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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Be Our Moral Compass

The President of the United States has an obligation to uphold the ethical principles upon which our nation has been built. We look to President Obama to provide a moral compass. Any misconduct of intelligence agencies, or other government institutions for that matter, cannot be tolerated, now or ever again. The role of a leader in such a situation is to ensure that the integrity of the system is upheld.

Leadership is about putting the concepts of fairness, equity, and accountability into practice, and then protecting them. The president must take this opportunity to assure the people that nobody is above the law in this country - no individual, no agency, no one. The accountable parties must be made to bear the responsibility for their actions.

We are a nation built on the rule of law, after all. That's why we have stood so tall for centuries and why we are respected around the world. If we let a serious wrong go unchecked, then we run the risk of damaging our standing in the world. Far worse, we risk destroying our whole system of government.

The president's earlier reluctance to investigate the activities of his predecessors was somewhat understandable. He wanted the country to have a fresh start. But now that these revelations have come to light, he has to stop and take that look back over his shoulder - not necessarily in anger but in the interest of fair play. He has to demonstrate that the system still works. He has to show that the end never justifies the means when the means involve possible violations of the laws that are the bedrock of this nation.

At the end of the day, there has to be reconciliation. The president could appoint a bipartisan commission, similar to the 9/11 commission, to get to the bottom of this story. The people need to hear the details so they can believe that their government works the way it's supposed to work. They need to see -- and believe -- that our system of justice applies equally to all, from the average citizen to the high-ranking government official.

By Yash Gupta

 |  July 14, 2009; 7:21 AM ET
Category:  Ethics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The Core of Our Beliefs | Next: Fantasies of Revenge


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Please, every president in our not so distant past has done something illegal, or had a staffer who did something illegal. Obama did nothing to find out if his own staffers, who had to turn down his appointment, had broken a law. Why under Clinton were Forestry Department jets seen carrying cocaine in Columbia and Mexico? Oh, it was the C.I.A., but wasn't that Clinton's C.I.A.? What about Iran Contra?
I could go on and on, you libs just want punishment for policy you did not like.

Posted by: TheNations | July 15, 2009 5:59 AM
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I absolutely agree that a bi-partisan commission should be appointed to look into the misconduct of the previous administration. Obama, however well motivated, is wrong to deny this country its day of reckoning. What he doesn't understand is that it's as much the people who need to be called to account as it is Bush-Cheney. A good percentage of this country was right there with Bush-Cheney in supporting those dark decisions - preemptive war, torture, executions. This country needs to look at - in the clear light of day - the consequences of these decisions so they can get clear on exactly what happened, decide how they feel about having gone down this road, and move forward with a renewed moral clarity. I believe in the American people. Most will rediscover their inner Atticus Finch if such a process is allowed to take place.
Mr. President - it's not about Bush-Cheney; it's about us.

Posted by: lmorgan2 | July 14, 2009 6:07 PM
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Don't like Bush or Cheney, but let it go. Raising the issue will work against the new administration.

Posted by: Kartolfelsalat | July 14, 2009 5:51 PM
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Yes the laws were broken. The Vice President has no right to tell the CIA to keep programs secret from our elected people. They were warned about 9/11 and laughed it off. We were all prevented from flying or leaving the country. Now we cannot fly or leave the country as citizens unless we are strip searched. The Terrorist were not even from the United States! We need a full investigation, because all of our individual freedoms are still being denied because the Bush Administration. This cannot be swept under the rug. And Chenney was involved with outing a CIA operative.

Posted by: melodymg | July 14, 2009 5:25 PM
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Since 9/11, while methodically diverting attention to threats from abroad under the caption of Anti-Terror Policies, domestically, unprecedented threats to human life, to homeland and national security and to civil liberties/rights among others, have been nurtured by officials who not only calculatedly failed to prevent mishaps, but in fact have helped foster some past and recent calamities for political and/or personal gains. These officials orchestrated illegal activities by way of extraordinary renditions and overrides of laws, and cover ups that follow, which along with cultural, structural and procedural fatal flaws and the absent of effective oversight have become endemic problems with distinct patterns of poor performance, placing the people and our country in a state of unvarying danger.

An investigation is necessary, and as soon as possible (their deeds are still fresh and the ink is not yet dry), not for revenge but in order to safeguard/secure our future. Knowing (the little) we now know, contracts/agreements/appointees… etc, signed/made during the Bush era takes us into an uncertain future, and I doubt anyone in politics will dare compromise the future of the people and/or our country. On the other hand… I may have spoken too soon… (see Nixon… Sorry I can’t go on with the list).

We may (want to) look back in anger, to see what wrongs (being passive… etc) have we done… but the future is what’s important.

Do it, and do it now.

Posted by: Shanan1 | July 14, 2009 2:45 PM
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Where does it all end? Could we not, if we wished, dig through the garbage of every single administration dating back throught the prior century, and turn up something untoward?

If we spent the first half of every administration tying up our lawmakers and regulators with the task of auditing the prior administration for improprieties, how would anything get done?

Better yet, what good does it do the people CURRENTLY fighting overseas to know that their sacrifice is, in the eyes of our government and its people, a pointless and illegal one?

You can't spend all day grinding an axe then tell me you aren't, in fact, grinding an axe. Semantics work both ways. Undertaking such an endeavour and attempting to position it as anything less than political comeuppance smacks of being disingenuous at best, fraudulent at worst.

Bush inherited one of the worst tragedies in American history - how soon we forget this fact. Yet people continue to work with the faulty assumption that we can pin the blame for 9/11 on a guy who was in office for a few months, while they simultaneously absolve all blame for the guy who proceeded him for 8 years (and who cut our defense budget and had our military and intelligence community working with string and duct tape). It just doesn't add up.

People believe what they want to believe, and there will be no changing their minds. And no undertaking such as the one described above is possible without massive political partisinship inserting itself into the proceedings. It would do more harm than good.

Posted by: Tinman1188 | July 14, 2009 1:51 PM
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Seems to me that people who want to sound indignant shout "nation of laws." Which means the so-called crimes they claim are not ones of morality, but of legal process. In this case, seems like legal procedure was followed particularly carefully, and are still in practice today, but under different political agenda.

Posted by: jr13 | July 14, 2009 1:12 PM
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But does being a moral compass mean pursuing varied allegations that are tied to political agendae? If the process is more damaging, and the outcome far from certain, what good is done. We could pursue these allegations as far back into political history as we care too - for most every administration, wartime or not. Morality is a virtue, morale certitude is not.

Posted by: jr13 | July 14, 2009 1:03 PM
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Leadership is also about making difficult, even unpopular, decisions and sticking to your convictions. There is a presumption of wrong-doing in the previous comments to this article that I believe is not warranted. Mr. Pinetta himself informed Congressional leaders that there appeared to be no illegalities or improprieties with the program in question. The program was never implemented, and the previous Administration was well within the law to keep possible covert operations secret during the concept development and judicial review until a viable Concept of Operations was finalized. Although the US has eschewed political assassination as a tool of regime change, it has not foresworn attacks upon enemy combatant leadership or command and control, which is exactly the status of Bin Laden and Al-Queda following their unprovoked attack against this nation. How moral would it have been at the time to not consider every possibility at our disposal to eliminate enemy leadership in order to disrupt an acknowledged hostile force bent on attacking Americans and American interests?

Posted by: williamolson | July 14, 2009 11:58 AM
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We must investigate for justice's sake, and for the sake of the countless innocent victims and lives destroyed.

America will lose its credibility in the world and with its own people if the crimes against Americans and innocent foreigners are not investigated and repudi8ated, the perpetrators exposed and condemned, and the innocent provided with restitution.

Anything less nakes our country no more worth defending than a NOrth Korea or an Ayatolla's Iran--a landof secrets and domestic atrocity, where the people live in the shadow of fear and atrocity.

That is what the previous administration did to our land and our peole--turned the American dream into the nightmare of totalitarianism. Those who did this need to be held accountable--or they will smirk and continue their atrocity with funding continuing and secrecy continuing.

If we don't rout them out now, the country will not be fit for anyone to live in but the spineless who kiss up to Big Brother.

And any genuine Christians and People of Conscience will continue to be in peril for thier lives and their health.

Posted by: TQWoods | July 14, 2009 11:57 AM
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Yes, an investigation of possible abuse by the bush/cheney administration is imperative.
The apparent abuse by the former vp must be investigated.torture,cronyism and contracts,secret energy meeting abuse,refusal to abide by checks and balances.
bush/cheney greatest power-least accountable.

Posted by: jama452 | July 14, 2009 10:54 AM
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I realize there is no such thing as a bi-partisan commission. Any investigation into government actions is doomed to be partisan and political.

However, I also believe we must try. We Americans pride ourselves on our honesty. Let our government be honest too.

Thank you for this editorial. It is devastatingly sad to me that so many in our country don't care to adhere to the rule of law because it's hard to do.

Posted by: arancia12 | July 14, 2009 10:43 AM
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