Registration Information :: Stockdale Center for...
Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership
Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership
John McCain with a group of people

McCain Conference Information


2021 McCain Conference

“The Ethics of Intelligence and Grey Zone Operations"

13-16 April and 19-22 April 2021

1200-1330 each day (online)


The 2021 McCain Conference will examine two understudied and increasingly important issues: “The Ethics of Intelligence and Grey Zone Operations.” 

While thinking about the justice of warfare is highly developed, ethical analyses of intelligence activities—which can involve lying, manipulation, coercion, stealing and killing—are relatively recent and conflicting.  Some argue that the rights-based just war criteria are applicable to harmful intelligence activities; others insist that spying is a “game” in which participants tacitly agree to abide by certain rules.  In addition to identifying relevant ethical principles, the conference will apply them to specific espionage operations such as human and (rapidly improving) technical methods of intelligence gathering, interrogational torture, covert action, assassination and analysis; and evaluate existing education and oversight efforts. 

On the other hand, ethical work on lethal and sublethal interstate competition occurring in a “grey zone” between war and peace has only just begun.  One of the first gatherings of experts on the topic, the conference will define the grey zone, identify the relevant normative frameworks, and discuss moral challenges associated with various operations—limitedly lethal, economic, information, election, legal and cyber.  

Week 1 - Intelligence Operations

Tuesday, 13 April

  • Mr. Michael Morell, former Deputy and Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Wednesday, 14 April

  • Dr. Cécile Fabre, University of Oxford - justified spying theory?
  • Dr. Michael Skerker, U.S. Naval Academy - justified spying theory?

Thursday, 15 April

  • Dr. David Luban, Georgetown Law Center - interrogational torture
  • Dr. Tony Pfaff, U.S. Army War College - technical intelligence collection

Friday, 16 April

  • Sir David Omand, King’s College London - human intelligence collection
  • Mr. Mitt Regan – Georgetown Law Center - covert action

Week 2 - Grey Zone Operations

Monday, 19 April 

  • Dr. Helen Frowe, University of Stockholm - justified responses in the grey zone
  • Dr. Ed Barrett, U.S. Naval Academy - justified responses in the grey zone

Tuesday, 20 April

  • Dr. Tamar Meisels, Tel Aviv University - "soft war": hostage taking
  • Dr. Michael Gross, University of Haifa - "soft war": media warfare

Wednesday, 21 April

  • Dr. George Lucas, U.S. Naval Academy (emeritus) - cyber operations
  • Dr. Jens Ohlin, Cornell Law - election operations

Thursday, 22 April

  • Mr. Orde Kittrie, Arizona State University College of Law - lawfare
  • Dr. Thomas Rid, Johns Hopkins SAIS - information operations


Logistics (live conference)

Registration is complimentary. You will be our guest for breakfast and lunch Thursday and Friday (You can dine on your own in town on Thursday and Friday evenings. Thursday afternoon, there will be a reception with hors d'oeuvre). Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodations. Some options are linked directly below (blue text):

The Airport Shuttle


Lodging on Academy grounds
Call: 410-293-3906 or 410-293-4655.

Navy Lodge

Adjacent to the Annapolis Naval Station, a short drive from the Academy
30 rooms available.
Call: 410-757-7900.

Graduate Hotels Annapolis

126 West Street
Call: 410-263-7777

Hilton Garden Inn Annapolis

174 West Street, Annapolis
Call: 410-263-7700
Fax: 410-990-9529

Country Inn and Suites

2600 Housely, Annapolis, a short drive from the Academy
Call: 888-201-1746, 410-571-6700
Fax: 410-571-6777

Historic Inns of Annapolis

58 State Circle
Call: 410-263-2641