Sunday, May 03, 2009

Intelligence and Asylum

Among others, there are two principal operational rules for those in the US intelligence community who analyze the nature of intelligence gathering, the relationships involved, and the norms that should be brought to those relationships. One is: do not torture; it's counterproductive. Another is: do not strand your foreign agents, informants, assistants in the field; you do not leave them at risk. Both imperatives have deontological and consequentialist justifications. But what's important here is that both of these central norms of intelligence gathering have been utterly shredded in the "war on terror."

We've discussed the torture issue ad nauseum.... This McClatchy article from yesterday, "U.S. allies losing asylum bids over definition of 'terrorist'," discusses the latter issue of the treatment of foreign agents , supporters, etc. The McClatchy piece isn't just a collection of sad stories about those who desire life in America but have come up against stricter immigration policies, although the authors write it that way. Underlying this piece is an under-reported unintended consequence of "war on terror" policies.

Many of them feel betrayed, especially since the trauma and persecution they experienced in the native lands are now being held against them.

An Iraqi Kurd, who was granted asylum and applied for a green card in 2004, continues to wait in vain despite his work as an interpreter for the U.S. military for almost three years. The reason: His relatives supported the U.S.-backed Kurdish Democratic Party that had tried to topple Saddam Hussein.

The interpreter, who asked that his identity be withheld out of fear for his relatives, is especially bitter because he says he helped U.S. military forces break up terrorist organizations in Iraq and detect plots to bomb U.S. facilities. His attorney, Thomas Ragland, showed immigration officers proof of his client's work for the U.S. military, but to no avail.

Of course, that's just nasty to betray the expectations of people who have risked violence to themselves and their families in the name of the US cause. It's a pretty pure form of treating people solely as means and not ends. From purely an instrumental, consequentialist standpoint, however, betraying the expectations of these people in the field makes the next attempt to recruit foreign agents and other "assets" all that much more difficult. You get a reputation for dishonesty and disloyalty which can then outweigh any risk an agent may otherwise be willing to take. Fewer and fewer people are then willing to help, and the US intelligence apparatus loses valuable local information and assistance.

1 comment:

troutsky said...

It was a risk Dick Cheney was willing to take. Still would ,in fact. How he got where he did is the question for believers in "liberal democracy".