It turns out spy kids are a thing. What sounded like a movie has now become reality as the United Kingdom (UK) intelligence and police are using children in covert operations against gangs, drug abusers, and terrorists. Using the juveniles, the intelligence agencies are hoping to get information about these criminals and their whereabouts. Although it may be effective, this decision is raising questions about the humanitarian awareness of the British government. If the outcome is satisfactory, can the steps taken toward it possibly be justified in the eyes of an international audience?
The problem surfaced when the House of Lords of UK proposed to extend the use of children as Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS). This forced the House of Lords to admit that minors are used in espionage. What is even more shocking is that the proposal sought to gain more freedom to employ child spies by extending the period for which they can work –from one month to four months. The offer raised many questions such as how many of these young people are involved, how they are treated, and who consents to let them work as a spy. All questions aside, it is undeniable that the discovery has caused a sense of discomfort among the public.
Really, a Child Spy?
▲ A Child Peeking Through a Hole
Provided by Pixabay
The use of children in preventing dangerous crimes raises a red flag regarding the morality of the situation. Some may ask why using child spies is a moral issue if there are kids who get involved in gangs and drugs by choice. Although this is true and it is difficult to pinpoint what morality is, the stance the British authorities are taking raises concerns. It is the duty of adults to protect kids from crimes. Ironically, under the fancy title of “spy,” the authorities are encouraging kids to become involved in criminal activities. There is no punishment for moral wrongdoings, but can this be allowed?
This particular espionage strategy concerns the welfare of the people involved. The exposure to gang violence, drugs and sexual abuse can damage the mental and physical health of the children involved. According to Professor Shin Hyo Jung (Education, Ajou University), “The time period before the age of 16 is when kids form their values by going to school and living a stable life with their family and friends. Depriving the young children of these opportunities can cause difficulties in building their identities and making relationships with other people.” She emphasized the fact that “children are supposed to be protected and taken care of.” It is vital that that the British government take this into consideration when considering their most vulnerable spies. Unfortunately, however, no specific measures have been announced regarding how children will be treated after their mission has finished.
The idea of child spies may sound entertaining at first. In fact, these days many children are featured in videos on social media as a way to earn views. However, those clips are made out of love and care for the kids. If not, the viewers will quickly condemn the creators of the videos. The same should go for child spies. Although it may be useful for authorities to gain membership for gangs, children are risking their welfare. Their risks are sadly reminiscent of child labor. Children were exploited in labor because they could work in spaces that were too small for adults. In return for their work, they were treated poorly.
Juvenile espionage in UK is not as extreme as child labor. However, there is an undeniable connection between the two because of their similarities. Both occur in extreme conditions and threaten the welfare of children. It is ironic to see a developed country like Britain, who has been criticizing underdeveloped countries for mass child labor, doing something like this. Professor Shin adds by saying, “Although there is no reveal of how juveniles are trained or treated, the decision to let them be involved in dangerous criminal activities is incomprehensible.”
She elaborates by saying, “It is common sense that children acting as spies against criminals can cause physiological pressure and damage. The trauma caused by this can be seen as a severe problem.” This proves an earnest look on the children working as a spy as it can endanger the whole adolescence of a child. Breaking drug and sex rings is necessary, but it is questionable whether the price is worth it. “Although what is done is done, child spies after their end of work need support to rehabilitate to normal life,” said Professor Shin.
Is There a Justification?
After receiving backlash for their use of child spies, the British government announced that these measures are only rarely used. According to Theresa May, the current Prime Minister of UK, “CHIS are only used when it is very necessary and proportionate.” The logic behind this is that children generate less suspicion and can therefore provide helpful information associated with illegal activities. However, it raises questions as to rather it is acceptable for children to suffer for the greater good. Also, can the statement released from the government justify the use of minors?
When carrying out a controversial measure, there must be some justification following it. After the children are released from governmental protection, their protection from potential threats such as the retaliation of gangs is not much guaranteed. The British juvenile spies are necessary to prevent violence, yet it seems to create more violence. The use of children as tools to stop violence is only an excuse for adult who are not able to solve the problem themselves.
This ongoing situation needs to be addressed for the better care of the children involved. The British government should provide complete transparency on the treatment of child spies even if the details related to the investigation must be kept confidential. When it comes to minors, their welfare should take priority. If their welfare is not protected, the government will keep being attacked on this issue. Also, even if children are successful in the missions, they are risking too much of their future. It is time to acknowledge that the ends cannot always justify the means, especially when kids are involved.