Unexpected Consequences From Knock-On Effects: A Different Standard for Computer Network Operations?

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The evolution of computer network operations (CNO), and computer network attack (CNA) in particular, has vastly expanded the capabilities of today's military commander and, subsequently, expanded the targets he can now attack. This expansion of the commander's potential target list has caused some to cast doubt on the ability of the military commander to adequately apply the traditional principles of the law of war when using CNO. However, commanders need only apply the traditional law of war analysis, including the principle of distinction, the balance between military necessity and humanity, and the principle of proportionality to ensure they correctly apply this new technology during armed conflict. In other words, a commander may use CNA if he, in good faith, believes that the damage to civilian objects and injury to civilians that is expected from the attack, including potential knock-on effects, given the circumstances as known to him at the time after taking all feasible measures to ascertain those circumstances, is not excessive to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. Applying this standard is sufficient and there is no need to amend the law of war to account for this new technology.


18 Am. U. Int'l L. Rev.

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American University International Law Review