- When the Zimmerman telegram was deciphered by the cryptanalysts of Britain’s Room 40, Admiral William Hall decided not to tell American President Woodrow Wilson about its contents because doing so might let the Germans know that Britain was capable of breaking their codes. Given the danger posed to America by the unrestricted U-boat warfare indicated in the telegram, was this ethical of Admiral Hall?
I think that in a time of war, it is very hard to judge the hard decisions of people in power. In all wars, there will be casualties, and the hard fact of life is that in war the generals and people in charge need to minimize overall losses, not save every life. I think that overall the decision was ethical because strategically it had to be done. They chose not to tell President Wilson because they knew that the Germans were starting unrestricted submarine warfare and that the US would most likely join the war because of this. This was a calculated decision that paid off for the British in the end. Having the codes to someone else’s messages is extremely valuable, much more valuable to the British than having the US in the war a few weeks sooner. This was most definitely the strategic decision for the British. With these codes, they could be able to save countless more lives in the future by intercepting key attacks. Even with the case in World War II, the Allies had to let certain attacks happen that they knew were planned so that the Germans were not tipped off about the cracking of the Enigma. Although it is a very tough decision, I think that the British made the right decision in not telling the US about the Zimmerman Telegram.