Sean Watts, Tallinn Manual contributor, on cyber & LOAC: ABA NatSec conference

Again, I had the opportunity to attend the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security’s 22nd Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law in Washington, D.C.  The conference wrapped up today, and was a great event.  Fish for lunch though?  C’mon Ritz Carlton, you’re better than that.

Anyways, the fifth panel of the conference was “The Law of Armed Conflict: Past, Present and Future.”  The panel was quite distinguished, and I don’t mean to marginalize their contributions, but I want to focus on comments from Sean Watts, Associate Professor of Law at Creighton University School of Law.  More importantly, Mr. Watts participated in the drafting of the Tallinn Manual on International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare.  His comments pertained to cyberwar under LOAC and the difficulties behind drafting the Tallinn Manual.

In particular, Mr. Watts noted three questions the Tallinn Manual had difficulty in answering:

  1. It’s unclear as to how relevant LOAC’s principles of targeting are to cyber.  Further, there is no consensus on the meaning of an (armed) attack.  An attack that causes a mere disruption of service (like a DDOS attack) probably doesn’t meet that threshold.  Mr. Watts suggested that destruction of data gets us closer, though.
  2. The status of people that carry out cyberattacks is uncertain.  He was interested in status for three reasons: treatment after capture, targeting, and consequences of hostilities.
  3. Finally, Mr. Watts questioned the link between perfidy and cyberattack.  Perfidy is a LOAC principle that you can’t come to your enemy under a flag of surrender and then turn your weapon on them.  Perfidy hinges on deception, and in the cyber context, it’s relevant when you “let something in” that otherwise appears benign.  Mr. Watts thought that the drafters of the Manual missed something with regard to perfidy.  How do you limit it?  He suggested notions of honor, even chivalry.

In closing, Mr. Watts argued that a cyber treaty isn’t likely.  Nevertheless, cyber may reinvigorate our interest in LOAC principles.

Again, this my incomplete paraphrase of Mr. Watts’ talk at the ABA conference.  Again, a great talk.  And again, all credit to the ABA and Mr. Watts.

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One Response to “Sean Watts, Tallinn Manual contributor, on cyber & LOAC: ABA NatSec conference”

  1. […] Affairs for the Department of Defense, described the past and current state of LOAC, respectively. Sean Watts, Associate Professor of Law at Creighton University School of Law, offered an interesting… Here, however, I want to focus on the contributions of Laurie Blank, Professor of Law and Director […]

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic.Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

is 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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