JSCOPE Special Interest Section, Ethics and Intelligence



"The Ethics of Record Keeping in Intelligence"









January 10, 2005 




Lawrence Rockwood,

California State University at San Marcos

& International Museum of Human Rights at San Diego


619 297-5099




Attn: Dr Carl Ficarrotta

Department of Philosophy

USAF Academy, CO  80840

email: Carl.Ficarrotta@usafa.af.mil


Attn: Dr. Albert C. Pierce

Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics,

U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD 21402 

email:  acpierce@gwmail.usna.edu


Recent history attests to the presence American intelligence personnel in the direct proximity of prisoner abuse and also to charges of politicized prostitution of intelligence on the part of some intelligence agencies.   The production, dissemination, and retention of intelligence products always has had ethical implications that should be of interest to both the intelligence / military professions and professional activists in the human rights NGO community.  Are the abuses in questions the result of a national security worldview within specific professions or are they evidence of national, racial, religious, and economic prejudices that are pervasive throughout contemporary American society. 

A strong case can be made that the recent examples of prisoner abuse and politicalization of intelligence indicate corruptions of an “American professional military ethic” as such an ethic was articulated by such conservative scholars as Samuel P. Huntington and the late Harry Summers.  A civil society that celebrates military veterans of the Second World War by major motion picture depictions of them abusing and murdering prisoners of war, as was the case in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, should not be shocked when such behavior is to some degree emulated by young inexperienced members of the National Guard.  If the post 9/11 hysteria affects the professional outlook of journalists at the New York Times, how can we expect it not to affect the production and dissemination (or lack thereof) of national intelligence? 

On the other hand, are those who stand up to such abuses acting out of civilian societal norms external to the intelligence and military professions or from societal ethical foundations also integral to the formal institutional norms of these professions?   External regulation is unavoidable when professionals fail to enforce professional norms whether such failure is attributed to either internal or external influences or pressures.  When does external management initiatives, such as congressional legislation, reinforce ethical behavior and when does it merely alienate professionals form norms perceived to be originating from worldviews external to their professions.  Both the essentializing of intelligence and the military professions as evil by those on the Left or in human rights NGO’s and essentializing military virtue by from those on the Right as being distinct from the American liberal democratic tradition will not only impede the realizations of reform initiatives and legislation currently underway, it will further isolate those with the professional integrity to challenge the failings of their own professions in the future.   

          Lawrence Rockwood, a former military counterintelligence officer, will discuss examples where legislative actions and requests concerning military intelligence reporting and activities in the 1980s and 1990s proved to be counterproductive as the result of the lack of knowledge of intelligence and military operations and culture on the part of those initiating congressional inquiries and legislation.  In 1992, Captain Rockwood as a Special Security Officer received a request for all documents retained by military intelligence units operating in Central America regarding the El Mozote Massacre in El Salvatore in 1981.  As this request directly contradicted intelligence directives that such documents should have been routinely destroyed many years before as a result of exceeding document management retention deadlines, the initiative’s failure proved to had been preordained in its very conception. 

     Later as a fellow for the Center for International Policy in Washington, working in conjunction with the Institute of Policy Studies, the speaker reported on the initial ineffectiveness of the so-called Leahy Laws.  These consisted of legislative attempts, starting with the 1997 Foreign Operations Act, to prohibit a unit of a foreign security force from receiving U.S. funds if: “credible evidence exists that a unit’s members have committed gross violations of human rights.”  Inexperience in the utilization of intelligence products, the failure to understand the difference between intelligence indicators and legally sufficient evidence, and the lack of understanding of military rotation policy by the drafters and supports of the Leahy Laws assured their initial failure.  As a result, the program allowed massive increases in U.S. support to units into which known human rights violators had transferred while cutting off to units that such violators had previously commanded and whose present personnel have not been individually associated with criminal human rights violations by any legally sufficient evidence. 

      The speaker has been a scheduled human rights lecturer at the Western Hemisphere Center for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formally the U.S. Army School of the Americas (USARSA), for the past five years.  Along with his wife, Dr, Amelia Simpson, the speakers remains on of the few defenders of the human rights curriculum at WHINSEC and USARSA, under its last Commandant, in the human rights community and the American Left.  No stranger to controversy, after fifteen years of military service, he was separated from the US Army because of his action as a military intelligence officer. Concerned with human rights violations occurring in the proximity of US forces in Haiti and perceiving what appeared to him as indifference on the part of his command toward those suffering from these violations, he conducted an unauthorized survey of the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince for which he was later court martialed.   He has just completed a dissertation on the history of the doctrine of command responsibility in formal American military doctrine.

     Since his separation from the US Army, he has argued for the establishment of constructive engagement between the human rights community and the American military profession within Amnesty International USA and other NGOs  that are often staffed by personnel holding “essentialist” anti-military biases.  While accepting speaking engagements at numerous military forums on military ethics and human rights, he is presently an adjunct professor in the history departments at California State University at San Marcos and Grossmont College in San Diego.  In 2004, the speaker ran as the Green Party Candidate for the US Congress in the 53rd Congressional District in California.