The Chancellor’s Lecture series featured guest General Michael V. Hayden, the former NSA and CIA director interviewed by Chancellor Zeppos and Professor Jon Meacham. A topic General Hayden addressed was the morality and ethicality of his past work. He acknowledged “We (intelligence agencies) operate in a grey space…It (the work of the CIA and NSA) only has a moral justification because it is attached to a higher moral purpose. If you believe a higher moral does not exist, it undercuts your job.” He said for those employees of intelligence agencies who question the ethics of their work, they should ask question such as “ Am I still part of the good thing? Does this matter? Does what I do make a difference?
My interpretation of his words were: it is acceptable to invade people’s privacy if it reaps a greater benefit for the people. This is a similar stance to the one I took in my first paper: protection of life justifies the means. However, after hearing his words, I realized the analysis of the existence of a higher moral purpose is very subjective. For example, person A may believe invading the privacy of 20 people to capture one criminal may be morally acceptable. However, person B may value privacy more and believes the benefit is worth the cost if only ten people’s privacy are invaded. This lead me to wonder, how do you define a higher moral purpose if morals differ from person to person? What self-regulating policies are in place for central intelligence agencies to ensure every single action which invades the privacy of a citizen or foreigner is serving a higher moral purpose?