The U.S. private sector is vulnerable in cyberspace. In response, an increasingly mainstream national security argument calls for amending U.S. law to permit private sector actors to employ so-called “active defense” measures—a group of loosely-defined technical measures that fall on a spectrum between passive firewalls (clearly legal) and offensive counterattacks (clearly illegal). Proponents argue that such measures could slow, identify, or even deter offenders in cyberspace; provide unclassified evidence for use in civil cases; or support a government response. Critics warn of careless or incompetent actors and second-order effects—of companies starting a war. Strikingly, the U.S. debate over active defense measures is missing a comparative view of the rest of the world. There are no answers to straightforward descriptive questions, such as, “are active defense measures illegal (or otherwise constrained) in other countries?”This Article is the first sizable study to answer some of those basic comparative questions. It surveys the laws of twenty countries, (1) finding a remarkable uniformity of approaches that, while not yet rising to the standard of an international norm or custom, is closer than most assume and (2) concluding that even if Congress relaxes U.S. law to permit certain private sector active defense measures, laws around the world will continue to constrain private sector activity.
The phenomenon of battlefield detention by non-state groups is increasingly common and has been recently brought into focus by events in Syria where, as part of the international effort to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”), the United States and coalition partners have worked “by, with, and through” a non-state armed group called the Syrian Democratic Forces (“SDF”). That successful partnership has resulted in significant battlefield victories—and the resultant detention by SDF of more than 2,000 ISIS foreign fighters. A detention conundrum has, however, been created by the modern reliance by states on non-state actors for counterterrorism operations, and their simultaneous reluctance to accept the return of terrorists captured and detained by non-state actors in the course of those operations. Specifically, SDF partners have signaled that they do not have the capacity or authority for the continued detention of the foreign terrorist fighters captured in the course of the successful counter-ISIS effort. Moreover, the countries of origin of these captured terrorists are reluctant to accept their return, citing to legal obstacles to repatriation. The inability of non-state partners to detain foreign fighters indefinitely, coupled with the refusal of countries to repatriate their nationals, risks the release of dangerous terrorists. To assist in navigating this complex situation, this Article illuminates the international and comparative legal issues associated with the detention of terrorists by non-state armed groups and clarifies the legal issues relating to the repatriation of detained foreign terrorist fighters by the SDF in Syria. Through this analysis, the Article ultimately demonstrates that international law and the domestic law of many international partners generally permits the lawful transfer of foreign fighters from the custody of a non-state entity to government authorities for prosecution, rehabilitation, or other appropriate means of preventing their return to terrorism.
On June 1, 2018, Razan Al-Najjar, a twenty-one-year-old Palestinian paramedic, was killed by Israeli fire during demonstrations along the Israel-Gaza border. Her death triggered intense debates about whether Israeli soldiers intentionally targeted her, in violation of international law. Despite the many fact-finding efforts, the facts are not settled, the legal debates linger, and meaningful accountability seems further away than ever. This episode highlights the growing focus of wartime investigations on legal truth. Furthermore, it suggests that, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, framing facts in legal terms triggers backlash, anger, and denial. In other words, using legal terminology to frame public perception of wartime events is ineffective for dispute resolution. This Article explores this general claim employing interdisciplinary theories and methods using the 2018 Gaza border demonstrations as an illustrative example. It then tests these hypotheses with a 2017 survey experiment fielded in Israel with a representative sample of 2,000 Jewish-Israeli citizens. This experimental data provides systematic evidence of the effect legal labels have on people’s beliefs about contested wartime actions committed by their fellow nationals. The findings demonstrate that discussing events using common legal labels, such as “war crimes,” significantly decreases Jewish-Israelis’ willingness to believe information about Palestinian casualties and fails to stimulate feelings of empathy toward the victims. Jewish-Israelis tend to reject facts described using war crimes terminology and are more likely to feel anger and resentment than guilt or shame. These findings contribute to the broader debate about the role played by international law during armed conflicts, suggesting that, rather than serving as an educational and informative tool, it is cynically perceived as a political tool.
This Article explores the intersection of International Criminal Law and domestic legal systems in the counterterrorism arena, with a particular focus on the United Nations Security Council’s promulgation of relevant legal obligations. This account critically examines the ways in which ICL, and international law more broadly, can address terrorism, and then investigates the viability of expanding the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction to encompass crimes of terrorism. In analyzing ground-breaking UNSC resolutions imposing wide-ranging counterterrorism duties on states, I shed light on that organ’s “quasi-legislative” exercise of its powers and the implications for the implementation of those obligations in domestic law. Ultimately, I argue that the global counterterrorism campaign can only be pursued meaningfully through what I term a “transnational network of criminal and civil law.” This system is based on giving states the power to write and enforce their own counterterrorism laws under a UNSC mandate.
Photo by Astrid Riecken (CC BY 2.0)