The Rights of Foreign Intelligence Targets

In Seumas Miller, Mitt Regan & Patrick Walsh (eds.), National Security Intelligence and Ethics. Routledge. pp. 89-106 (2021)
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I develop a contractualist theory of just intelligence collection based on the collective moral responsibility to deliver security to a community and use the theory to justify certain kinds of signals interception. I also consider the rights of various intelligence targets like intelligence officers, service personnel, government employees, militants, and family members of all of these groups in order to consider how targets' waivers or forfeitures might create the moral space for just surveillance. Even people who are not doing anything prejudicial to other states' security can be modeled as ceding rights against diagnostic collection--light touch collection limited to ascertaining if someone is likely an intelligence threat--as part of their duty to support just foreign institutions. Foreign intelligence officers could not perform the same job potential targets can reasonably demand their intelligence agencies perform on their behalf without this ceding of rights. More invasive forms of collection can only be justified if officers can reasonably model their citizens consenting to being the target of the same sort of collection by adversary states.

Author's Profile

Michael Skerker
United States Naval Academy


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