We are familiar with civil libertarian concerns about the impact of intelligence activities,2 but this article tries to examine more systematically the relationship between intelligence activities, human rights and ethical concerns. This may seem an unpromising venture since, at root, the whole point of intelligence activities is that they ‘require’ actions that infringe on
1Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness first published in book form 1902. This article was earlier presented as a paper at ‘Choices for Western Intelligence: The Security Challenges of the Twenty-First Century’, University of Wales Conference Centre, Gregynog, 28-30 April 2007 and ESRC Seminar series: The New Economy of Security: ‘Police-Military-Security Interfaces’, Department of War Studies, King’s College, London, 4 May 2007. Thanks are due to the participants there for their helpful comments, to Thorsten Wetzling and the Journal’s editors and referees. 2‘. . .mainly secret activities – targeting, collection, analysis and dissemination – intended to enhance security and/or maintain power relative to competitors by forewarning of threats and opportunities’: adapted from P. Gill and M. Phythian, Intelligence in an Insecure World
human rights,3 even if the stated object is the protection of some more or less democratic national security. Much of the information that enters the intelligence process may be from open sources but at some point there is an element of secrecy and the privacy rights of the target are infringed. Traditionally, we would distinguish foreign from domestic intelligence by stating that the object of the latter is to defend the law and uphold the rights of citizens while the object of the former is to break other countries’ laws and infringe the rights of foreigners. Yet, the practices of intelligence are the same and this discussion affects both foreign and domestic agencies.