Past Events

MAY 18 - 19, 2012

The Ethics of Secrecy and the Rule of Law Conference

imageRecent events have put governmental secrecy in the news and enhanced the scrutiny of classification practices. During the Bush Administration, for example, a series of secret legal memoranda authorized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques against terror suspects. These formed a key component of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy. With the Obama Administration, clandestine legal memoranda have sought to justify the use of targeted killing, and one particularly controversial memo authorized the killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Alawki. The contents of the latter have not been made public, though pressure is mounting for its release. Even the criteria by which a target is placed on the targeted killing list (the “Joint Prioritized Effects List” (JPEL)) remain confidential.

With the pressures of the ongoing War on Terror, major policies and legal questions of national importance have become less and less open to public view. The increase in secrecy is not without costs, as there appears to be a tradeoff between the need for effective security and the value of transparency. On the one hand, as Immanuel Kant wrote, “every claim to right must have this capacity for publicity.” John Rawls has echoed this same sentiment in requiring publicity as a condition of the social contract. On the other hand, effective national security crucially depends on the State’s ability to control the flow of information. This Roundtable will consider whether the expanding use of secrecy in governmental practices is desirable, and, most crucially, whether it is consistent with rule of law values.
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APRIL 30, 2012

Targeted Killing: Law and Morality in an Asymmetric World Book Celebration

image5:30 p.m. | Silverman 245A/Levy Conference Center

“Targeted Killings: Law and Morality in an Asymmetric World” is an interdisciplinary compilation of essays that brings together articles each dealing with the difficult moral and legal issues surrounding the use of targeted killing. The publication, which has been released on the British market, and soon to be released in the United States, has already garnered significant attention and acclaim. With endorsements from Professors Philip Alston and David Luban, and journalist Scott Horton, the volume is the most wide-ranging and thorough treatment of the debate surrounding targeted killing to date. Admiral John Hutson, JAGC, USN (Ret), Dean Emeritus University of New Hampshire School of Law will give a keynote address as part of the celebration event. 

November 30, 2011

Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Targeted Killing

4:30 p.m. | Silverman 245A

imageThe use of targeted killing has become a favored tool in the War on Terror. The killing of Osama Bin Laden further solidified support for the practice, given its efficiency and swift success. Since Bin Laden, several high profile targeted killings have further increased public attention to such operations. With the increased public scrutiny has come a growing sentiment that the moral and legal justifications for targeted killing have not been sufficiently explored. To what extent, for example, do we have an obligation to attempt to capture before killing terror suspects? Are some individuals on the target list civilians rather than combatants or “unlawful combatants”? Are there special problems associated with targeting American citizens, such as al-Awlaki? If killing al-Awlaki was legitimate, would the same sort of operation be permissible on U.S. soil? This panel will seek to explore the ethical and legal issues surrounding recent uses of targeted killing.

Moderator: Claire Finkelstein Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania School of Law
Jens Ohlin Associate Professor of Law, Cornell University
Kevin Govern Associate Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law
Daphne Eviatar Senior Associate, Law and Security Program, Human Rights First
Ambassador Thomas Graham Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Non-Proliferation, and Disarmament, 1994-1997

Listen to the panel:

(Moderated by Claire Finkelstein)

Read more about the panel

APRIL 15 - 16, 2011

Co-sponsored by: Jean beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics of Georgia State

Using Targeted Killing to Fight the War on Terror: Philosophical, Moral and Legal Challenges

imageThe Obama administration has authorized the CIA to target and kill Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical Muslim cleric believed to have ties to al-Qaeda, on the ground that he helped to orchestrate attacks against the United States. The authorization raises the interesting question of who is a legitimate target of such military actions. In particular, it is arguably difficult to think of al-Aulaqi as a belligerent against the U.S., as he is himself an American citizen. Al-Aulaqi, however, is not the only person whose identification as a legitimate target raises moral and legal complications. The U.S. and other governments have been targeting and killing many others as part of both the fight against Islamic terrorists and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the widespread use of this technique raises important questions in just war theory. Notable as well is the fact that the U.S. has been targeting suspected militants with unmanned aerial drones, sophisticated military planes controlled remotely from distant lands.

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