Category Archives: Vol. 7 No. 3

Engaging the Big Issues | Thought-leaders from throughout the national security law community are featured in Vol. 7 No. 3: Herb Lin discusses classification, Spike Bowman reviews “Duty,” Michael Schmitt analyzes the “law of targeting,” and Norm Abrams addresses GITMO.

Setting the Record Straight: An In-Depth Review of “Duty” by Robert Gates

Bowman “sets the record straight” with his review of Bob Gates’ new book, Duty. He states that Duty is not a “tell all,” but rather a highly personal and almost daily reflection of what Gates thought and experienced during his time as US Secretary of Defense. Ultimately, Bowman concludes that while the book is very readable, it is primarily a catharsis with little to no commentary on national security or international law.

A Proposal to Reduce Government Overclassification of Information Related to National Security

Lin explores the phenomenon of overclassification in American society and proposes a classification cost metric in order to create serious economic incentives to reduce classification. The metric would provide decision makers with a way to judge the relative importance of different classified documents and allow officials to classify documents on a more objective scale. The author relates a number of questions and answers relating to the underlying approach, the mechanics, budget and finance, and law and policy, thereby parsing out the strengths and weaknesses of his proposal.

Under the Radar: NSA’s Efforts to Secure Private-Sector Telecommunications Infrastructure

Landau explains the National Security Agency’s little-known function of providing communications security (COMSEC) to private companies, which has involved an improvement of security and privacy of the domestic communications infrastructure. She examines the history of the program and how the NSA’s behavior towards the private sector has shifted since the 1950’s, as well as the rationale behind these radical changes. Ultimately, Landau argues that providing national security tools to the private sector is outside the mission of the NSA and should be done by an entity more in sync with the private sector and international community.

“On Target”: Precision & Balance in the Contemporary Law of Targeting

Schmitt and Widmar explore the law of targeting within international humanitarian law (IHL) and its application to international and non-international armed conflict. The article examines the “five elements” of a target operation, including the target, the weapon used, the execution of the attack, possible collateral damage and incidental injury, and location of the strike. The authors suggest that a better understanding of these norms can help international lawyers, policymakers, and operators avoid violations of international law by creating appropriate and well-known boundaries for targeting operations.

Of Guns & Grotius

Kellman discusses the breakthroughs in the development of explosive weapons since the 13th century. He then analyzes the evolution of theories on the international law of war as expounded by Grotius, Gentili, and Vatel. He argues that these scholars should have instead developed an international law of peace; he hypothesizes what the foundation of law would have looked like and presents a contemporary alternative vision to the law of war accordingly.