Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

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Kevin Coleman

Viewing the cyber conflict through a legal lens

With all the recent attention to the continuously growing threats in the cyber domain, discussions about cyber doctrine have increased substantially. That should be no surprise given the fluid nature of this national security threat.

While preparing for a cyber intelligence briefing, I ran across a most interesting document on the State Department's website. The document was the remarks of Harold Hongju Koh, who is identified as a legal advisor to State Department at the U.S. Cyber Command Inter-Agency Legal Conference held at Fort Meade in September 18, 2012. The document is broken down into three sections and answers 10  commonly asked questions about cyber conflict many within the context of international law and war. In addition, the document lists three unresolved questions with some insight into the issues provided. 

This is a must read. What is unclear is if this reflects the policies of the State Department or just the opinion of a legal advisor. However, either way this begins to address the true complexities of cyber operations. In a conversation about this document, one individual said, “This is beginning to look like the operational domain of our drone program.” I immediately got the drift on that comment, and it is concerning. A public account of how we operate drones included a description of a three-person team:  pilot, weapons officer and lawyer, with the lawyer giving the okay to fire. Is this where we are at or are headed in cyber conflict?

Posted by Kevin Coleman on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:55 PM


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