A busy week: Duke Law students head to ABA Conference and more


Duke students meet for a planning session for the ABA Conference

Duke Law’s National Security Law Society and the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security will take 10 students to the American Bar Association’s 27th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law in Washington, DC, Nov 16-17.  An organizational meeting was held in my home November 7, to discuss how to best optimize the experience for the students (and have some fun as well).  My wife (Joy), formerly a deputy director of Government Relations for the Military Officers Association of America, shared some thoughts about nuances of networking in the D.C. environment.

On Thursday (Nov 16) from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. I’ll join a panel entitled: Cyber Operations and the Law of Armed Conflict.  Here is the ABA description:

This Panel will focus on the principal legal issues associated with attempting to apply current customary and codified Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) to certain cyber operations. Topics will include whether LOAC principles applicable to kinetic operations may effectively be applied to cyber activities. Topics will include: What constitutes a cyber “armed attack”? What constitutes a “proportionate”, self-defense, response to such an attack? Is it possible to accurately attribute cyber operations to an “attacking” source in a timely manner?

In order to address these issues, the Panel will examine the jus ad bellum consideration of the types of cyber activities that constitute a “cyber attack” an attack to which a State might respond by engaging in a self-defense use of force and to which the LOAC would apply. Additionally, many cyber activities conducted in the current international environment, while cyber intrusions, fall below the threshold of what might be viewed as a “cyber attack.” The Panel will address the legal issues that arise in this context and how the Law of Armed Conflict is applied.

(I expect you’ll be able to find a video of the panel online at some point.)

Even if you’re not attending the conference, you may be interested in checking out two articles of mine that the ABA selected for inclusion in the CLE conference materials.  Specifically, “Cybervandalism” or “Digital Act of War?” America’s Muddled Approach to Cyber Incidents Will Not Deter More Crises,  42 North Carolina J. of Int’l L. 989-1012 (2017) and Accountability and Autonomous Weapons: Much Ado About Nothing?, 30 Temple Int’l & Comp. L. J. 63-76 (2016).

Cyber is a hot topic everywhere these days, and there’s no question about its importance in the national security arena.  Prior to the ABA conference, I will participate on a panel sponsored by the University of Virginia’s’ Center for National Security Law.  It’s entitled Cyber Operations: Is It Possible to Apply 20th Century International Law to 21st Century Cyber Capabilities? and will be held from noon – 1:30 p.m. in Caplin Pavilion at the UVA Law School.

On Friday, Nov 17th, there is the workshop on Fighting at the Legal Boundaries: Controlling the Use of Force in Contemporary Conflict by Kenneth Watkin, sponsored by the Georgetown Law Center, Center of the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law, Center on National Security and the Law, Georgetown Law Center, and Human Rights First.  I’m genuinely honored to be part of this very prestigious event (and my friend Bill Banks at Syracuse Law has helpfully listed the participants here).

Events like these are worthwhile because they allow discussion around key issues affecting our country today.  While these programs, and others like them, share information and allow for networking, they also encourage civil discourse and discussion.  Through points and counterpoints, the meetings promote creative thinking on how to identify and address problems faced by our nation.  It takes a village of many to create a new path in the ever changing world of national security.


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