Freedom from coercion
The research is organised in this context in a war and backed by an occupying military power, can research participants give truly uncoerced consent to participate?
The American Anthropological Association issued a statement condemning the Human Terrain System for apparent violations of the AAA code of ethics:
"The U.S. military's HTS project places anthropologists, as contractors with the U.S. military, in settings of war, for the purpose of collecting cultural and social data for the U.S. military. The ethical concerns raised by these activities include the following:
1). As military contractors working in settings of war, HTS anthropologists work in situations where it will not always be possible for them to distinguish themselves from military personnel and identify themselves as anthropologists. This places a significant constraint on their ability to fulfil their ethical responsibility as anthropologists to disclose who they are and what they are doing.
2). HTS anthropologists are charged with responsibility for negotiating relations among a number of groups, including both local populations and the U.S. military units that employ them and in which they are embedded. Consequently, HTS anthropologists may have responsibilities to their U.S. military units in war zones that conflict with their obligations to the persons they study or consult, specifically the obligation, stipulated in the AAA Code of Ethics, to do no harm to those they study (section III, A, 1)
3). HTS anthropologists work in a war zone under conditions that make it difficult for those they communicate with to give "informed consent" without coercion, or for this consent to be taken at face value or freely refused. As a result, "voluntary informed consent" (as stipulated by the AAA Code of Ethics, Section III, A, 4) is compromised.
4). As members of HTS teams, anthropologists provide information and counsel to U.S. military field commanders. This poses a risk that information provided by HTS anthropologists could be used to make decisions about identifying and selecting specific populations as targets of U.S. military operations either in the short or long term. Any such use of fieldwork-derived information would violate the stipulations in the AAA Code of Ethics that those studied not be harmed (section III, A1).
An additional concern was that it would have repercussions for other anthropologists not connected to the project. Anthropologists reported being mistaken as CIA agents and that this, and general mistrust of them would worsen as news about this project spread. They argued this contravened the AAA Code of Ethics which states "Anthropological researchers should do all they can to preserve opportunities for future fieldworkers to follow them in the field."