The Principles of Professional Ethics forthe Intelligence Community, issued by the Director of National Intelligence(2014), expresses the core values that help to define the profession ofintelligence officers and employees. The code explains that the mission of theintelligence profession is to selflessly serve the American people and promotethe nation’s security. The code expresses a commitment to the values of truth,lawfulness, integrity, stewardship, excellence, and diversity. The value oftruth highlights the professions commitment to objectively seeking out andreporting the truth in intelligence matters. The value of lawfulness involves supportingthe U.S. Constitution and the nation’s laws, including protections of privacyas well as civil and legal rights.
Integrity means acting in a way thatreflects well on the profession and intelligence community, while stewardshipinvolves being accountable to the public trust and protecting intelligencemethods and sources. The value of excellence focuses on continually improvingthe craft of intelligence, and diversity has to do with respecting andpromoting diversity within the nation and within the intelligence community. One approach todefining a code of ethics, as a general construct for a profession, comes fromHudson’s (2010) analysis of ethics in the intelligence community. He assertsthat the American Bar Association’s Model Rules is an ideal example of aprofessional ethical code. Based on this example, an ethical code can bedefined in accordance with five main components: The code must treat theprofession “as an ethical pursuit” (p. 1431); the role of theprofession must be contextualized in a broader sociopolitical framework; thecode must provide “specific guidance on issues particular to a givenprofession” (p.
1431); competence and expertise must be the primaryqualifications for professional membership; and dedicated disciplinaryprocesses must be identified to protect the profession’s integrity. Ethicaldilemmas can be defined, within Hudson’s (2010) framework, as situations inwhich there is a conflict between two categorical rules. For instance, onecategorical rule may be that intelligence professionals must always protect thenation’s security.
Another categorical rule may be that intelligenceprofessionals must always protect intelligence sources. Situations may arise inwhich it is not possible to fully comply with one of these rules without, tosome extent at least, compromising the other. This is a true ethical dilemma:when a person is faced with a conflict between two legitimate ethical rules orprinciples that cannot both be satisfied.
The Principles ofProfessional Ethics for the Intelligence Community as issued by the Director ofNational Intelligence (2014) meets some, but not all, of Hudson’s (2010)criteria for what a code of ethics should include. It does treat intelligenceas an ethical pursuit, place it into a broader social context, and highlightthe importance of competence and expertise. It does not, however, provideextensive guidance on profession-specific issues, nor does it identifyspecific, dedicated disciplinary processes to be used.
The principle ofstewardship does briefly touch on these issues by referencing the protection ofintelligence sources and methods, along with the obligation to reportwrongdoing through appropriate channels. One canreasonably assert that the Principles of Professional Ethics for theIntelligence Community serves as a universal code of ethics for professionalintelligence officers. This code, it is worth noting, is not particularlydetailed; it falls short of the standards that Hudson (2010) has recommendedfor a code of ethics modeled after that of the American Bar Association. Inpractical terms, it may be true that most professional intelligence offers relymore on the guidance provided by their particular agencies than they do on thiscode.
However, the code still provides high-level guidance regarding thegeneral principles by which intelligence professionals are expected to abide.Further, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (U.S.Senate, 2004) made some progress in improving coordination between agencies andreducing the previous balkanization within the intelligence community. Another exampleof a professional code of ethics is the American Psychological Association’s(APA, 2017) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Thiscode of ethics identifies five primary ethical principles that should guidepracticing psychologists: beneficence and non-maleficence, fidelity and responsibility,integrity, justice, and respect for rights and dignity. The code also containsten additional sections that provide guidance on resolving ethical issues,competence, human relations, privacy and confidentiality, advertising,recording keeping and fees, education, research, assessment, and therapy.
Violation of the code can be reporting to the American PsychologicalAssociation’s Ethics Committee, which investigates and may impose sanctionsthat include termination of membership and reporting to professionalaccrediting bodies. In practice, this means that ethical violations can resultin the suspension of professional licenses and a psychologist being barred frompracticing. Both thePrinciples of Professional Ethics for the Intelligence Community (Director ofNational Intelligence, 2014) and the APA’s (2017) code of ethics focus onethical practice based on core values of the profession.
While the wording andthe emphasis of the principles in each document differ to some degree, there isconsiderable overlap when it comes to competent practice, justice, andrespecting human rights. The most significant difference is that the APA’s codeprovides relatively extensive guidance about the specific obligations ofprofessional psychologists in a range of areas of practice. Although this islikely helpful for psychologists, such detailed guidance might be less fittingin a code for intelligence professionals because of the significantly widerscope of potential duties and areas of focus in this profession.?