Spying is not an activity one tends to accord any approbation, entailing as it does dissimulation and stealthy dealings: conduct, all things being equal, of dubious ethical value. The wider and more euphemistic “intelligence gathering” is of course another matter. All states do it, as indeed they must, and all states break their own laws in the process. The personal aspect—the very issue of conduct—has faded now that old-style “human” versions have largely been replaced by electronic eaves-dropping, robotic long-distance operations. The hackings by Edward Snowden, currently residing in Russia, are, however, a pointed reminder not only that individual action can still matter but also that spying, on closer inspection, can be morally and politically ambiguous. Is it right to reveal...

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