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):
Lodging on Academy grounds
Call: 410-293-3906 or 410-293-4655.
Adjacent to the Annapolis Naval Station, a short drive from the Academy
30 rooms available.
126 West Street
174 West Street, Annapolis
2600 Housely, Annapolis, a short drive from the Academy
Call: 888-201-1746, 410-571-6700
58 State Circle