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Robert Chesney


Robert Chesney is a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, a nonresident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, and a distinguished scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law. He is a cofounder and contributor to the Lawfare blog and writes frequently on topics relating to US counterterrorism policy and law.

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Recent Commentary

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The Domestic Legal Framework For U.S. Military Cyber Operations

by Robert Chesneyvia Lawfare
Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Conventional wisdom holds that Congress has abandoned its duty regarding the government’s war powers. It is not hard to understand why. Between the agelessness and flexibility of the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) and periodic unilateral uses of military force in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, the executive branch appears to act largely at its own discretion when it comes to conventional military operations.

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The Domestic Legal Framework for US Military Cyber Operations

by Robert Chesneyvia Aegis Paper Series
Wednesday, July 29, 2020

With little fanfare, Congress and the executive branch have cooperated effectively over the past decade to build a legal architecture for military cyber operations. The resulting framework is not a familiar one to most observers, especially when compared to the parallel frameworks associated with conventional military operations and with intelligence activities. Yet it is no less important and worthy of study, particularly in light of the Pentagon’s commitment to the “defend forward” operational model.

Analysis and Commentary

Updating The 2001 AUMF At Long Last? On The Flake-Kaine Bill

by Robert Chesney, Jack Goldsmith, Matthew Waxman, Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It is past time for Congress to update the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), explicitly authorizing the armed conflict with the Islamic State while also adding further important reforms to that foundational instrument. The bill that Senators Flake (R-AZ) and Kaine (D-VA) introduced this week would serve that purpose well.

Analysis and Commentary

Quick Question For Apple HR

by Robert Chesney, Susan Hennessey, Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Friday, April 15, 2016

In the “going dark” discussion, it is a kind of orthodoxy that back doors are inherently insecure. Build in a means of someone other than the user accessing his data and you create unacceptable risk that someone will exploit that means; you also make the code unacceptably complicated and increase the attack surface for hackers to play with.

A Tale of Two NSA Leaks: One is unsurprising, and damaging. The other is worth debating.

by Benjamin Wittes, Robert Chesneyvia New Republic
Monday, June 10, 2013

Former NSA contractor Edwards Snowden sure does know how to change the subject. Only a few days ago, everyone was talking about the excesses of leak investigations. But now, as a result of his set of disclosures to the Guardian and The Washington Post, we’re back on the surveillance state—and the dangers of the leaks themselves.

Analysis and Commentary

Is the "War on Terror" Lawful?

by Robert Chesney, Jack Goldsmith, Matthew Waxman, Benjamin Wittesvia Defining Ideas (Hoover Institution)
Monday, February 25, 2013
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Is the "War on Terror" Lawful?

by Robert Chesney, Jack Goldsmith, Matthew Waxman, Benjamin Wittesvia Defining Ideas
Monday, February 25, 2013

The "Authorization to Use Military Force" serves as the primary legal foundation for the ongoing conflict, but it is now obsolete. What should replace it?