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Executive & Military

The Defense Department Stands Alone on Target Selection

A deeply troubling provision in the Defense Department’s new Law of War Manual suggests that commanders are not legally required to minimize civilian casualties when selecting between different targets. According to the manual, even if commanders expect to gain the same or similar military advantage from striking target A as from striking target B, commanders are under no legal obligation to select the target that places the fewest civilians in harm’s way.…   continue »

Human Shields and the DOD Law of War Manual: Can’t We Improve the Debate?

In a recent post, Prof. Adil Ahmad Haque attacked the new Defense Department Law of War Manual’s position on proportionality and human shields. Evidently, Haque thinks that the manual says that the US military “may lawfully kill an unlimited number of civilians forced to serve as involuntary human shields in order to achieve even a trivial military advantage.” Of course, that is hardly the case.…   continue »

Latest UK Judgment on Post-Snowden Surveillance

On June 22, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) gave its latest judgment in the post-Snowden surveillance litigation brought by several NGOs against the UK Government and the various Security Services (collectively “the Respondents”).

Before I summarize that judgment, here is a recap of the relevant background:

  • The first hearing in these cases started back in July 2014 (see my earlier post here).
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The Defense Department’s Indefensible Position on Killing Human Shields

The Defense Department apparently thinks that it may lawfully kill an unlimited number of civilians forced to serve as involuntary human shields in order to achieve even a trivial military advantage. According to the DOD’s recently released Law of War Manual, harm to human shields, no matter how extensive, cannot render an attack unlawfully disproportionate.…   continue »

Questions That Should be Asked About Seal Team 6 and the Laws of War

This post is the latest installment of our “Monday Reflections” feature, in which a different Just Security editor examines the big stories from the previous week or looks ahead to key developments on the horizon.

On June 6, the New York Times published “The Secret History of SEAL Team 6: Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines,” a piece describing a number of operations in Afghanistan, which, if the Times’ reporting is true, raise serious concerns about the unit’s compliance with the laws of war.…   continue »

The CIA Can’t Keep Its Drone Propaganda Straight

This week, one government intelligence agency, after patiently and methodically tracking a terrorist leader for months through precise electronic surveillance, successfully targeted him for death by drone. Also this week, a government intelligence agency eliminated a terrorist leader through a drone strike without even knowing the leader was present, basing its decision to use lethal force on sophisticated analysis of militants’ patterns of life.…   continue »