Chicago Journal of International Law

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Espionage’s permissibility under international law remains largely unsettled; no global regulation exists for this important state activity. This Comment first surveys the longstanding scholarship regarding espionage’s legality, and proceeds to highlight the reasons why regulation continues to be absent. Then by examining cyber technology’s transformative effects in this field, this Comment argues that this ambiguity is no longer sustainable, as espionage becomes more indistinguishable from low-level warfare, more efficient, more visible, and more involved in information wars. This prompts a need for the international community to set clear guidelines for allowable espionage activities. This Comment suggests that a possible solution, given the barriers prohibiting the development of wide-reaching regulations of cyber espionage, is to begin by incrementally carving out specific activities—starting with those that transcends states’ strategic calculus. An example then provided is the broad disallowance of private entities to engage in cyber espionage.