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The Principle of Ultimum Judicium

2014 August 21
by Jason Nairn, CPP, CISSP

In a series of posts, I am outlining three principles that I believe apply to working relationships in homeland security.  This is a thought experiment presented for discussion and review.  These principles are derived from my own experience as a homeland security practitioner and are presented to highlight issues within the homeland security enterprise that I believe are interesting for further study and discussion.

While future posts may flesh out the details and background associated with the Principles, they will be presented in brief initially.

The Principle of Ultimum Judicium

The Principle of Ultimum Judicium states that the goal of all security activities is the preservation of justice, and that ultimately, only an empowered government apparatus can exercise ultimate justice in a societal context.

The definition of justice includes “the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action”.  Security’s ultimate goal is to deploy resources and deliver services that ensure that stakeholders in a given realm (campus, company, community) live, work and operate within an environment that is just.  A just environment in which to live and work enhances the quality of life and business, and therefore benefits the realm collectively as well as other realms with which it associates.

Fairness and justice can take a variety of forms.  A common form is criminal prosecution.  Yet criminal prosecution is not the ONLY form of “justice” considered by security professionals for violators of collective security.  Some organizations or corporations choose to deliver justice internally, via organizational administrative tools that may include termination or sanctions.

These sanctions do not, generally, result in the delivery of justice for the violator beyond the bounds of the corporation, and thus have a limited societal impact.  Ultimate justice is, in this context, the unique responsibility of an uncorrupted system of judicial prosecution, where an individual is presented before his peers in society and judged based on the unique circumstances of his actions.  The resulting penalties have a lasting impact on both society and the individual.  The principle dictates that ultimate justice is the role of the uncorrupted governmental justice system and its agencies.

Thomas Paine wrote that security is the “true design and end of government”.* As such, an uncorrupted government must have a role in the delivery of justice resulting from security operations.  Anything else, including institutional penalty, is administrative sanction, but is not ultimately justice and does not have a societal impact.

An interesting area of future study is the consideration of the definitions of “government” and “uncorrupted”…  Are groups that form governing bodies, like ISIL for example, governments?  What would be the impact of “legitimacy” in this context?  How does one define “justice”, using universal humanistic descriptors or societal norms? 

* – Paine, Thomas (1986) [1776], Kramnick, Isaac, ed., Common Sense, New York: Penguin Classics


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