Term Paper: Code of Ethics in the Department of Justice

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Code of Ethics in the Justice Department

Ethics and the Justice Department

Ethics is a very important component of the business world. This is particularly so in the Justice Department, as its purpose is to ensure the safety and security of the society within which it functions. Indeed, the title "Justice" also suggests that the Department's existence should ensure the smooth running of all aspects in society.

In the United States particularly, the concept of justice as it relates to ethics and the function of the Justice Department has become a very complicated issue. Indeed, as will be seen, justice and ethics are often experienced as vastly different concepts, depending upon an individual's perception of a particular situation.

The reason for this, according to J. Kevin Grant (2002), is a concomitance of the continual evolution within society and its ideals relating to ethics and justice, along with the increasingly rapid and constant changes in the rules and laws governing justice ethics. In addition, the ability and freedom of law enforcement personnel to carry out their duties is hampered by these changes, as well as by close public scrutiny. These elements have made the issues even more complex than they had been in the first place.

In order to mitigate the problem of individualistic and personal viewpoints in terms of ethics, a code of conduct and a code of ethics have been created for the Department of Justice and the law officers serving within the Department. In short, these codes consist of a basic paradigm for ethics and ethical standards, which involves "doing the right thing at the right time in the right way, for the right reasons" (Grant, 2002). What exactly the "right" thing involves is then addressed by elaborate code of ethics and conduct documents.

It is important for law enforcement and Justice Department officials to adhere to the ethical and conduct codes, as this will gain public respect for the Department and its officials (Grant, 2002). It will be seen in the case study that a lack of adherence to commonly accepted ethical conduct as perceived by the public leads to general disrespect by the public, as well as an outcry for justice, particularly if a specific group of people has been disadvantaged by the unethical action.

Problematic ethical issues within the Department of Justice have increased exponentially since the 9/11 attacks. Constitutional issues such as freedom of the press, and human rights issues such as freedom of religion have particularly come under the spotlight. After 9/11, the Department of Justice has begun to take increasingly extreme measures to limit the freedom of American citizens in the name of protection and security. One of the basic rights that have continually been invaded is client/attorney privileges for detainees. In addition, citizens of Arab or Middle Eastern origin and those adhering to the Muslim faith have been targeted for surveillance, while some have even been detained indefinitely without an explanation of the reasons or the detainee's rights.

Indeed, according to Sylvia E. Stevens (2002), these violations were justified as a means of identifying potential terrorists and eradicating the threat. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has for example incepted a provision that allows an attorney to disregard the client/attorney confidentiality privilege under circumstances where further terrorism is suspected. However, if the many injustices in the name of safety are taken into account, all that is needed for terrorism to be suspected is to be of a certain nationality or religion. Indeed, under Ashcroft's rule, profiling has become the norm rather than the exception when identifying possible terrorists. In this way, a large number of law abiding citizens have learned to fear their own country's officials, because they are discriminated against on the basis of their religion and their ethnic heritage. Certainly this is unethical, as it violates the very rights that make the United States what it is; a country that is democratic and offers opportunities for all.

Profiling and detention without reasonable cause other than a person's religious or ethnic affiliations hardly constitute doing the "right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons." There is nothing "right" about violating basic human rights. Indeed, some critics even site suggestions to torture detainees in order to obtain information relating to perceived threats of terrorism (Gelsey, 2001). This was particularly encourage just after the 9/11 attacks.

Case Study: Achmed Radu

The case study revolves around a Muslim man who has experienced just such a case of injustice and unethical behavior at the hands of the Justice Department.

Mr. Achmed Radu wanted to travel by airplane from Los Angeles to Florida on 31 July, 2004. Just like all the other passengers, Mr. Radu went through the strenuous process of the various security stations at the airport. Like all the other passengers, he answered all questions truthfully and submitted without protest to any searches the officials deemed necessary. While Mr. Radu's name and striking appearance, with dark skin and black hair, gave him an obviously Middle Eastern appearance, he was not wearing traditional clothing. Indeed, he was not even very formally dressed, and was wearing his favorite outfit for the trip - jeans and t-shirt. Having been born and raised in the United States, Mr. Radu spoke articulate English and even made a few jokes with fellow passengers while waiting in the endless lines.

When everything was finally ready and passengers began to board the aircraft for their flight, Mr. Radu passed a security official on his way to the gate. The official held out a hand to stop Mr. Radu's progress, and asked for his boarding pass and identification document. Mr. Radu provided these without question or protest. The officer gave Mr. Radu a penetrating look, at which point the latter began to feel decidedly uncomfortable and worried. The official then took Mr. Radu's arm rather less than gently and requested him to follow. This is the first point at which Mr. Radu began to protest. Being aware of his citizen's rights, Mr. Radu asked the official what the reason for his detention was. The official would not answer, but continued to force Mr. Radu to accompany him. Not wanting to make an embarrassing scene, and feeling that it would ultimately be better if he cooperated, Mr. Radu did as requested, and followed the official. When he asked whether he would be able to take an alternative flight to Florida, and whether he would be able to retrieve his luggage, the official ignored him.

Mr. Radu was led into a small, dark room. Three uniformed officials were seated around a table. Mr. Radu was roughly shoved into a free seat, and the first official took a seat next to him. This person, whom Mr. Radu would come to know only as Steve, began to tell the other officials that Mr. Radu displayed suspicious behavior, and that he should not be allowed onto his flight. Mr. Radu began to protest, but he was silenced with a look from one of the officials. Steve continued that Mr. Radu had resisted arrest and that he carried suspicious-looking luggage. At this point, all the luggage that Mr. Radu believed to be booked onto the aircraft, was brought into the room. Each bag was opened and thoroughly investigated. When nothing obvious was found, the bags were cut apart and lining removed for further searching. This also yielded nothing that could be regarded as suspicious.

Mr. Radu was briefly relieved, as he believed that the officials would let him go - he might still be on time for the flight if it had been slightly delayed. He began to get up, but Steve suddenly pushed him back into the chair and shouted for the others to help him, because the detainee was trying to escape. Now Mr. Radu began to be seriously worried. He was aware of the difficulties suffered by people of his ethnic background, but had not experienced this himself. He had many friends from different nationalities and none of them ever made him feel like a terrorist. In the two years after 2003, this was the first time it had ever happened to him.

Mr. Radu felt for his cell phone in the pocket of his jeans. Surely this was a mistake. If he could only call a friend to vouch for him the officials would realize their error and they could all have a good laugh about it. Maybe he was mistaken for another suspect - a real suspect. When he reached for his phone, two of the officials held his arm and a third pushed him back against the wall. He was searched and his cell phone removed. The officials laughed as if he had given them a valuable clue to whatever they were looking for. He tried to explain who he was and asked who they were looking for. He offered his help. All to no avail. Ignoring Radu's pleas, the officials opened the phone and made a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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