The Brooklyn Law Review recently hosted its third-annual Author Spotlight speaker event, designed to introduce students to the authors who publish pieces in the scholarly journal.
This year, the Law Review invited Geoffrey Corn, a Professor at the South Texas College of Law, who is a former Special Assistant to the Judge Advocate General for Law of War Matters and Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) for the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. His article, “Targeting, Command Judgment, and a Proposed Quantum of Information Component: A Fourth Amendment Lesson in Contextual Reasonableness,” was recently published in Volume 77, Issue 2, of the Brooklyn Law Review.
“Everyone is honored that Professor Corn chose our journal to publish this important piece on the law of war,” said Zachary Kuperman ’12, a member of this year’s Law Review, who worked closely with Corn editing the article. “It will make a significant contribution to international law scholarship.”
Corn’s presentation began with a background of the law of armed conflict (LOAC) and the legal history that has shaped it. He explained that the law of war is more than an effort to police war crimes after the fact. The law of war also “provides soldiers with a framework to let them know they did the right thing.”
The key question Corn raised is, “how much proof do you need to decide if something is a reasonable target?” In answering that question, he discovered that the definition used for reasonableness in the LOAC is “utterly arbitrary” and that there is no commonly understood standard for reasonableness. His article explores the relationship between targeted killings and reasonableness.
Corn presented a rubric with four escalating categories under which any military target could be classified. The categories were then assigned clearly defined criteria required to establish reasonableness. Corn likened the process to the framework used for assessing reasonableness under Fourth Amendment domestic criminal procedure law, where, for example, there is a widely understood distinction between the concepts of reasonable suspicion and clear and convincing evidence.
Corn’s ideas have received attention from the US military, and he has given presentations to active head military leaders on the matter. While some of these officials embrace the idea and feel that the proposal closely mirrors the current procedure, others fear that having to comply with specific criteria would hinder flexibility. Corn admits that his proposed framework is unlikely to be rapidly embraced by the military, but he hopes that the proposal could, in practice, serve as a template to provide a “rational methodology to aid a commander to justify an action.”