Intelligence agents, autonomous slaves and the U.S. Supreme Court’s wrong (and right) concept of personal autonomy
Title: Intelligence agents, autonomous slaves and the U.S. Supreme Court’s wrong (and right) concept of personal autonomy
Author: BITTON, Raphael
Citation: European Journal of Legal Studies, 2014, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 5-44
External link: http://www.ejls.eu/
This paper traces the boundaries of consent in the relations of recruited intelligence agents and their handlers. The U.S. Supreme Court considered these relations to be contractual. However, such a contract, according to the Supreme Court, is unenforceable. An Agent’s autonomy largely underpins the argument for the prima facie legitimacy of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) relations with each agent. Autonomy is also an essential element in recognizing the formulation of a recruitment contract. Sketching its boundaries in the human intelligence context (namely between the spy recruited typically within enemy ranks and the recruiter) raises the paradoxical question: How free is the free choice to give up freedom of choice? In contrast to the common deontological approaches, this paper offers an account of personal autonomy which incorporates the examination of dignity-compromising (dehumanizing) influences on the choice-making process of the agent. If being autonomous is an exclusive human condition, then a condition in which a person is both dehumanized while making his choice, yet remains autonomous nonetheless, must be wrong. Hence, it is argued that any hierarchical model of personal autonomy should be interpreted as if incorporating a test of a dignity-compromising influence on the desires-setting or choice-making process of a person. The case of voluntary intelligence agents, as in the case of consenting slaves, emphasizes a distinction between two points in time: Before and after making the choice to become an agent. This paper’s interpretation of autonomy suggests that even the most agreeable intelligence agent is not autonomous during the second phase due to the influence of the irreversibility problem. The very fact that the potential choice to reverse is being held by another person (the handler) is a humiliating influence on agent’s choice to proceed and therefore suggests the agent is non-autonomous. The U.S. Supreme Court’s classification of handling relations as contractual is, therefore, wrong. However, by denying the binding promissory power of the handling ‘contract’, the Supreme Court is in fact right. Due to lack of autonomous will, these relations cannot formulate a contract to start with.
Type of Access: openAccess