I really had to scratch my head at this one:
The Israel Defense Forces has appointed a major to be its legal adviser on cyber activities, notably cyber warfare…The majority of his work focuses on regulation of cyber warfare activities, particularly within the Military Intelligence Directorate, based on principles of international law, the IDF says.
…The cyber legal adviser will…determine the legality of the targets of cyber attack, what the acceptable limits of cyber warfare will be, and what constitutes harm to civilians.
This appointment, or at least its announcement, seems to have at least some indirect connection with Edward Snowden’s exposure of the NSA’s massive cyber-snooping capabilities. It seems to say that being the great democracy that it is, Israel will appoint a legal advisor to help the IDF ensure that it behaves ethically in the realm of cyber-war.
That, of course, is nonsense. The IDF is not in the business of behaving ethically. It’s in the business of killing bad guys…or at least bad guys as defined by the IDF. Killing bad guys means doing bad things. Things that are unethical. So you wouldn’t appoint an overseer to tie your hands behind your back in pursuing such objectives. You’d appoint someone who would put an ethical, legalistic gloss on any action you intended to execute.
This article posits a mirage: that the legal advisor will tell the IDF when it’s about to go over the line and so allow it to adhere to international norms. That’s not the purpose at all. The purpose is for this lawyer to make something that is treif, kosher. Want to bring down an Iranian nuclear plant or missile base? Want to bring down the Iranian power grid in the midst of an Israeli attack? He’s your go-to man to make any and all concerns about violating international law disappear. Or if you’re Christian, he’s the guy who turns water into wine and wafers into Jesus’ body.
Another further irony: Israel never acknowledges its cyberwar activities. So at best the activities of this advisor and criteria he uses for making any decisions will be highly secret. How can ethical decisions concerning wartime situations be made in secret? Who will review what he does? Who will debate him if he’s wrong? No one. Which is just the way the IDF wants it to be.
As far as I can see, the purpose of this appointment is to enable the IDF to say if it kills a lot of civilians during such an attack that it had an ethical advisor whose job it was to ensure everything was done above-board. The fact that this official does nothing of the sort doesn’t matter. In other words, it’s all for show. An insurance policy for the next Judge Goldstone who comes snooping around after the next IDF massacre.