Nuclear Weapons | Report

Setting Your Moral Compass: A Workbook for Applied Ethics in OSINT

Melissa Hanham | August 2022

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As the capability and credibility of open source intelligence (OSINT) have grown dramatically, the stakes for analysts have risen as well.

In nonproliferation and international security, open source analysts have taken on important roles in surveilling potential proliferators, fact checking official claims and government statements, and monitoring crises of global interest. OSINT analysts working on issues of international security must carefully consider the potential consequences of publishing their analysis, including the risk of future harm to themselves, their employer, other individuals, or even international security as a result of their work.

The weight of this ethical burden is starting to be felt more acutely by open source analysts in nonproliferation, many of whom express a strong appetite for tools and resources to support their ethical decision making (for more information, please see our preceding “Feeling the Burden” report, developed in partnership with the Ethical Journalism Network).

The “Setting Your Moral Compass” workbook, created by Melissa Hanham and published by the Stanley Center for Peace and Security, is intended to support practitioners of open source analysis regardless of whether they work in a large organization or as a freelancer.

Utilizing an ethical decision-making framework from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, the case studies in this workbook are intended to help the analyst see a dilemma from multiple perspectives, distinguish between ethical and legal issues, and practice decision making with hypothetical scenarios before they face real-world situations. The accompanying facilitator’s guidebook equips a leader, manager, peer, or educator to lead a group of open source analysts in developing applied ethics skills using exercises and other resources associated with the case studies.

Case Studies Workbook

The workbook presents a series of case studies about OSINT ethics. While the majority of these case studies contain fictional names and details, each one is based on a real-world situation or an amalgamation of experiences from open source analysts. A series of questions and activities accompanying each case challenges trainees to work through the ethical dynamics of each story.

Facilitator’s Guidebook

The facilitator’s guidebook and accompanying slide deck is designed to help educators, leaders, and facilitators train open source analysts in skills that will enable them to more effectively navigate ethical dilemmas in their careers. This guidebook will help educators identify relevant resources, prepare a lesson plan, and lead their cohort through the case studies and exercises.