New Tools, New Rules: International Law and Information Operations
THE MESSAGE OF WAR: INFORMATION, INFLUENCE AND PERCEPTION IN ARMED CONFLICT, G. David and T. McKeldin, eds., 2008
19 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2007
For more than a decade, military thinkers have debated the impact of "information operations" (IO) on armed conflict. Responding to the possibilities (and vulnerabilities) inherent in the interconnectivity of the Internet and other information networks, IO constitutes a new form of warfare. IO uses methods such as computer network attacks or psychological operations to influence, disrupt, corrupt, usurp and defend information systems and the infrastructure they support. As militaries work through what IO can do, however, they must also wrestle with when and how they can employ it - i.e., the question of law's application to IO. Since computer networks and modern information systems constitute new tools (and new targets) for military activities, international law currently regulates them only by analogy, and even then, in a patchwork fashion. Most states and scholars appear content with this situation, denying any need to develop IO-specific rules. This short essay challenges that conventional wisdom. Even as it applies to IO, the existing legal framework suffers from several, near-fatal conditions: uncertainty (i.e., militaries lack a clear picture of how to translate existing rules into the IO environment); complexity (i.e., overlapping legal regimes threaten to overwhelm military commanders seeking to apply IO); and insufficiency (i.e., existing rules fail to address basic challenges of modern conflicts with non-state actors). This situation creates disincentives for militaries to use IO, notwithstanding IO's potential to achieve military and political objectives with less harm than conventional bombs or missiles. To redress these deficiencies, I propose states adopt an international law for information operations, or "ILIO." By adopting an ILIO, states could alleviate the uncertainty and complexity of the status quo, reduce transaction costs for states fighting global terror, and lessen the collateral costs of armed conflict itself.
Keywords: international law, international humanitarian law, law of war, information operations, information warfare, cyberwar, cyberterror, cybercrime, computer network attacks, psychological operations, jus ad bellum, jus in bello, civilian distinction, perfidy, use of force
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K33, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation