SNT Really Makes Reality:Technological Innovation, Non-Obvious Warfare and the Challenges to International Law

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: War Studies

Abstract

This project investigates the characteristics of both technological and social change in the context of obvious and non-obvious warfare in the 21st century and the challenge such change presents to existing international law.



The character of warfare has been changing for over two decades. Received images of conventional warfare, based on highly organised and trained forces in the Second World War, have become outmoded. Both the actors in contemporary warfare and changing technological capabilities fundamentally challenge existing international law on the use of armed force involving some degree of kinetic force - that is, energy transfer through blast and fragmentation. New technical means, including cyber-technology, space warfare, electronic warfare, drone warfare, modes of sabotage, and weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, radiological, chemical or biological (or synthetic biological) and their potential application and exploitation cannot easily be accommodated within the existing legal framework, if at all. Similarly, while states remain central, there is no war, obvious or non-obvious, which does not involve non-state actors, (including Private Military Security Companies, coalitions and insurgents).



The project investigates the legal and ethical dimensions of scientific and technical innovation, identifying the range of scientific and technical innovations that present the greatest challenges in terms of international humanitarian and international human rights law in both obvious and non-obvious warfare.


Planned Impact

This research will be of benefit to broad constituencies of interest, both academic and practitioner, in both public and private spheres.

Academic: the research will be of vital interest to all engaged in research on both the changing character of warfare and the conduct of armed forces operations, at operational, strategic and policy levels; and it will be of essential interest to all engaged in research on the laws of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and the ethics of war and international relations.

Practitioner: the research will be of vital interest to all engaged in conduct of armed forces operations (at operational, strategic and policy levels) in the context of the changing character of warfare, as well as other government departments, bodies and agencies engaged in aspects of peace, security and conflict, both in terms of the knowledge and understanding generated in relation to the use of technologically innovative means, but also, crucially, to the legal idiom in which they operate; it will be of essential interest to those working in public service (whether at national-government or international-international organisation/tribunal levels) as lawyers, dealing with issues of the laws of armed conflict, international humanitarian law and national and international human rights law; it will also be of strong interest to those working privately, but engaging with issues of international and non-international armed conflict in both municipal-national and international jurisdictions.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description 1. The first and most important research achievement was to bring together scientific and technological experts with experts in international law and international security to identify and critically to reflect on the chief characteristics of key technological and scientific innovations that have potential or actual application in the context of obvious and non-obvious warfare. These included: forms of cyber-attacks and cyber-warfare; types and uses of data; autonomous and semi-autonomous systems, including 'drones'; and chemical and biological weapons (including potential use of synthetic biology). The methodology of bringing together experts in different fields, commissioning papers from them, as well as critical written comments and significant discussion of the papers provided the mechanism by which different disciplinary and practical areas of activity could be integrated. This made the key research finding from the project (see below) possible.
2. The key research outcome is to have identified the areas where technological innovation present challenges to law and policy are, mutatis mutandis, surmountable, and those where the challenges to law and policy are more fundamental. A key finding, therefore is that existing law can accommodate technological and scientific innovation as it applies to the conduct of war - and, in the absence of specific new law, existing law should be applied as best it can. However, ambiguities will need to be resolved. In certain cases, however, the immensely difficult challenge of securing new international legislation might be required.
3.The emergence of synthetic biology presents new challenges for international law, particularly, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). At a minimum, clarification of existing law may be necessary. Although the BWC is often perceived to present a blanket ban on all biological agents not for prophylactic or protective use, the position is more ambiguous and gives rise to new questions in an era of synthetic biology. Semantically, genetic or genome technology, is neither bacteriological nor poisonous, and, while in some circumstances, genetic manipulation might cause death, theoretically, other effects might not be classified as 'disease.' For the time being, bacteriological agents remain the likely transmission mechanism for any genetic modulation - and thus, broadly subject to a ban on their use (although the bacteriological agents would not be causing the harm themselves - another area of possible interpretive ambiguity). However, other means of delivery may be possible but outside the literal scope of the Convention, as things stand. While the broad intent to cover 'other biological agents' in the Biological Weapons Convention, should apply to synthetic biological capabilities, this needs to be made absolutely clear in the Convention's review conference process - the 8th Review Conference is set for late 2016.
4. The greatest challenges - and fears - for practitioners relate to the prospects of synthetic-biological weapons, which could target genetic markers and affect genetic make-up. The prospect of facing biological agents that could alter their very internal make-up had a more profoundly disturbing psychological impact generates more fear even than conventional combat. Some soldiers expressed the view that any such capability should be subject to a comprehensive ban. However, the theoretical potential utility of some genome capabilities was regarded more positively as something military practitioners might want.
Exploitation Route 1. It is clear that considerable scope remains for further integration, in particular, for jointly conducted and written synthetic research across the boundaries of the three main strands feeding into the research.
2. The research we were able to conduct regarding the five permanent members of the Security Council - Russia, China, France, the USA and the UK - was mostly with regard to one aspect of technological innovation (cyber security) and, even regarding that aspect, there is considerable scope for further research. The same applies to the research we were able to conduct regarding different strands of Islamic thought on the ethics and legality of technological innovation and its use in weapons. There was considerable FCO interest in this research and there is scope for complete research projects to investigate the thinking of these states and actors across the full nexus of warfare-technology-law issues, as well as to extend it to a range of other research subjects, most notably rising and emerging powers.
3. It is clear from the engagement between the project team, DSTL and both the FCO and the MOD that there may be scope for the findings to influence the UK Government's Strategic Security and Defence Review (SDSR). Indeed, project research has already been used as part of DSTL's preparatory work for the 2016 SDSR. Each of the projects three main aspects - non-obvious warfare, technological innovation and international law - will be relevant in this context and, most of all, the interaction of the three will be an important element of the review. We will continue engagement with these different partners and organisations with a view to maximising the benefit to usefulness of the research to them.
4. The research findings have some relevance for international diplomatic and legal discussions. In particular, research findings may be of benefit in discussions regarding cyber security at the United Nations and we will continue discussions already begun with the UK Ambassador to the UN and members of the mission he leads to see if and how this might be the case. Similarly, research findings relating to synthetic biology have relevance to the Biological Weapons Review Conference and we will be exploring if and how this might be the case through contacts with the conference. Finally, both autonomy and robotics, and 'big data' and surveillance, remain highly contested issues in the public sphere and we anticipate that our research findings may well have utility in those debates.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/warstudies/research/groups/wc/snt.aspx
 
Description Research was presented to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) as part of its 'Impact of Technology Change Project.' The project provided the ethical contribution to the project and was used in an influential paper supporting DSTL's work for the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Brunei/ASEAN Civil-Military Training
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Defence Concepts and Doctrine Centre, MoD
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Defence Intelligence Staff Training
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description FCO
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description UK SDSR
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
 
Description 2013 Executive Development Programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research fed into week of lectures on science, security and public policy given to senior ASEAN military/civil servants as part of a three month leadership programme offered by Brunei's Ministry of Defence.

Audience members reported that the delivered presentations, activities and discussions helped them to understand security & defence issues facing their respective countries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description ASIL Working Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Ideas of Sovereignty Working Group, intended to understand international law in a changing security environment, presentation 'Between War and Peace: the Application of Human Rights to Armed Conflict and the Foundations of International Law', Human Rights Insitute Columbia University New York. Approximately 50 legal practitioners, including from government/policy departments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Additive Manufacturing/DSTL Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact I facilitated meetings for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory between technical experts in additive manufacturing at the Royal College of Art, as well as robotics experts at King's College London for DSTL input on technology for the 2015 Strategic Defence & Security Review

The DSTL representative used the engagement with RCA and KCL academics to inform contribution to the 2015 SDSR on additive manufacturing and technology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Armed Forces & Society Seminar, Bristol 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to the UK's leading military sociology seminar, on Law and the British Armed Forces, highlighting the particular challenges of autonomy and non-obvious warfare for the British Armed Forces

I connected with personnel from the Defence Concepts & Doctrine Centre, leading to an ongoing research link with them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/global-insecurities/news/2013/276.html
 
Description DSTL Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact The seminar/workshop was at the request of DSTL; DSTL and King's presented; DSTL incorporated outcomes/King's work fed into an 'influential' preparatory paper supporting the UK Government Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015. The audience for this work, indirectly will be 500+ - UK Government/the UK.

Results fed 'into the influential paper as part of the work supporting SDSR 2015' (quoted from DSTL-ESRC communication, shared by DSTL with King's.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description FCO Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Briefing on Customary International law and the Just ad Bellum' organised by the FCO at Oxford University with the aim of informing the International Law Commission's work on the Identificatin of Customary International Law.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Foreign & Commonwealth Office Academic Seminar: Cyber, National Security and International Law Current Challenges for Practitioners 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation, Cyber and Ambiguous Warfare, to a seminar attended by mixture of senior international humanitarian law experts and diplomats from the US and European Union.


I made a number of contacts with senior figures in international law and international humanitarian law.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description G8 Non-Proliferation Directors' Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Horizon scanning seminar, organised by FCO for the G8 non-proliferation polcy directors and their teams. Three presentations: one on 'Technological Change, Weapons and the Law'; one on 'Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Autonomy and International Law' and 'Bio-Security and International Law'. The aim was to appriase policymakers of legal issues surrounding technological change and led to requests for further engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description ISA Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk resulted in discussion and invitation to submit written article for consideration by journal.

Invitation to submit article
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description International Intelligence Director's Course, 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on the core research themes of law, technology and warfare given to course of 30 foreign/allied 1-2* military intelligence leaders. Course run by Defence Intelligence, Ministry of Defence.

Officers reported that the talk and subsequent discussion clarified a number of issues.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description International Intelligence Director's Course, 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on the core research themes of law, technology and warfare given to course of 30 foreign/allied 1-2* military intelligence leaders. Course run by Defence Intelligence, Ministry of Defence

A number of the audience expressed an interest in the issues highlighted by the research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description International Law Association, British Branch Conference 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a presentation drawn from the work of the project, Autonomous Weapons: Agency and State Obligations, as part of a panel on the legal aspects of the project chaired by Professor Gow.

I was invited to give the paper to a legal practitioner audience at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Marine Autonomous Systems Conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation to 200 person industry conference attended by senior defence industry executives, leading engineers and senior international navy delegates at QinetiQ's Haslar site in Portsmouth. The presentation, The 'drone debate' and Autonomy, drew upon the project's research into legal norm entrepreneurship by NGOs.

I made a number of connections with other military practitioners, and the presentation was well received by some of the private sector representatives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.maritimeindustries.org/Events/Maritime-Autonomous-Systems-Conference/19375
 
Description Research paper for the Ministry of Defence's Development Concepts & Doctrine Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Working with Dr Andrew Mumford from the University of Nottingham to produce a paper on conceptual definitions of warfare to inform the Ministry of Defence's contribution to the 2015 Strategic Defence & Security Review, which will guide the UK's approach to international security and defence for a five year period.

After submission, DCDC expressed an interest in forming an ongoing relationship to continue using our academic research to inform doctrine and policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014