Accueil > Intelligence under international law

OAIN 2080 - Intelligence under International Law

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies


Notions of international law: international customary law, treaties, internationally wrongful act, international humanitarian law, diplomatic law, international law of global commons (e.g. cyber space), territorial sovereignty

Course Description

What is the statute of espionage under international law? Does an intelligence's international law exist? Spying between States is mainly an activity carried out by mutual consent; nevertheless, when the act of clandestine gathering has been coupled with an infringement of spied State's territorial sovereignty, the latter could protest against it. On the contrary, when the spying act takes place in or from global commons, like outer space or cyber space, no internationally wrongful act has been committed. Yet, captured spies, in war time as peace time, could be punished under domestic laws, whereas under international law espionage is neither legal nor illegal. Intelligence activities are certainly a “legal oddity”, even a “legal schizophrenia”.


LAFOUASSE, Fabien (Colonel)

Course validation

Poster (5 minutes) (20%) + quizz (30%) + take-home paper (40%) + session's commitment based on required readings (10%)

Required reading

  • D. Christophe BAKER, “Tolerance of international espionage: a functional approach”, American University International Law Review, 2004, volume 19, n° 5, pp. 1091-1113
  • Simon CHESTERMAN, “The spy who came in from the cold war: intelligence and international law”, Michigan Journal of International Law, 2006, volume 27, pp. 1071-1130.
  • A. John RADSAN, “The unresolved equation of espionage and international law”, Michigan Journal of International Law, 2007, volume 28, pp. 595-623.
  • FORCESE Craig, “Spies without borders: international law and intelligence collection”, Journal of National Security Law & Policy, 2011, volume 5, pp. 179-210.

Additional required reading

  • LAFOUASSE Fabien, « L'espionnage par consentement mutuel entre États », Revue de la défense nationale, 2012, n°755, pp. 44-48.
  • LAFOUASSE Fabien, « “Le silence est d'or“ : réflexions juridiques sur l'espionnage entre Etats » in Faut-il prendre le droit international au sérieux ?, Paris, Pedone, 2016, pp. 165-175.

Plans de cours et bibliographies

  • Session 1: Ambiguous status of intelligence activities, simultaneously illegal under domestic law and lawful under international law
  • Session 2: Espionage by mutual consent between States
  • Session 3: Spying under international law applicable to armed conflicts
  • Session 4: Intelligence in peace time: reflections on immunities and State's responsibility
  • Session 5: Prosecutions of the former secret agents of the GDR: a highly fruitful case of intelligence's international law
  • Session 6: Spies enjoying diplomatic and consular immunities
  • Session 7: Espionage and territorial sovereignty: territorial integrity's violation of the spied State
  • Session 8: Intelligence gathering in high seas and in the EEZ
  • Session 9: Spy satellites and intelligence collecting
  • Session 10: Legal framework of cyber espionage
  • Session 11: Secret surveillance and right to respect for private life under European case-law
  • Session 12: What kind of legal form for the "no-spy pacts"?