The Ethics of Reporting vs. The Ethics of Spying

 

The Tri-Wizard Tournament—Speak Slowly into My Acid Pen

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

In Goblet of Fire, we find out through Rita Skeeter what damage an unethical reporter can do. It is obvious that her main focus is gossip and certainly not the truth. Rita Skeeter repeatedly fails to accurately document what people say, twisting it instead to her own ends and adding adjectives and adverbs to describe her “personal” observations— or, more accurately, her personal slant on her observations (GF 147, 202–3, 314–15, 437–40, 611–13)!

We eventually find out how Rita Skeeter gets so much juicy information: she is “bugging” everyone’s secure areas—by being a bug (GF 727)! Obviously, she obtains her information without the permission of the person she is “interviewing”—which is in itself quite unethical. Reporters are supposed to identify themselves and request an interview. Rita Skeeter is instead using what we would consider spy craft to eavesdrop on people and gather information.

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Unfortunately the movies skipped right over this juicy tidbit. Discovering that Rita Skeeter was an unregistered animagus may have been one of Hermione’s best moments!

 

 

Although spies are able to do eavesdrop on people, it is unethical for the press to use such means—as certain members of the press in London found out in 2011 when it was revealed that reporters were illegally intercepting and taping phone calls of famous people (including royalty) to get juicy stories. Read more about the International Phone Hacking Scandal here! 

peter-earnest-head-shot-372x372 In Harry Potter and the Art of Spying, Peter Earnest shares the story of the time he had to bug the office of one of his assets while working as a clandestine officer for the CIA!

We LOVE to HATE Rita Skeeter. Read other articles written by her on our blog! Long Lost Interview of Severus Snape, Rita Skeeter Interviews the Authors of Art of Spying , and Rita Skeeter Interviews President Obama.

The Pensieve as an Intelligence Analyst Tool

Pensieve

PensievePensieve 2The role of an intelligence analyst is to organize, review, and analyze important information and reach definitive conclusions as to what that information means.

Intelligence analysts receive information from many sources, some obtained covertly by operatives, and some through through a myriad of spy craft means, including communication intercepts, satellites, and open sources such as newspapers.

In the Potter world, Dumbledore acts as an intelligence analyst as he tries to figure out Voldemort’s family background, his history, items he acquired over the years, and his knowledge of the Dark Arts.

And one of the tools Dumbledore uses to discover Voldemort’s past is the Pensieve.  In a sense, the memories shown through the use of the Pensieve are equivalent to reports from the field.

Dumbledore explains the Pensieve to Harry when it is introduced in the Goblet of Fire:

“At these times,” said Dumbledore, indicating the stone basin, “I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” (GF 597)

Just like a good intelligence agent, Dumbledore is trying “to spot patterns and links” that he believes are the key to everything.

“Sir . . . is it important to know all this about Voldemort’s past?”

“Very important, I think,” said Dumbledore.

“And it . . . it’s got something to do with the prophecy?”

“It has everything to do with the prophecy.”

“Right,” said Harry, a little confused, but reassured all the same. (H-B P 215)

But Dumbledore goes a step further by acting as an intelligence operative and actually going out and acquiring the memories from various sources.

So let us take our own trip down memory lane and reflect on the discovery and use of the Pensieve in the Harry Potter series.

In the Goblet of Fire Harry sneaks a peak into the Pensieve and discovers the dark pasts of people like Igor Karkaroff and Barty Crouch Jr. (GF 585-96).

In the Order of the Phoenix Harry uses the Pensieve twice; once to see Snape’s worst memories, and then— finally with Dumbledore’s permission—to hear the “lost” prophecy that relates to Harry.  (OP 639-49, 841.)

It is in the Half-Blood Prince that the Pensive is used as an intelligence tool by Dumbledore, the analyst.  Harry is allowed to “see” eight separate memories, all relating in some way to Voldemort’s past:

  1. Bob Ogden’s memory of the House of Gaunt, where we are introduced to Marvolo, Morfin, and Merope (Tom Riddle’s grandfather, uncle, and mother)(199-211);
  2. Mr. Burke describing the acquisition of a certain necklace that later injures Katy Bell instead of its intended target, Dumbledore (261);
  3. Dumbledore’s memory of retrieving Tom Riddle from the orphanage (263-75);
  4. Morfin’s memory of Tom Riddle “returning” to the Gaunt house to acquire the Gaunt ring (363-65);
  5. Slughorn’s altered memory of a discussion he had with Tom Riddle (369-71);
  6. Hoky the house-elf’s memory of Tom Riddle getting Hepzibah Smith to show him a certain cup and locket that she owned (433-38);
  7. Dumbledore’s memory of Tom Riddle, now known as Lord Voldemort, coming to Hogwarts ostensibly to apply for the position of Professor of the Dark Arts (440-46)
  8. Slughorn’s real memory, where we discover that Tom Riddle had learned about Horcruxes (494-99).

All of these memories provide Dumbledore and Harry essential background on Voldemort which Dumbledore uses to:

  • discover and understand Voldemort’s entire background and history
  • perform an accurate psychological assessment of Voldemort
  • predict Voldemort’s future conduct
  • perform a risk-analysis as to Harry Potter and others
  • identify and locate Horcruxes

CIA operatives and analysts perform the very same role that Dumbledore demonstrates in the Harry Potter series.  They just happen to perform this function in the Muggle world instead of in the Wizarding community!