Controversy surrounding the DoJ White Paper on targeting Americans abroad has generated interest and debate about the meaning of “imminence” in the terrorism context, for purposes of self-defense and other legal doctrines. Similar debates have abounded in the context of WMD threats, especially after the Bush Administration’s 2002 National Security Strategy document declared: “We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries.”
Cyber-attacks raise their own complexities in translating the concept of imminence. Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post has this new piece, which lays out some of those issues. Among other things, Nakashima’s article shows how the jus ad bellum international legal questions are for the United States government entwined with policy questions about when and how to delegate authority for what some might call “preemptive cyber-attacks” in self-defense.