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Christianity, Virtue, and the Intelligence Profession
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Article Index
Christianity, Virtue, and the Intelligence Profession
Necessity and Rules
The Virtues of the Good Intelligence Professional
Applying the Virtues
Developing the Virtues of Good Character
The Role of Mentorship
Conclusion: The Potential to Do Good or Harm
All Pages

by Charles A. "Tony" Pfaff, Colonel, U.S. Army


God must love spying, but it is not clear that he loves spies. Both the Old and New Testament record moments when God’s chosen people relied on spies to ensure their safety or further their cause. But at the same time, the Bible clearly reflects God’s displeasure at some of the acts spies do, such as lying and stealing. God’s displeasure stems not just from the nature of the acts themselves, but also because repeatedly committing such acts will make one a liar and thief. The tension between the just demands for intelligence and the apparently unjust acts intelligence professionals are sometimes called upon to do poses a dilemma for Christians who would serve in the intelligence community.

From a human perspective, these activities are justified by their contribution to national security and the fact that wars are won, or better yet avoided, because the right information analyzed the right way got to the right decision makers at the right time. But the question remains, how does the collection and analysis of this information affect those who do it? The question is not trivial. Many have left the profession or suffered moral damage because they felt that the deceiving and harming they have done—or in the case of analysts, exploited—in service to their country has corrupted their integrity. Further, many felt this corruption was exacerbated by a perception that the intelligence community serves a “cloudy moral purpose.”1This paper will discuss the role virtues can play as a moral framework to resolve this tension and balance the requirements of the intelligence profession with the moral principles that constrain it. It will begin with illustrating shortcomings in other ethical decision making frameworks and then discuss how virtues can overcome these shortcomings. Once the virtues are identified and discussed relative to the intelligence profession, the paper will then discuss how these virtues may be acquired and applied as a means to increase resources available for ethical decision making.

Necessity and Rules

Intelligence professionals often engage in activities that Christians would generally consider immoral. Lying about one’s identity and activities as well as invading others’ privacy to collect information clearly violate two of the Ten Commandments. Yet, in what is arguably the Old Testament’s best known case of spying, Israelite spies not only concealed their identity, they relied on the lies of the prostitute Rahab in order to evade capture.2

The risks the presence of the Israelite spies posed for Rahab demonstrates another ethically problematic aspect of spying. Intelligence professionals often must recruit sources who they must then put at risk by asking them to do something which for them is arguably immoral: betray their country. Analysts must then assess this information and provide finished intelligence products to key decision makers. Thus no one in the Intelligence Community (IC) escapes moral taint. While the Bible is not clear about how much lying they may have done, given the King of Jericho’s efforts to capture them it is likely they misrepresented their identities multiple times. If nothing else, their positive reaction to Rahab’s example suggests they would not have had moral objection to doing so.

Governments and militaries, of course, justify these kinds of activities because of their utility to national security. That national security is a morally worthwhile pursuit from the biblical perspective is evidenced by Paul’s injunction in Romans 13, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”3 But just because national security is a morally worthwhile goal does not mean that everything done in its pursuit is morally worthwhile. This uncertainty can result in feelings of guilt if intelligence professionals are not able to place their actions clearly within a moral framework they can understand and accept.

Of course, the problem of balancing just goals with seemingly unjust means is not exclusively a problem for members of the IC. The job of a professional, whether she is a doctor, lawyer, soldier, or intelligence officer, is to achieve some morally worthwhile result. For the doctor, it is a healed patient, for the lawyer, the just application of the law, and for the soldier, security. The activities of the professional often involve engaging in activities, like surgery or the use of deadly force, which would not be permissible for a non-professional. Thus, most discussions of professional ethics begin with a discussion of utilitarian ethics. Utilitarian ethics requires that a particular action maximizes some good, such as happiness or pleasure, or minimizes some harm, such as misery or pain. In the context of the intelligence profession, it is assumed that anything that contributes to national security maximizes the good. As long as the contribution of an action toward national security outweighs any accompanying harm the act is not only permitted, it is required.4When choosing any particular target, the means for collection or analysis is not always in itself a moral choice. Intelligence professionals still have a prima facie moral obligation to accomplish their assigned tasks. Therefore, when making moral decisions in the context of the intelligence profession, one must determine the utility of the act in terms of whether its accomplishment maximizes or minimizes the chance of success.

Decisions thus arrived at are often justified or explained under the rubric “necessity.” But if necessity were the only consideration, then acts that would otherwise violate treaties or intelligence oversight regulations would be morally obligatory. If this were true, then intelligence professionals would be free to disregard the law as long as it was necessary to achieving success. In fact, one would never have to consider the law in the first place.

In fact, some intelligence professionals will argue just that. One former intelligence professional was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “It’s (intelligence ethics) not an issue. It never was and never will be, not if you want a real spy service.”5 Not surprisingly, this same intelligence professional was once indicted for perjuring himself before Congress.

However, intelligence professionals are obligated to take the law seriously. By accepting their role, members of the intelligence profession promise to abide by treaties to which the United States is a party as well as intelligence oversight regulations. Given Paul’s words cited above, this seems especially true for the Christian member of the IC. Thus, always deciding in favor of necessity would undermine the professional’s ability to make promises; however, promise-keeping is an essential part of maintaining one’s integrity. For this reason, a policy that undermines an officer’s integrity, when pursued as a general policy, corrupts the profession.

But often necessity and rule-following conflict, and it is not clear which to choose. Interrogators who know a detainee possesses life-saving information will often claim necessity justifies crossing moral and legal lines to obtain that information. Case officers must sometimes choose between the welfare of their source and obtaining critical information.6 Sometimes analysts have to decide whether to whether to tell an uncomfortable and unpopular “truth,” knowing that their superiors will likely reject their conclusions. Unfortunately, space does not exist to develop scenarios to illustrate these kinds of moral conflicts.7

But to claim that even in the case of such conflict a good intelligence officer always abides by the rules will not always yield the best answer. In many of these cases whether a rule applies or what the consequences will be is not clear. When this is the case, resolving conflicts is especially difficult. To arrive at a better informed conclusion we need a moral framework that accounts for both rules and consequences and provides a means for sorting out conflicts and filling in gaps. Sometimes the answer to the question: “Should following the rules take precedence over mission accomplishment?” will be “yes,” but not always.8 Making the correct distinction is one of the primary tasks of the professional, and the distinguishing mark of a person of character.

There is a gap between the kinds of ethical questions intelligence professionals confront and the kinds of answers that consequence and rule-based approaches can give. When considerations of necessity are insufficient and rules also fail, what intelligence professionals do depends ultimately on the type of person they are. Thus, it is important to develop professionals of character who understand what it means to be good—not just what it means to follow rules, perform duties, or reason well, although these are important to being ethical. If professionals are to have the moral resources necessary to make ethically sound decisions, they need an approach to ethics that articulates what good character is, how it can be developed, and how it influences moral decision-making. Moral philosophers usually refer to the ethics of character as virtue ethics.

This approach to ethics seeks to determine systematically what kind of traits good people (or in this case, good intelligence officers) should possess, what it means to possess these traits, and how people can come to possess these traits. In this context, virtues are the traits of good character. A person of character is more concerned with being the kind of person who does the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, and is not as concerned with the act itself. The ethics of character avoids most dilemmas because the focus is no longer on deciding between two unfortunate outcomes or two conflicting rules but on being a certain kind of person. Virtuous professionals do not assign values to outcomes or preferences to duties. Virtuous intelligence professionals have habituated dispositions that make them the kind of people who do the right thing, even in the complicated and dynamic environment of modern intelligence operations.

The Virtues of the Good Intelligence Professional

In virtue ethics, the virtues are determined by understanding the purpose or role a person serves.9 In non-moral terms, knowing the purpose of a thing reveals whether it is functioning well or poorly. For example, if the purpose of pack animals such as mules is to bear burdens, we can tell which mules do better and which do worse. Further, we can tell what qualities a mule must possess, such as strength, surefootedness, and endurance, to do its task well. To the degree a mule possesses these traits, the better the mule is. A human being must also have certain characteristics to be a good human being. Aristotle, who saw the purpose of humans was to reason and form communities, claimed that the virtues of the excellent person include courage, temperance, liberality, proper pride, good temper, ready wit, modesty, and justice.10 Plato listed, and subsequent Christian thinkers have accepted, the cardinal virtues of prudence, courage, temperance, and justice.11

The lengthening and shortening of the “list of virtues” does on the surface seem arbitrary. Part of this lack of clarity results from the complexities associated with determining what human nature actually is. Because what it means to function well for a human is much more complex than what it means to function well for a mule, defining “functioning well” is difficult. Part of the problem is that a complex combination of biology, environment, culture, and tradition determines what it means for humans to function well. What this complex combination is and how its components relate to each other are not always well understood and are therefore subjects of much debate. This lack of clarity not only complicates discerning what the virtues are, but also how they should be interpreted.

But the function, environment, culture, and traditions of the Christian community, like the intelligence community, are well understood. Aquinas, drawing on Aristotle, noted that man’s nature in part determines which traits will lead to flourishing and which ones will not. He referred to this kind of flourishing as “imperfect happiness,” since it was limited both by human nature as well as the fallible human ability to discern how best to attain them.12 But Aquinas also accepted a kind of “role-specific” virtue as he argues that as Christians, we are called to have a right relationship with God and to do that required by other virtues, namely, faith hope and love.13

Similarly, the IC has a purpose that allows us to distinguish it from other forms of human activity. This purpose is to collect and analyze information from foreign sources essential for national security.14 Fulfilling this purpose requires conducting clandestine operations as well as safeguarding state secrets. It requires also telling truth to power.15

Given these functions, one can determine some of the virtues that are associated with the intelligence profession. These traits include: selflessness, prudence, courage, secretiveness, conscientiousness, and integrity. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but rather is intended to illustrate a process by which to develop an ethical approach based on the role intelligence professionals fill and how that should affect the kinds of traits they acquire.

To properly establish goals and methods of intelligence operations, intelligence professionals will need to be prudent and selfless.16 Prudence is necessary to discern the proper ends and selflessness is necessary to mediate when proper ends conflict with self-interest. Intelligence professionals require courage, conscientiousness, secretiveness and integrity to achieve the goals they establish.

Courage is required because clandestine operations require risks. Even analysts require courage because often speaking “truth to power” is not welcomed by the powerful. Conscientiousness is required because decision makers need to know that collectors did not take short cuts in collecting the information and that analysts did not “cherry-pick” intelligence, but rather engaged in the sometimes painful research necessary to ensure that their products are based on the most complete data available. Intelligence professionals also need to be appropriately secretive to ensure that information critical to national security is safeguarded. Finally, integrity is required because at all levels of the profession, decision makers need to be able trust that the information provided is not tainted by political bias or personal interest. In the next section we will discuss what it means to possess these virtues.

It should be noted that these virtues do not replace, supplant or supersede other virtues associated with living the Christian life. The point of virtue ethics is that there is an objective human nature, created by God and which ultimately depends on the right relationship with God in order to be fully realized. This is similarly true for the Christian intelligence professional. The special virtues of the profession do not conflict with the exercise of Christian virtues, rather they are a theoretical framework that clarifies decision making in the context of the intelligence profession

Applying the Virtues

Having decided what the virtues of good intelligence officers are, we need to discuss what it means to act virtuously. Virtues are excellences of character, that is, they are fixed dispositions toward certain behaviors that result in good acts.17 Aristotle viewed virtues as the “golden mean”—a mean between the two extremes (vices) of excess and deficiency in regard to certain human capacities. For example, with regard to feelings of fear, courage is the mean. A person can feel too much fear and be cowardly or feel too little fear and be foolhardy. A person, who runs away in the face of danger, when the proper thing to do would be to stand his ground, is a coward. But the person who stands his ground because he does not comprehend the danger, is also not courageous. The moderation criterion works the same way for other virtues as well.

For example, with regard to selflessness, one extreme is careerism, where intelligence professionals are too concerned with personal advancement and fail to place the needs of the organization above their own. But one can also be too selfless. Intelligence officers who never take care of personal interests might impede their ability to lead. For example, persons who deny themselves sleep, so as to demonstrate their commitment to the task, quickly become incapable of making good decisions.18

In the context of professional ethics, we can identify character traits which are particular to the profession, and which outside the profession may not be considered a virtue. Consider secretiveness, a trait most closely, and perhaps exclusively, associated with the intelligence profession. The extremes are being too open and too “withdrawn.” Intelligence professionals spend most of their day working with secrets, but must still function as members of a more open society, and in the role as spouse or parent must develop the bonds appropriate for a good marriage or raising of children. Intelligence professionals who talk too much about their work, even to close family members and friends, make themselves vulnerable to exploitation by adversary intelligence organizations.

In fact, much good human intelligence is obtained by clandestine operators or recruited sources who exploit the human need to develop close and intimate relationships. On the other extreme, it is commonly reported that the intelligence profession’s aura of secrecy and requirement to protect sensitive information often gradually expands over personal matters until eventually the intelligence professional is unable to effectively communicate with family members or friends. This can lead to feelings of abandonment by children, spouses, and close friends, which is arguably a morally undesirable outcome.19

Not all virtues are found in the mean between extremes. Virtues like conscientiousness and integrity are required if we are to instantiate properly the other virtues. In virtue ethics one must consciously and conscientiously cultivate a virtue—that is, one must habitually perform acts that reflect the relevant virtue if one is to say he or she possesses that virtue.20 Psychologically, the habituation of virtue can take on the qualities of a duty. For example, to develop the virtue of integrity—which can be understood as a commitment without coercion to a consistent set of well-founded moral principles and values—one must always act in accordance with those principles and values.21

It is worth emphasizing that for Aristotle the mean is sought only because it is beneficial; the mean between two extremes enables the individual to live well. To discern what the mean is one must develop the ability to reason well, itself a virtue that Aristotle called prudence or practical wisdom. This virtue is necessary to resolve the tension between the feelings that emerge from natural appetites, concerns of self-interest, and the requirements of virtue.22 The conflict between reason, feeling, and self-interest lies at the heart of the virtues. What drags us to extremes detrimental to our long-term happiness are passions and feelings, such as excessive (or defective) fear or excessive love of pleasure. Reason is required to control behavior, passions, and feelings. Virtues are applications of reason to behavior and emotion. These virtues can emerge with proper officer development.

Virtue ethics allows us to take into account considerations of necessity and law, rules, duties, and principles in a way that resolves the tension inherent among them. As in consequence-based ethical theories, we must be concerned with consequences of an action to determine its normative value. In virtue ethics, one must be sensitive to the conditions that frame moral choices. Acting on the principle of always telling the truth is good, but ignoring how that truth might affect others risks doing moral harm. A caring husband, for example, should bring to his wife’s attentions matters negatively affecting her health. A vicious (or at least stupid) husband will simply announce that she is fat.

Developing the Virtues of Good Character

A virtue ethics approach to intelligence ethics can help resolve certain dilemmas that reasoning from necessity or simply following the rules cannot. Instead of focusing on doing good things, the virtuous person focuses on being good, and the doing good naturally follows. How one becomes good is by acquiring certain virtues or character traits that lead to doing virtuous things. However, rule-based approaches can play a key role. Virtues do not develop overnight. One cannot wake up one day and decide to be courageous, for example, and immediately be so. Being virtuous means knowing the right time, place, circumstance, and manner in which to be courageous. One acquires these traits by habituation.

According to Aristotle, whose writings greatly influenced modern virtue theory, one becomes virtuous only by performing virtuous actions until doing so becomes habitual. In other words, practice and experience are necessary. Aristotle makes this point by contrasting virtues with natural capacities:

Of all the things that come to us by nature we first acquire the potentiality and later exhibit the activity (this is plain in the case of senses; for it was not by often seeing or often hearing that we got these senses, but on the contrary we had them before we used them, and did not come to have them by using them); but the virtues we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g., men become builders by building and lyre players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.23

Thus, just as one becomes a good musician only by practicing an instrument, one becomes a good intelligence officer only by practicing the profession. Musicians follow rules and care about results, but the end is to be become a musician of excellence, not simply to be in conformity with certain rules or achieve certain results. But how does one who has no experience in virtue development create such necessary experiences? When we try to describe a virtue, we tend to list the acts we must perform to embody the virtue. Listing these acts is just like listing rules and principles. This is line of reasoning is, in fact, one of the major critiques of the virtue approach. When we consciously set out to put rules and principles into practice, we end up with what appears to be essentially a rule-based system. When this happens, we lose sight of the role of character.

To illustrate this point, consider rules regarding the disclosure of classified information. Not only are members of the IC prohibited to disclose classified information to those without the proper security clearance, they are also prohibited from disclosing certain information to members within the community, even if they have the appropriate clearances. These restrictions are driven out of a concern of protecting sources and methods: the risk being that the more people who have a piece of information, the more likely it is to be leaked.

Further, these lines are not as clear as they may seem. Sometimes, members of the IC as well as the decision makers they support will pressure an analyst or collector for information they want, but are not cleared to receive. Other times, the collector or analyst will want to provide information to a wider audience, but be restricted because of these clearance issues. To handle such situations, the IC employs a number of disclosure procedures to ensure that information gets to those who need it.

Following these procedures can often be tedious and time consuming. But if we understand the rule to be: Do not disclose classified material to those not authorized, one can be a good rule-following professional by not doing anything. The cost, of course, is that information does not get to where it can do the most good. But that cost does not factor in to a rule-following ethic. And here we can see the difference with the virtue ethics approach.

The virtuous analyst will of course uphold the rule, but being conscientious, will undertake what procedures are necessary to get the information released (if possible) to whomever needs it. This is the difference between the virtue of integrity in truth-telling and mere failure to lie. Once this happens, the IC professional is no longer simply following rules. He or she has actually developed the capacity to make them. What motivates him or her to adopt this attitude is an understanding that it is not enough to do good, it is just as important to be good. In fact, doing good flows from being good.

Aristotle also points out that one cannot develop virtue by accident or by doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. The analyst or collector who undergoes disclosure procedure in order to increase the distribution of their work and thus serve their career interests may not be said to act virtuously. This is why intent is important. One simply cannot become conscientious or wise or honest unless one is trying to become so. For an action to be truly virtuous, a person must be in the right state of mind, and have the right attitudes about his or her own development.

The Role of Mentorship

If rules initially have a role in habituating virtue, it is critical for the person making the rules to possess that virtue. In this way, the rules are right-minded and constructive, becoming a pathway one can take to becoming a good member of the profession. As noted earlier, Aristotle likened the acquiring of virtues to playing an instrument, which requires a teacher and habitual practice. Unless one is a musical prodigy, one does not pick up a guitar and, by fooling around with it, play it well. One might, after a fashion, be able to make pleasant sounds with it, but without someone to provide instruction and example, developing true proficiency will be long and arduous, fraught with mistakes, and certainly inefficient. One might even pick up a book and memorize the principles of good guitar-playing. Those who have tried that method know that doing so might make them better to an extent, but to achieve true excellence it takes a good role-model and teacher.

For the Christian, the role model is of course Jesus Christ. By emulating what we know of his life, we begin to learn how to live virtuously. But, it is not always obvious how Christ’s example would inform the Christian intelligence professional. To that end, junior intelligence professionals must look to older ones to acquire the necessary virtues. Junior officers can learn from seeing how virtues are embodied by those who are effective at moral officership. Only then can they incorporate virtues into their own characters.

Exercising a virtue involves a delicate balancing between general rules and an awareness of particulars. Awareness of the particular carries more weight, in the sense that a good rule is a summary of wise particular choices, not an exclusive choice itself. The rules of ethics, like rules of medicine, should be held open to modification in the light of new circumstances. The good intelligence professional must cultivate the ability to perceive, then correctly and accurately describe his situation and include in this perceptual grasp even those features of the situation that are not covered under the existing rule. The virtues provide a framework around which officers must engage in this process.

Conclusion: The Potential to Do Good or Harm

In the complex, dynamic, and dangerous environment of modern intelligence work there is great potential to do harm, even evil, and little time to apply rules or to calculate consequences to avoid harm. Even if there were time, such one-dimensional approaches to ethics are not always successful. Rules, duties, and principles can conflict. Sincere, well-intentioned compliance with them can sometimes lead to the most disastrous outcomes. But acting in such situations does not necessarily make someone a bad person. Actions might be evidence of the presence or the absence of virtue, but they are not in themselves virtuous. Acting virtuously might not spare one from the moral costs of intelligence work, but doing so provides a framework in which one can maintain one’s integrity as well as the integrity of the profession.

This is why developing the virtues of the profession is so important for the intelligence professional. In situations where any action can lead to a morally impermissible or harmful outcome, it will be professionals of character who will be best able to resolve the conflict and maintain their own integrity and the integrity of the profession as well. Character is an essential part of an ethical framework for any professional. This does not mean that the virtuous never consider consequences or rules to determine where their duties lie. The point is that the virtuous intelligence professional has developed the disposition to know how and when to do so in the best way possible.

Charles A. “Tony” Pfaff is a colonel in the U.S. Army. He is a Middle East Foreign Area Officer who has taught on the faculty at West Point, served two tours in Iraq, and served as Defense Attache in Kuwait. He is currently a student at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF), in Washington, D.C., and a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University.


1.Kent Pekel, Integrity, Ethics, and the CIA in Studies in Intelligence (Spring 1998) p. 87-89. and Langan
2. Joshua 2: 1-22.
3. Romans 13: 1, NRSV. Of course, not all governments are just and there are times when Christians should oppose the government they are under. But Paul’s words do suggest that where the government is relatively just, the authorities should take actions to secure it.
4. It is worth noting that utility theory is best characterized as a way of making ethical decisions and as such does not compete with Christian ethics since it does not determine, by itself, how different outcomes are evaluated. In fact, some have argued for a Christian utilitarianism where what is valued is the Kingdom of God. See C. Stephen Layman, “The Kingdom of God,” in Readings in Christian Ethics, Vol I, David K Clark and Robert V. Rakestraw eds (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books: 1994) 32-40.
5. Scott Shane, "An Exotic Tool for Espionage: Moral Compass,” New York Times. 28 January 2006
6. R.V. Jones, Reflections on Intelligence, London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1989, p.42. Jones, an intelligence professional in WWII and noted scholar on the subject considers betraying an agent immoral under any but the most extreme examples. According to Jones, Allied intelligence professionals considered betraying a German double agent by letting another agent ‘sell him out.’ By betraying that agent the other agent would ingratiate himself to the Germans and be in a position to pass false information regarding the landings on D-Day. According to Jones, this did not happen and would have been viewed by the intelligence community at the time as unacceptable, whether the agent was a member of the organization or a foreign national working for it.
7. See Ethics of Spying ….
8. For a more complete discussion of why rule- and duty-based ethics do not form complete ethical approaches, see Charles A. Pfaff, “Virtue Ethics and Leadership,” unpublished presentation to the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics, available on-line at See also Julius Moravcsik, “On What We Aim At and How We Live,” in The Greeks and the Good Life, ed., David Depew (Fullerton, CA: California State University, 1980), 199. 9. Aristotle believed that a human being’s function is to reason. Human beings who reason well will also live well because they are the best human beings they can be.
10. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans., Terence Irwin, (Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing Company), Book IV.
11. Plato, “Laws,” trans., A.E. Taylor, 1.631d, 12.965d, and “Republic,” trans., Paul Shorey, 4.427e, 433, in Plato: The Collected Dialogues, eds., Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1961).
12. Summa Theologica, Q5a5.
13. Summa Theologica, Q62a1.
14. Not intended to be definitive formulation. Also doesn’t include covert operations
15. See Pfaff, Bungee Jumping Off the Moral Highground.
16. Distinguishing between what Plato and Aristotle referred to as practical wisdom (phronesis) and philosophical wisdom (sophia) is important. Practical wisdom expresses itself in the prudent conduct of one’s public and private business. This virtue, also often called prudence, is distinguished from the theoretical wisdom of the philosopher. In the context of the discussion of leadership, Plato, in the “Laws,” discussed what qualities a good legislator should possess and claims that a good legislator relies on prudence to determine what laws to enact. Since good laws achieve good ends, the good legislator must discern both the good end and the means to the good end. With regard to selflessness, my use of the term here is synonymous with the idea of public virtue. See Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985), 71. See also James M. Stockdale, Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot, (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1995),75.
17. Louis Pojman, Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong, (Albany, NY: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1999) 163.
18. Jonathan Shay, “Ethical Standing for Commander Self-Care: The Need for Sleep,” Parameters, (Summer 1998): 93-105.
19. Richard "Freeman". (2004). Report from a Counterintelligence Officer on Two Devastated Veterans of Covert Operations. Interview conducted by J.M. Arrigo, Crozet, VA. Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA.
20. James Wallace, Virtue and Vices, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978), 90.
21. Pekel in Goldman, p. 54
22. Nicomachean Ethics, Book II.
23. Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, 1103a27-1103b1.


“The tension between the just demands for intelligence and the apparently unjust acts intelligence professionals are sometimes called upon to do poses a dilemma for Christians who would serve in the intelligence community.”

“…always deciding in favor of necessity would undermine the professional’s ability to make promises; however, promise-keeping is an essential part of maintaining one’s integrity. For this reason, a policy that undermines an officer’s integrity, when pursued as a general policy, corrupts the profession.”

“Sometimes the answer to the question: “Should following the rules take precedence over mission accomplishment?” will be “yes,” but not always.[xxiii] Making the correct distinction is one of the primary tasks of the professional, and the distinguishing mark of a person of character.”

“Virtuous intelligence professionals have habituated dispositions that make them the kind of people who do the right thing, even in the complicated and dynamic environment of modern intelligence operations.”

“The point of virtue ethics is that there is an objective human nature, created by God and which ultimately depends on the right relationship with God in order to be fully realized. This is similarly true for the Christian intelligence professional. The special virtues of the profession do not conflict with the exercise of Christian virtues, rather they are a theoretical framework that clarifies decision making in the context of the intelligence profession.”

“A virtue ethics approach to intelligence ethics can help resolve certain dilemmas that reasoning from necessity or simply following the rules cannot.
Instead of focusing on doing good things, the virtuous person focuses on being good, and the doing good naturally follows.”

“Acting virtuously might not spare one from the moral costs of intelligence work, but doing so provides a framework in which one can maintain one’s integrity as well as the integrity of the profession.”

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Last Updated on Monday, 10 May 2010 11:22