Beyond State-Centrism: International Law and Non-State Actors in Cyberspace

21 Journal of Conflict and Security Law 1-17 (2016)

17 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2016 Last revised: 15 Aug 2016

See all articles by Michael N. Schmitt

Michael N. Schmitt

Naval War College - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law; University of Exeter Law School; Lieber Institute, USMA at West Point

Sean Watts

Creighton University School of Law

Date Written: March 21, 2016

Abstract

Classically, States and non-State actors were differentiated not only by disparities in legal status but also by significant imbalances in resources and capabilities. Not surprisingly, international law developed a State-centric bias to account for these imbalances. Cyberspace and cyber operations, however, have closed a number of formerly significant gaps between States’ and non-State actors’ abilities to compromise international peace and security. In fact, some non-State actors now match, if not exceed, the cyber capabilities of many States in this respect. Where public international law had long proved chiefly relevant to States’ interactions with other States, cyber operations by non-State actors increase the frequency with which public international law provides relevant and binding legal rules. This article surveys existing public international law for norms relevant to the cyber interactions of cyber-empowered States and non-State actors. Specifically, the article illustrates how the principles of sovereignty, State responsibility and the jus ad bellum are particularly relevant to States engaged in struggles with non-State actors for security and supremacy in cyberspace.

Keywords: cyber, non-state, sovereignty, state responsibility, jus ad bellum, self-defense, self-defence

Suggested Citation

Schmitt, Michael N. and Watts, Sean, Beyond State-Centrism: International Law and Non-State Actors in Cyberspace (March 21, 2016). 21 Journal of Conflict and Security Law 1-17 (2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2752683

Michael N. Schmitt (Contact Author)

Naval War College - Stockton Center for the Study of International Law ( email )

686 Cushing Road
Newport, RI 02841
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.usnwc.edu/Academics/Faculty/Michael-Schmitt.aspx

University of Exeter Law School ( email )

Streatham Court
University of Exeter
Exeter, EX4 4QJ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/law/staff/mschmitt/

Lieber Institute, USMA at West Point ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States

Sean Watts

Creighton University School of Law ( email )

2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
United States

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