Concerning Moral Clarity and Moral Equivalence

The Los Angeles Times printed an op-ed from the despicable Philip Agee yesterday [*], in which he explained why it was good to reveal the identities of CIA agents when he was doing it, because he was doing it for a good reason, but bad to reveal the identities of CIA agents when the Bush Administration did it, because the Bush Administration did it in support of a “neo-imperialist” agenda.


But don’t worry, moral clarity abounds at both extremes. The Wall Street Journal thinks that it was bad when Agee and other “hard-left types” revealed the identities of our secret intelligence-gatherers, but that when the Bush Administration does the same thing it advances the public’s “right to know.”

As long as that’s clear.

P.s. The Times is catching flack for giving Agee space, but I think his piece effectively criticizes itself.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: