The University of Pennsylvania Institute for Law & Philosophy along with the Jean Beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics of Georgia State are sponsoring: Is Targeted Killing Permissible?  Philosophical, Moral and Legal Aspects on Friday, April 15th and Saturday, April 16th, 2011.  Here is the conference description:

The Obama administration has authorized the CIA to target and kill Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical Muslim cleric believed to have ties to al-Qaeda, on the ground that he helped to orchestrate attacks against the United States. The authorization raises the interesting question of who is a legitimate target of such military actions. In particular, it is arguably difficult to think of al-Aulaqi as a belligerent against the U.S., as he is himself an American citizen. Al-Aulaqi, however, is not the only person whose identification as a legitimate target raises moral and legal complications. The U.S. and other governments have been targeting and killing many others as part of both the fight against Islamic terrorists and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the widespread use of this technique raises important questions in just war theory. Notable as well is the fact that the U.S. has been targeting suspected militants with unmanned aerial drones, sophisticated military planes controlled remotely from distant lands.

The questions the conference will explore fall into four rough categories. First is a series of basic questions identifying the activity and its parameters: What is targeted killing in a military context and what is the theory under which such killings may be permissible? If targeted killing is ever permissible, what is the range of permissible targets? Should targets be restricted to belligerents only? Or are there individuals who, as civilians nevertheless make themselves into legitimate targets by threatening central interests of the United States? A second set of issues has to do with authority and responsibility: Who is permitted to carry out targeted killings? Do private contractors take on the mantle of military justification when they act on behalf of military officials? Is the justification for engaging in a targeted killing one person may have as an official defender of the country transferrable to a civilian assister? Most importantly, what is the responsibility of actors who carry out targeted killings that miss their mark? If moral and legal mistakes are made, do the resulting acts of assassination count as war crimes? A third set of issues has to do with the manner in which targeted killings are carried out: Is it morally relevant that remote-controlled machines are used to attack targets? If so, is preemptive killing nevertheless legitimate if performed by a droid? And if so, what is the permissible scope of preemptive killing conducted in this way? A fourth set of issues attempts to penetrate the theory of targeted killing by comparing it to other areas of the law: What is the relation between targeted killing and self-defense? Does societal self-defense follow parallel principles to personal self-defense? And finally, what is the status of targeted killing according to traditional just war theory and international law? These questions arise at the intersection of moral, political, and legal theory, just war theory, national security law, and international law, as well as criminal and constitutional law and theory.

Click “Read the full entry” below to see the participant list and suggested background reading.

Suggested Background Reading on Targeted Killing



Confirmed Participants


Professor Lawrence Alexander
Warren Distinguished Professor of Law
University of San Diego School of Law

Professor Andrew Altman
Professor of Philosophy and Director of Research for the Jean Beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics
Georgia State University, Department of Philosophy

Professor Kenneth Anderson
Professor of Law
Visiting Fellow, The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University
Member, Hoover Task Force on National Security and Law
Non-Resident Visiting Fellow, The Brookings Institution (Governance Studies)
Senior Fellow, The Rift Valley Institute
American University Washington College of Law

Professor Luis Chiesa
Associate Professor of Law
Pace Law School

Professor Russell Christopher
Professor of Law
The University of Tulsa College of Law

Ambassador Dell Dailey
Department of State

Major John Dehn
Assistant Professor
US Military Academy at US Army

Professor Eric Feldman
Deputy Dean for International Affairs and Professor of Law
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Professor Claire Finkelstein
Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Professor Jean Galbraith
Sharswood Fellow in Law and International Affairs
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Professor Kevin Govern
Ave Maria School of Law

Professor Alexander Greenawalt
Associate Professor of Law
Pace Law School

Professor Amos Guiora

Professor of Law
University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law

Professor Virginia Held
Distinguished Professor
Philosophy Program, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Professor Frances Kamm
Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy, Professor of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Harvard University Department of Philosophy

Professor Leo Katz
Frank Carano Professor of Law
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Professor Matt Lister
Penn Law Sharswood Fellow in Law and Philosophy
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Professor Craig Martin
University of Baltimore School of Law

Colonel Mark Maxwell
National War College

Professor Jeff McMahan
Professor of Philosophy
Rutgers University

Professor Gregory S. McNeal
Associate Professor of Law
Pepperdine University School of Law

Major Richard Meyer
Assistant Professor
Department of Law, United States Military Academy, West Point

Professor Phillip Montague
Professor Emeritus
Western Washington University, Department of Philosophy

Professor Michael Moore
Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Chair, Co-Director, Program in Law and Philosophy
University of Illinois College of Law

Professor Stephen Morse
Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law; Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Professor Jens Ohlin
Assistant Professor of Law
Cornell Law School

Professor Deborah Pearlstein
Visiting Faculty Fellow
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Professor Stephen Perry
John J. O’Brien Professor of Law & Professor of Philosophy
University of Pennsylvania Law School

Professor Harvey Rubin
Professor of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Professor Fernando Tesón
Tobias Simon Eminent Scholar
Florida State University

Professor Peter Vallentyne
Florence G. Kline Chair in Philosophy
University of Missouri-Columbia

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