University of Pittsburgh
November 17, 2005

Pitt's Johnson Institute Sponsors Dec. 1 Lecture, "The Ethics of Dissent in National Security"

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The individual rights of free speech and the freedom to dissent are sacrosanct elements of American democracy, but what happens when these rights clash with issues of national security? That is the conundrum that Pitt professor of international affairs Janne Nolan will tackle during a free lecture, "The Ethics of Dissent in National Security," sponsored by the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership in the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 1 in the Bigelow Room of the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, 4215 Fifth Ave., Oakland. The event, which is cosponsored by Pitt's School of Information Sciences, is open to the public, but reservations are required by Nov. 28 at

"In national security or intelligence decision-making, government service requires a pledge to defend prevailing policy and to abide by strict rules of loyalty, secrecy, and consensus decision-making, said Nolan. "Such codes of conduct are understandable, but sometimes inhibit legitimate discourse among policy-makers."

Nolan says that individuals who challenge the legitimacy or wisdom of policies can find themselves marginalized or even discredited entirely. In case after case-from botched covert operations to the flawed intelligence used to justify the decision to invade Iraq to the reports of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo-the reluctance of individuals to challenge the dominant mindset has contributed to disastrous outcomes for the national interest, according to Nolan.

How does one distinguish between dissent and disloyalty? What can be done to protect individuals who speak up? Drawing on cases from recent history, Nolan will examine the tension between the need to protect the national security consensus and the need for a "marketplace of ideas," which is essential in the formulation of sound policy.

In addition to her GSPIA appointment, Nolan is the Project Director for the study "Lessons of Strategic Surprise and Intelligence Failures," sponsored by Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She also is an adjunct professor at Georgetown's Center for Peace and Security Studies.

Prior to coming to Pitt, Nolan served as a senior fellow in foreign policy at The Brookings Institution, a foreign affairs officer in the U.S. Department of State, a senior representative to the Senate Armed Services Committee for former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), and a member of the National Defense Panel of the U.S. Secretary of Defense's Policy Board. Nolan also is the author of books and articles, including Ultimate Security: Weapons of Mass Destruction in the 21st Century (Brookings Institution Press, 2003), which she coedited with Bernard Finel and Brian Washington. She is currently completing another book, Defending the Status Quo: Discourse and Dissent in American Security, sponsored by the Twentieth Century Fund.

For more information about the event or the Johnson Institute, visit or contact or 412-648-1336.