Ethics of Applied Intelligence in Military Conflict

Today, the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence published an article that I co-authored with fellow students from Georgetown University's masters program in applied intelligence. It appears in Vol.32, Issue No. 3. The article explores the ethics of applied intelligence in modern conflict with a focus on pre-emptive war and precision guided weapons.


"Intelligence is essential to modern statecraft in times of war and peace. As such, its vital role deserves and requires better general comprehension. Recent attention has focused on public attitudes and ethics surrounding intelligence collection, particularly its potential or actual damage to private individuals and democratic societies. Yet, as modern conflict continues to blur the boundaries between war and peace, the results of the intelligence cycle are often laid bare for all to see in decisions to use armed force by the U.S. military. Both the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and the use of precision- guided weapons demonstrate how the primacy and capabilities of intelligence have expanded the situations and requirements for ethical judgments in contemporary conflicts. Intelligence increasingly plays a role in ethical considerations about the principles of just war, the law of armed conflict, and other standards of international humanitarian law."



Alexa O'Brien Alexa O'Brien conducts research and analysis about national security and law enforcement. Her work has been published in The New York Times, VICE News, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Guardian (UK), The Daily Beast, NY Daily News, and featured on the BBC, PBS, NPR, Democracy Now!, and Public Radio International. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in the United Kingdom and listed in The Verge 50. In 2016, she worked at The Constitution Project in Washington, D.C. as a staff researcher and writer on an independent commission studying Oklahoma's death penalty. She also provided research support to scholars of the first cost study conducted on that state's capital punishment system. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, majoring in Political Science. She is currently pursuing a Master's in Applied Intelligence at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She resides in New York City.