• Uncategorized

Law and Ethics in Process Engineering

Lawand Ethics in Process Engineering


Table of Contents

Abstract 3

Introduction 4

Professional Ethics 5

Snowden and the Prism Program 6

Ethical Issues Faced by Snowden 7

How Whistleblowing Protect Public Privacy and Why Snowden was Referred to as A Hero 10

Trustworthy between Employee and Employer 11

Case Arguments and the Recommendations 12

Conclusion 14

References 16

Lawand Ethics in Process Engineering


Thepaper explores the law and ethics in process engineering in the USA.It focusses on the management business approach on employeebehaviors, and if they are in line with the state law and theconventional engineering standards. All registered engineering firmsare expected to adhere to professional ethics as well as the statelaws on executing their activities so as to avoid damages andlawsuits. Thus, engineers ought to be registered, and their licensesshould strictly follow process engineering guidelines as discussed inthe paper. Furthermore, they are also expected to uphold professionalethical principles, due care and diligence in their services whichwill ultimately enhance the quality of work offered. A case study ofSnowden is adopted in the study. The paper illustrates that Snowdenwent against engineering ethics and professionalism when he exposedthe PRISM project.


Engineeringis one of the distinguished and demanding careers in an economy. Itsactivities have a direct impact on the people. Due to high relianceby the public and institutions, dubious engineers may go overboardand exploit their clients (Schinzinger, 2000).Thus, professionalethics is demanded from engineers in pursuance of their roles so thatclients interests are safeguarded. One of the main reasons of pushingfor ethics and professionalism is to avoid instances of conflict ofinterests and safeguard the interests of the clients. Engineers whoviolate the stipulated these ethical principles are liable for anydamages that may accrue and can be prosecuted for negligence andgoing against the set contracts (Harris et al., 2013).

Thename Edward Snowden was not well known until the issue of WikiLeakscame into being. He was a process engineer contracted by the USgovernment to handle the PRISM project. Having worked with NSA for along time, Snowden was displeased with the way the government wasinfringing on the privacy of its citizens and he decided to leakconfidential documents on the use and progress of the PRISM project(Greenwald, 2013). Snowden went against the instituted contract,engineering profession and risked exposure of the volatile NSAmandates by giving out confidential information to the public. Afterterrorist attacks across the world, the US government decided toinstitute a program that will unearth the activities of terroristsand espionage. Unfortunatey the program contradicted the privacy andconfidentiality act protected by the constitution. On the premise ofhis profession, Snowden’s actions can be depicted as unethical andbreached the contract between the government and himself to observeruttermost privacy and secrecy. At the same time, Snowden had a moralobligation to protect the society and uphold the constitution andthis seemed to justify his actions. Essentially, Snowden was in adillemma: on one hand he needed to protect the government secrets andadhere to the signed contract and on the other hand he needed toprotect the values of the people.

Professional Ethics

Thestrength and success of an institution is reflected in the workplacediscipline and the level of employee commitment and adherence to theset guidelines. Employees who uphold professional ethics tend to dotheir work smoothly. In the event of adherence to professionalism andorganizational values, organizational activities are protected and nolitigations or costs associated with breach of contract will arise insuch situations. Ethics strengthens relationship within institutionsespecially when employees are said to be honest, where employees cando what is expected and when employees share common values (Harris,2008).Sound management in an organization also assures employee coherencein undertaking organizational activities. This guarantees continuedoperations and their commitment to the corporate business (Trabia etal., 2016). Successful operations are achieved by dedicated employeeswho are determined to pursue the interests assigned to them withoutrevealing them to competitors.

Employeesare expected to keep secrets and the tenets of business andoperational success since the other parties may copy and learn theirtricks. Thus, the professionals in any career should subscribe toprofessional standards spiced with ethical elements that govern theircareer and the working environment. It is necessary to have thesestandards to enhance integrity in careers and protect the imagecompanies, and in this case to safeguard the operations of some ofthe critical and volatile operations as was evidenced in the case ofUS NSA. Adherence to these ethics will reduce chances of employees orany other professionals from doing poor work and assignments. For thecompanies with extensive operations, there is need to overseenetworked operations through committed management dedications so asto offer good results and also mitigate business risks and especiallyprofessional malpractices (Murugesan&amp Ginige, 2005).A strong relationship between the management and the employeesassures good rapport and upholds professional ethics.

Snowden and the PrismProgram

ThePRISM program was meant to tap communication: phone conversations andonline communications. Having worked for the government for a longtime, Snowden felt that there was no basis to tap into communicationof innocent people in the name of enhancing security. At the sametime, the constitution protects the right to privacy andconfidentiality for all people. Thus, the PRISM program was aviolation of the constitutional right of the people and this was oneof the major reasons that catalyzed Snowden’s exposure. However,Snowden was accused of impacting the intelligence services withoutseeking an alternative form of redress to the problem. In hisdefense, Snowden depicted that the National Security Agency teamswere using the Prism program to spy and collect phone records ofthousands of Americans. The NSA in its defense argued that theprocess of surveillance on both internet and the phone conversationhelps the in securing the public from impending dangers orchestratedby terrorists, criminals, and fraudsters.

WhileSnowden had a moral obligation of protecting the public, he also hadan obligation to ensure secrecy and confidentiality of the project.The exposure of the project was a breach of professional code ofconduct and a secrecy contract signed between the two parties.Moreover, his actions were punishable as described in the EspionageAct (Greenwald, 2013). There is no doubt that the exposure impactedthe performance of the NSA as evidenced by the controversies thatfollowed the expose. Different nations voiced their concerns overillegal monioring and prying on privacy. For example, there was highdiplomatic concerns between the US and Britain. The cold war betweenRussia and the US escalated, just like it did between China and theUS. In fact, to some extent it can be argued that the cyberwarsbetween China and the US were catalyzed by the expose of the PRISMproject. There is no doubt that the US security agencies were angeredby the exposure of their activities. At some point the NSA directordepicted that there is a need to uphold professionalism and expediatethe assigned mandates to the best of one’s abilities and within thelegal framework. However, the damage was already done and thesecurity agencies were required to redefine their strategies to alignto the constituinal provisions.

Accordingto Naughton(2013) Snowden’s exposure was not simply about tapping andpilferage on the conversations and interactions of the people.However, it was a move to discard the social rot experienced in asociety characterized by reliance on technology. His insights mightnot have been highlighted well by the mainstream media but themessage had been clearly passed by the online platform. The Wiki Leakas was termed by Snowden and came to be known, was an approach thatwas mandated by Snowden who got irritated and concerned about theconstant breach of the constitutional provisions by the agenciesrequired to uphold the rule of law. One might wonder what Snowden wassupposed to gain from the expose however, according to Snowden doingthe right thing was the best consideration. In this case the rightthing as claimed by Snowden was upholding the rule of law andinstalling social morals in the society. Unfortunately, the mediaand its link to the government immediately branded Snowden a spyrather than a whistleblower.

Ethical Issues Facedby Snowden

Essentially,engineers should take charge of the public welfare, safety, andhealth. This includes compliance with the sustainable developmentprinciples in their professional duties. They are expected to performservices in their areas of competence and experience with duediligence and professionalism. The end implication of conforming tothe engineering principles and standards is quality work and meetingethical and professional standards. On issuance of public statements,they should stick to objectivity and honesty by sticking to truthfulinformation. Engineers are also expected to act professionally tomatters and represent employers as faithful agents and avoidconflicts of personal interests (Downey et al., 2015). Moreover,engineering professionals earn reputation by merit and quality ofservices rendered. Also, they should compete fairly in theengineering field. It is also expected that engineers should upholdand heighten the dignity and honor of engineering as a practice. Thiswill be the hallmark of professional integrity that will have aripple effect of good professional practices that muffles corruption,bribery, and the frauds (Murugesan &amp Ginige, 2005). Vocationaldevelopment of engineers is also essential since it provides aplatform for new opportunities to explore and a chance to unleashpositive potential.

Therehave been continual efforts to reviw and update engineer`s ethicalstandards. Engineers are expected to show concern and provide honestguidelines on their assignments (Bakshi &amp Fiksel, 2003). TheOrderof the Engineer in Americaforms the basis of ethical standards in the engineering field afterthe Quebec Bridge collapse in 1907. From the enactment of the order,engineers are expected to take an oath and swear to uphold ethicalpractices signified with a symbolic engineering ring. Currentlyunethical issues include dishonesty, corruption, and bribery in thegovernment and professional bodies, groups and societies (Dong, Cheng&amp Zhang, 2015). However, some new issues have been emerging withthe evolvement in the engineering sector. These includesenvironmental protection, maritime activities and the sustainabledevelopments that professions should consider and address (Herkert,2000 and Harris Jr, 2008). The issues need to be considered by allengineers in their daily activities to ensure that they successfullyalign themselves to both professional and societal morals, standardsand principles.

Inthis case, Snowden went against confidentiality principles that boundhis contract with the NSA. This was not expected owing to the factthat he should not have disclosed information having signed a bindingagreement with the security agency (Greenwald, 2013 and Herkert &ampBarry, 2015). Snowden breached this principle and shared nationalintelligence confidential data and going against his professionalstandards and national security pricniples. He committed a crime, andthis amounted to conviction in which he was found guilty in a courtof law. The federal government charged him and condemned him forleaking information correlated to the PRISM program (Greenwald,2013). This is the sole reason that drove him to seek asylum inRussia. Therefore, it would have been prudent for Snowden to concealthe information and safeguard the operation of the NSA bearing inmind that the role of NSA is very critical to the society: both inthe US and the world.

Beforefully condemning Snowden for his actions it is prudent to take a stepback and assess the situation he found himself in. there is no doubtthat Snowden was in a dilemma: on one hand he needed to protect NSAand on the other hand he needed to protect innocent people pryed bythe NSA. Snowden was torn between the public privacy and the US NSAethics and confidentiality (Greenwald, 2013). He felt that theprivacy of Americans was not upheld or secured and the Intelligenceagencies pryed into personal and confidential information. This iswhat informed his breach of confidentiality and opted to become awhistleblower. He believed in the fact that the innocent publicshould not be exposed to prejudice unless as required by the law. NSApersonnel are just like other people and they can use the informationto victimize an individual because they have access to their privaterecords. The public celebrated Snowden’s action of exposing themyth behind the intelligence operations. They viewed the move as boldand courageous. Some processes and especially sophisticated onesoften cannot be accessed by ordinary citizens and his action portraysthe picture of valuing the people and not the government agencies.

How WhistleblowingProtect Public Privacy and Why Snowden was Referred to as A Hero

Everycitizen is entitled to public privacy and confidentiality unless ifhis or her acts compromise the security and well-being of the public.It is the duty of the security agencies to safeguard the public. Thestate should also reserve its authority over the people and defendtheir rights. Thus, going further and digging too much into theirprivacy is deemed wrong as it negates the right to privacy andconfidentiality provision of the constitution. Government agenciesare obliged to exercise this role carefully. More often, informationleaks through sophisticated and organized schemes designed andconcealed by investigators and may cause great harm if it goespublic. Just like the auditing process, there is a need to keenlyanalyze and scrutinize information and dig out forgeries, unrecordedtransaction, and the misrepresentations done so as expose securitymishaps that might have surpassed the control systems and may not beknown by the public. Whistle blowing is much known to be the best wayto reveal secrets that categorically pinpoint areas of weakness andprobably schemes that go against the legal and regulatory framework(Basart&amp Serra, 2013).

Further,whistle blowing forms the basis of solving ethical dilemmas inprocess engineering. Any engineer is obliged to share with relevantauthorities and the public any risks that may result from the failureand lack of due care by the authorities (Downey, Lucena &ampMitcham, 2015). According to ethical practice and principles, thepublic obligation overrides the clients or employer demands, and thisis what informed Snowden who opted to notify the public on theoperations being undertaken in the state units that violated theirprivacy. Snowden handled sensitive matters, and he was supposed tosubscribe to high levels of confidentiality and privacy from a lawpoint of view. However, since the public came first he opted toexpose illegal practices orchestrated by the government instead ofjust waiting for pay days and allocation of more tenders.

Snowdenhas been referred to as a hero in the NSA case for defending thepublic and sharing out illegal confidential information. A majorityof the employees in such units and especially intelligence may tendto keep their operations low even if they go against the constitutionand infringe on the rights of the public. The step taken by Snowdenis celebrated as heroic owing to the fact that he shed light onharmful practices undertaken by the Intelligence agencies through thePRISM program. Further, his move is can be related to a free spy anda whistleblower who was guided by his personality and the ability tojudge what is wrong and right. He preempted the practices and sharedall that happened or anticipated to occur in future. Snowden iscelebrated as bold engineer who would not sit down and enjoy largepayments while infringing on the rights of other people. However, iscelebrations are mainly experienced in the background owing to somebarriers such as injunctions by the government citing the kind ofharm that the information may cause if shared to the public. For thiscase, Snowden is being hunted and currently hosted in Russia underthe asylum protection provisions. This affirms the fact that thestate can impose some charges due to the leaking of information tothe public (Greenwald,2013).He is faced with Espionage charges committed during his contract.

Trustworthy betweenEmployee and Employer

Businessesdesire to have collaborative relationships between the employees andthe employer. The trust between the two parties defines success andtransparency in assignments as well as maintaining confidentiality.Management should also come up with mechanisms that secure thecompany by encouraging them to report any suspicious activities(Trabiaet al. 2016).A company should also pay off by safeguarding the interests of theemployees who provided information or acted as whistleblowers. Thus,management cooperation, awareness, and controls over fraud are keystrengths of whistleblowers. Employers should also sensitize on soundmanagement practices and in cases of underhand methods they shouldgive employees protection and the ability to share information. Thepractice will enhance trust between the employer and the employeesprotected by rules and regulations through sensitized awarenesspractices on the risk assessment and control environment (Harris,2008).This access confirms the appropriateness of control in handling fraudrisks. Thus, the risk and compliance department should be protectedand allocated funds that to be used to assess fraud activities thatmay be undertaken by rogue employees.

Case Arguments andthe Recommendations

Conventionally,as a contractor of the US NSA, Snowden should not have leakedinformation on the PRISM program used in assessing publicinformation. He breached the engagement contract which says that anemployee should not disclose the operations of an employee at anypoint. In as much as the PRISM program explored confidentialinformation of the public, he should not have disclosed, however muchsensitive and offensive the practice was (Downey, Lucena, &ampMitcham, 2015). The Espionage Act is in place and protects theagency. Snowden was to be charged for accessing information andleaking it to the public. His action jeopardized the agency’soperations, and it would be difficult to run secret agency activitiesdestined to safeguard the public from dishonest people and otheraggressions. His roles in the case are more of public spy, unlikewhistleblowers who often highlight a problem and the impendingproblems if the issue is not redressed.

Snowden’sactions and the government move to charge him point out that there isa need to enforce policies that protect whistleblowers. Some of themare charged from releasing unclassified information which could beresourceful to the public, for example, Snowden. Thus, the stateshould not only be quick to raise charges against them since somewhistleblowers are exposing other rots in operations such ascorruption and other fraudulent activities (Greenwald,2013).In fact, they should be supported so as to give more exposition onwhat is happening behind the curtains. The state should enact someclauses that also motivate whistleblowers and encourage more exposureof scams in state corporations and the private sector. Motivation cantake the form of a reward and package, promotion in workplace andappraisals for being honest. This should also come along withguaranteed security bearing in mind that most of the whistleblowersare exposed to risks such as murder, death threats and physicalassaults. The case of Snowden was exceptional and stands to informthe public on the role of whistleblowers. Therefore, the state shouldnot have threatened him but rather warned him for exposingunclassified information to the public. It portrayed that the stateas using the authority to suppress its citizens with information thatcontradicts the operation of the government and consequently informedthe public (Murugesan &amp Ginige, 2005).

Additionally,whistleblowers should be supported by the independent departments andforensic faculties whenever they raise a red flag. They should not beviewed as wrong, and their attempt to expose underhand activitiesshould not be intimidated. Support teams such as forensic systemsauditors, who are trained and highly qualified in the relevantaccounting systems and auditing evaluations, can be engaged tosupport in ascertaining the truth of what the whistleblowerspinpoint. Since they are well versed in the accounting dynamics anddevelopments, they are in better position to give the true and fairview of the situations. Whistleblowers don’t require any lessons,but they are guided by social ethics and real personality. Most ofthese whistleblowers are trained employees who are acquainted withthe systems and the processes their roles should then be supportedby the company and support the prevention of loss in companies fromengaging disingenuous employees. This is what makes whistleblowersdifferent since they are guided by personality and the ability tocharge what is wrong and right. Thus, a follow-up should be done soas to access the reliability of their information and compare withthe actual report which could be from forensics and can be reliedupon to come to a conclusion (Basart&amp Serra, 2013).


Whistleblowershotlines and public spies have been conventional methods used indetecting fraudulent activities such as financial improprieties inprivate, public, and government agencies as well as not-for-profitorganizations (Harriset al., 2013).As in the above case, Snowden opted to notify the public on whattranspires in state intelligence agency and the invasion on theirprivacy. This was appropriate for the public in fact, theycelebrated him as a hero for safeguarding their interests. However,he faced sharp criticism from the state citing that he committedespionage crime that jeopardized operations and led to the loss ofgovernment property. The agency stressed that the leakage ofinformation resulted in the loss of state resources. This is thereason why NSA raised charges against Snowden. To avoid such casesand subjection to espionage charges in future, one has to weigh theissue and affirm if to inform management of his or her concerns ordirectly inform the public. In the case of Snowden, he might havefound it appropriate to leak confidential information attached to thePRISM program since he was not fully attached to the NSA but ratheron contract basis as a process engineer.


Bakshi,B. R., &amp Fiksel, J. (2003). The quest for sustainability:Challenges for process systems engineering. AIChEJournal,49(6),1350-1358.

Basart,J. M., &amp Serra, M. (2013). Engineering ethics beyond engineers’ethics. Scienceand Engineering Ethics,19(1),179-187.

Dong,W., Cheng, H., &amp Zhang, Y. (2015). Raising Standards ofEngineering Ethics through Student Teams. Frontiersof Engineering Management,1(4),402-405.

Downey,G. L., Lucena, J., &amp Mitcham, C. (2015). Engineering Ethics andEngineering Identities: Crossing National Borders. In EngineeringIdentities, Epistemologies and Values(pp. 81-98). Springer International Publishing.

Greenwald,G. (2013). On the Espionage Act charges against Edward Snowden. TheGuardian.

HarrisJr, C. E. (2008). The good engineer: Giving virtue its due inengineering ethics. Scienceand Engineering Ethics,14(2),153-164.

HarrisJr, C. E., Pritchard, M. S., Rabins, M. J., James, R., &ampEnglehardt, E. (2013). Engineeringethics: Concepts and cases.Cengage Learning.

Herkert,J. R. (2000). Engineering ethics education in the USA: Content,pedagogy and curriculum. Europeanjournal of engineering education,25(4),303-313.

Herkert,J., &amp Barry, B. (2015). Engineering Ethics for a GlobalizedWorld.

Martin,M. W., &amp Schinzinger, R. (2013). Ethics in engineering.

Murugesan,S., &amp Ginige, A. (2005). Web engineering: Introduction andperspectives. Webengineering: principles and techniques,1.

Murugesan,S., &amp Ginige, A. (2005). Web engineering: Introduction andperspectives. Web engineering: principles and techniques, 1.

Naughton,J. (2013). Edward Snowden’s not the story. The fate of the Internetis. TheGuardian,28.

Schinzinger,R. (2000). Introduction to engineering ethics.

Trabia,M., Longo, J. A., &amp Wainscott, S. (2016). Training GraduateEngineering Students in Ethics.