Project on Ethics and Art in Testimony (PEAT)

The Case History Dialogue

The Case History Dialogue is private-access collection of case histories and commentaries to encourage moral discourse between intelligence insiders and outsiders. Password access for dialogue participants and ethics education classes is available on request.


Intelligence increasingly obtains its moral legitimacy in society from its constituency. The trends toward a national security strategy of pre-emption and more invasive domestic intelligence collection accentuate the need for a common understanding of security threats. Intelligence methods and assessments must be formulated for public review and the public must endeavor to understand the complexities.

Second, many civilians have untapped practical experience to contribute to intelligence ethics, through their own work in "knowledge enterprises" such as education, science, medicine, and law. These enterprises involve some tasks similar to those in political and military intelligence and lead to similar moral tradeoffs between individual welfare and group welfare. A simple example is a medical researcher's double-blind trial of a vaccine against a contagious disease, where there are typically trade-offs between the expected welfare of individual subjects and vulnerable populations.

Finally, dialogue between intelligence practitioners and civic associates can expand the understanding of the parameters of moral conduct in intelligence. In the relatively open domains of civilian knowledge enterprises, it is easier to see what ethical standards are attainable for competent and conscientious human beings, following Owen Flanagan's ethical of "minimal psychological realism.