The Spy Who Came in from the Cold War: Intelligence and International Law

60 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2007

See all articles by Simon Chesterman

Simon Chesterman

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law


International law has traditionally had little to say on the subject of intelligence — in large part because outraged rhetoric has long been contradicted by widespread practice. This article surveys efforts to regulate the collection of intelligence in international law before turning to more recent checks on the manner in which intelligence has been invoked in international organizations. Long a "dirty word" within the United Nations, intelligence is now being used to justify military strikes, target financial sanctions, and indict war criminals. While there is little prospect for limiting collection of intelligence beyond activities that can be physically intercepted or prevented, increasing recourse to intelligence in multilateral forums is beginning to impose procedural constraints on the purposes for which that intelligence may be employed.

Keywords: Intelligence, International Law, United Nations, Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Sanctions, International Criminal Law

Suggested Citation

Chesterman, Simon, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold War: Intelligence and International Law. Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 27, 2006. Available at SSRN:

Simon Chesterman (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776


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