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This document presents the findings of a study into methods that may help counterterrorism professionals make decisions about ethical problems. The study was commissioned by the Research and Documentation Centre (Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum, WODC) of the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice (Ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie), on behalf of the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding en Veiligheid, NCTV). The study provides an inventory of methods to support ethical decision-making in counterterrorism, drawing on the experience of other public sectors — healthcare, social work, policing and intelligence — and multiple countries, primarily the Netherlands and United Kingdom.

The report introduces the field of applied ethics; identifies key characteristics of ethical decision-making in counterterrorism; and describes methods that may help counterterrorism professionals make decisions in these situations. Finally, it explores how methods used in other sectors may be applied to ethical decision-making in counterterrorism. It also describes the level of effectiveness that can be expected from the various methods. The report is based on a structured literature search and interviews with professionals and academics with expertise in applied ethics.

This report will be of interest to counterterrorism professionals who are responsible for strengthening ethical decision-making in their organisation. It may also provide insights for counterterrorism professionals who seek new methods to help them make ethical decisions. The findings may additionally be relevant for professionals in other sectors, if complemented with a review of decision-making characteristics in their sector of specialism.

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Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Introduction to applied ethics

  • Chapter Three

    Key ethical problems in counterterrorism

  • Chapter Four

    Methods to support ethical decision-making

  • Chapter Five

    Implications for managing ethical problems in counterterrorism

  • Appendix A

    List of interviewees

  • Appendix B

    Critical thinking methods

  • Appendix C

    Moral case deliberation methods

  • Appendix D

    List of interview questions

Research conducted by

The research described in this document was prepared for the Research and Documentation Centre (Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum, WODC) on behalf of the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security at the Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice (Ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie) and was conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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