So the first article on this manual that I saw can be found here. It states that lawyers, professors, and officers from NATO countries have gotten together to write the new rules of cyber warfare and that it is currently being review by NATO as to whether it should be adopted as policy. Curious, I searched for more articles on the manual, since it hasn’t been published and, on top of that, is over 200 pages long. I found a great article on RT News that described several of the details very well.
I found this line very troubling: “But while civilians cannot be lawfully targeted with such an attack, the experts write, persons unaligned to a military can still be considered fair game for assault — with cyber weapons or otherwise—if they pose a threat.” I may be jumping to conclusions here, but if hackers are now considered terrorists, then would this give the US government the ability to use drones to kill Americans? After all, the only excuse that the government seems to give on why we’re committing drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc., is because they are terrorists.
Another issue to be addressed is, when is a person no longer considered militant? For example, say a hacktivist in the US was attacking the Tunisian government during the Gaddafi conflicts. After Gaddafi was killed and control of the control turned over to the rebels, the hacktivist quit his dubious hacking and got a job with some software company. How far into the future will NATO forces be able to kill/capture/whatever him? In the digital age it’s nearly impossible to traverse the Internet without leaving some digital footprints, so it’s not beyond feasibility to think that a person could be discovered years after the fact.
One final issue I have with this is that if NATO forces decide to adopt this position, our adversaries will be allowed to legally send drone attacks or whatever other means within our borders and kill our citizens. If the Chinese have evidence that a hacker from Omaha attacked a company that stole patented designs from his brother’s business, then manufactured the goods for less and essentially ruined the business (we’ve all heard the stories),then they would be justified and within the rules of war to fly a missile into the US and take out that hacker in Omaha. I feel like this manual is opening many, many more doors than it’s closing.
“An act of direct participation in hostilities by civilians renders them liable to be attacked, by cyber or other lawful means,” reads an excerpt from the manual.