Cyberspace Intervention Law and Evolving Views

I’m putting two opinion pieces by the esteemed Michael Adams together and getting an odd result.

While reflecting on “detailed analysis that is being conducted at USCYBERCOM, across agencies and at events like the Cyber Command legal conference”, Michael opines that the US has taken no position on whether it would come to the aid of a victim, or side with an aggressor, when confronted with cyberattack.

The U.S. asserts that extant international law, to include International Humanitarian Law (IHL) applies to cyberspace, but it has yet to offer definitive guidance on what cyberattacks, short of those causing obvious large scale kinetic destruction, constitute a prohibited use of force or invoke the LOAC. While the Tallinn Manual 2.0 may be the most comprehensive treatise on the applicability of international law to cyberspace thus far, it was developed without the official participation of, and has not been sanctioned by, States. The U.S. Government, for example, has taken no official position on the views set forth in the Manual.

Meanwhile, an earlier opine tells us taking action with fire-and-forget remote missiles hitting a far away target while not trying to “use the law as a shield”…deserves something akin to his respect:

…from the perspective of a lawyer who has advised the highest levels of military and civilian officials on literally thousands of military operations, there is something to be said for a client that refuses to use the law as a shield for inaction and that willingly acknowledges that other factors weighed most heavily on his or her decisions.

Maybe I’m reading too much into the theme across work here, but I get a sense if the aggressor is far enough removed from accountability, let alone retaliation, then long-distance attack wouldn’t bring an urge to bother with any shields including the law. This surely is the attraction to “swivel-chair” aggressors of using missiles and keyboards. Perception of their inaction in a lawyer’s eye is erased simply by pushing a button even when a chance of success is as remote as their targets.

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