Legal compliance imposes on managers the heavy burden of refusing to obey a superior’s illegal order or directive. For each manager empowered to guard the legal basis of citizen trust, disobedience is preferred over illegality. Admittedly, the disobedient manager “practices civil obedience under particularly stressful conditions because he up- holds the rule of law against his lawless superior”
The principle extends to military service. During the nationally televised Iran-Contra hearings in the mid-1980s, Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), himself a wounded veteran, asserted for the nation to hear that even military orders do not take priority over law.
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An order which is unlawful not only does not need to be obeyed, but obeying such an order can result in criminal prosecution of the one who obeys it. Military courts have long held that military members are accountable for their actions even while following orders—if the order was illegal.
What about disobeying lawful orders? One view on this is expressed in the military context. The official reprimand when a U.S. Air Force major refused an order to submit to an anthrax vaccine in 2000 reads, “Your disobedience of the lawful order of a direct superior commander undermines the very essence of military good order and discipline. Your failure to live up to these standards cannot be condoned”.