Ethics Observations As An Ex-FBI Agent Is Sentenced To Four Years in Prison For Leaking Documents To The News Media

From the Times story:

By the time Terry J. Albury arrived in Minneapolis in 2012, about 11 years after he went to work for the F.B.I., he had grown increasingly convinced that agents were abusing their powers and discriminating against racial and religious minorities as they hunted for potential terrorists.

The son of an Ethiopian political refugee, Mr. Albury was the only African-American field agent assigned to a counterterrorism squad that scrutinized Minnesota’s Somali-American community. There, according to his lawyer, he became disillusioned about “widespread racist and xenophobic sentiments” in the bureau and “discriminatory practices and policies he observed and implemented.”

In 2016, Mr. Albury began photographing secret documents that described F.B.I. powers to recruit potential informants and identify potential extremists. On Thursday, he was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty last year to unauthorized disclosures of national security secrets for sending several of the documents to The Intercept, which published the files with a series titled “The F.B.I.’s Secret Rules.”

Observations:

1. GOOD!

2. Whether Albury’s perceptions of discrimination were accurate or not, they were not excuses for breaking the law. Continue reading

Presenting Rationalization 13 A. “The Road To Hell”

hell

The post earlier today regarding three examples of ethics duncery (or worse) in foreign lands included three examples of Rationalization 13A at work. All could be, and in one case was, excused with the claim that “we meant well.” I checked: this infamous rationalization wasn’t among the seventy plus rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms list, which proves just how sinister these little buggers are. As its name suggests, Rationalization #13A is named after the famous quote, “Good intentions pave the road to hell,” or, alternatively, “The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” which nobody seems to know who was the first to utter it.

It was a major omission, and I’m thrilled to rectify it.

13A. The Road To Hell, or “I meant well”

This sub-rationalization to the Saint’s Excuse is related to its parent but arguably worse. Rationalization 13 is one of the really deadly rationalizations, the closest on the list to “The ends justified the means”:

 The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else. 

But while the wielder of the Saint’s Excuse typically at least has a beneficial or valuable result to claim as justification for unethical and inexcusable acts, the desperate employers of 13A only have their alleged good intentions, which may be the product of emotion, misunderstanding, ignorance or stupidity. How a bad actor intended his unethical conduct to turn out is no mitigation at all. The underlying logic is that the wrongdoer isn’t a bad person, so the wrongful act shouldn’t be held against him or her as harshly as if he was. The logic is flawed (it is the same logic as in The King’s Pass, #11, which holds that societally valuable people would be held to lower standards of conduct than everyone else) and dangerous, encouraging the reckless not to consider the substance of a course of action, but only its motivations.

The Saint’s Excuse attempts to justify unethical actions that accomplish worthy goals The Road to Hell attempts to justify unethical conduct even when it does undeniable harm, just because it was undertaken with admirable intent.