missions or civil society; external threats to U.S. security; the impact on treaties and military law; and the impact on military doctrine, military culture, military education, and military operations.

• A 2004 report of the National Research Council titled Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism (aka the Fink report), which addressed “technologies [in the life sciences that] can be used legitimately for human betterment and [also] misused for bioterrorism [through the creation of biological weapons].”45 In this context, the 2004 report noted that ““biological scientists have an affirmative moral duty to avoid contributing to the advancement of biowarfare or bioterrorism…. scientists can and should take reasonable steps to minimize this possibility [that knowledge they generate will assist in advancing biowarfare or bioterrorism].”

In addition, a 2008 report of the National Research Council, Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Assessment,46 developed a framework for the systematic assessment of information-based programs being considered or already in use for counterterrorist purposes. This framework posed a set of questions focused on the effectiveness, lawfulness, and consistency with U.S. values of such programs, the answers to which would be useful to those making decisions about such programs.

The committee notes that perspectives on ethical, legal, and societal issues related to science, technology, and military affairs are hardly unitary. Even within a single nation such as the United States, different constituencies are likely to have different ethical stances toward the same issue. Furthermore, perspectives on ethics may vary with military might. A nation that is accustomed to military superiority on the battlefield may well have an ethical perspective different from that of other nations without such power (Box 1.1). The ethical perspectives of allies, adversaries, and neutral observers may well be different from that of the United States; under some circumstances, the differences may have consequences for U.S. freedom of action.

Addressing differences in ethical perspectives has two aspects, only one of which is covered in any detail in this report. Chapters 2 through 5 of this report address the first aspect, namely, the identification and articulation of possibly competing ethical perspectives. To properly consider ethical, legal, and societal issues, decision makers must begin by understanding the scope and nature of those issues. Part of that understanding


45 National Research Council, Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2004.

46 National Research Council, Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Assessment, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement