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 sets up financial disclosure guidelines and restrictions, and grants the Office of Government Ethics oversight and authority to resolve conflicts of interest.
The CIA’s ethics program calls for ethics orientation for new employees and annual updates.
But it has no influence over the CIA’s intelligence activities.
To prepare for the operational side of their work, CIA officers receive ethics training specific to intelligence and the controlling Executive Order 12333.
“However, while these baseline references spell out dos and don’ts from a legal standpoint, there is little mention of ethics per se,” the report said.
That leaves several prevailing practices, including a legalistic approach that holds moral conduct is “a matter of rule following.”
But flexibility is needed, some charge.
Former Director of Central Intelligence William Webster explained it this way: “In the United States, we obey the laws of the United States. Abroad we uphold the national security interests of the United States.”
That “realist” approach “holds a state’s interests to be the preeminent driver of foreign policy, as a frame of reference for individual conduct,” the report explains
Those who subscribe “do not so much ignore personal morality as believe that it is not particularly relevant to relations between states,” it continued.