Tag Archives: Remote Targeting

Command Responsibility: A Model for Defining Meaningful Human Control

In the relatively near future, the United States and other countries are likely to develop varying levels of artificial intelligence (AI) and integrate it into autonomous weapons. There are significant voices, spearheaded by The Campaign to Ban Killer Robots, advocating for a preemptive ban on these weapons.

The opponents of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) argue that it is unethical to allow a machine to decide when to kill and that AI will never be able to adhere to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) obligations. These opposition campaigns have led to discussions in the international community about developing a legal framework for LAWS. While a requirement for meaningful human control (MHC) has gained traction within certain UN bodies, the United States has objected to the use of the standard, arguing that such an ambiguous standard would further obscure the challenges posed by LAWS.

Maj. Matthew Miller’s article seeks to provide a solution to the ambiguity of MHC and provide a workable definition of the standard. Miller reviews the ways humans can interact with autonomous systems, examining the ways humans are placed in a system’s decision loop, and relevant provisions of IHL to LAWS. Miller ultimately uses the lens of command responsibility to demonstrate how MHC can be applied to the design and use of LAWS, ultimately concluding that this method can address concerns that the use of LAWS will prevent accountability for IHL violations.

Dawn of the Intercontinental Sniper: The Drone’s Cascading Contribution to the Modern Battlefield’s Complexity

Stephen L. Schooner and Nathaniel E. Castellano review Richard Whittle’s Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution. The authors highlight the cast of quirky characters that drive the narrative element of Whittle’s book while recounting the ethical dilemmas, national security issues, and bureaucratic challenges that attend one of the nation’s most successful weapons development programs. The authors conclude with an enthusiastic endorsement of the book regardless of the reader’s expertise in military affairs.

The Evolution of Law and Policy for CIA Targeted Killing

Just suppose. The Attorney General, lanky as the President, walks into the Oval Office to join a meeting. The top law enforcement officer is slumped down with apparent bad news. He avoids eye contact with the Commander-in-Chief. “Mr. President,” he says looking down at the coffee table, “the ACLU believes our drone program is illegal.” Silence. (The President and the Attorney General both, of course, maintain links to the human rights community, an important part of their political base.) The President’s other advisers fidget and twitch. The Vice President adjusts the
coaster under his drink. Beads of perspiration form on some faces. The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense look for the exit; the law is not their thing.

The President is cool. “Could you be more specific,” he says, tapping his finger on a black briefing book.

The Attorney General looks up from the table. “The drone strikes in Pakistan. Remember, the program Leon was not supposed to talk about with the media.”

The President smiles. “Yes, I know that. But which laws are they talking about?”

After an awkward pause, the President, himself a highly sophisticated lawyer, suggests, “Let’s talk this through some more.” The Attorney General agrees. After the lawyer-to-lawyer exchange, the other advisers relax. Maybe the CIA drone strikes are not illegal after all. Or maybe the apparent illegality does not matter that much. The Vice President takes a sip of his drink. And the President asks for tea and coffee to be served. No one wants to leave the room after all. They open their briefing books instead.

This scenario emphasizes a simple point: President Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate, a former teacher of constitutional law at the University of Chicago and a Nobel Peace Laureate, must believe that he has the authority to order the CIA to fire missiles from drones to kill suspected terrorists. Not everyone agrees with him, though.