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Dr. David Luban, Dr. Tony Pfaff

McCain Virtual Conference, Day 3 - Dr. Ed Barrett, Dr. Tony Pfaff, Dr. David Luban - The Ethics of Intelligence Gathering

  POSTED ON: Thursday, April 15, 2021 3:01 AM by The Stockdale Center


Although thought about the justice of warfare is highly developed, justifications for defending and obtaining secrets—activities that can involve serious harms—are relatively recent and conflicting.  At a time when the relative power of antiliberal states is rising, it’s crucial that we think more clearly about how liberal democracies can defend themselves while remaining true to the norms that define and sustain them.

In the previous day's presentations, Drs. Cecile Fabre and Michael Skerker offered us different but complementary perspectives on what intelligence communities may do to defend and obtain secrets. Today's speakers will apply these justifications to particular activities: interrogational torture, and collecting intelligence through technical means. Basic questions on the table include: “Can torture ever be justified?” and “How heavily should privacy concerns weigh when collecting information that’s potentially important to national security?” Dr. David Luban is Professor of Law and Philosophy at Georgetown Law, and serves as the Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the Stockdale Center. He’s authored several books, including the award-winning Torture, Power and Law. Dr. Tony Pfaff is the Research Professor for Strategy, the Military Profession and Ethics at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) at the U.S. Army War College, and a retired Army colonel. He’s authored dozens of works for scholarly and professional journals, and several monographs for SSI.

Midshipman engaged in a virtual Q & A period after an initial interview section and a round of discussion. 


A recording of the full discussion is here:

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