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Drone Strikes, Targeted Killings to be Examined at VLS Conference

February 13, 2013

On the heels of the Senate confirmation hearing for CIA nominee John O. Brennan, which marked the first extensive public discussion on the use of drones for targeted killing , Vermont Law School (VLS) announced today a major conference to address drone strikes, targeted killing, and other elements of modern warfare.    

Confirmed speakers include Vicki Divoll, a former general counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former deputy legal adviser to the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, who wrote the widely-read op-ed in the New York Times last month ("Who Says You Can Kill Americans, Mr. President?").

Another confirmed panelist is Jennifer Daskal, the former counsel at the Department of Justice and Human Rights Watch, who made headlines last month when she published an op-ed in The New York Times entitled "Don't Close Guantanamo."

Entitled "Reaching Critical Mass: International and U.S. Law in the Wake of Modern Exigencies,"  the conference will be held Friday, March 22, 2013, from 9am - 5:30pm, in the Jonathan B. Chase Community Center, Vermont Law School. 

The conference will explore the balance between protecting national security, observing international law, and preserving human rights and civil liberties. Topics to be addressed include the legality of the targeted killing of U.S. citizens, the future of modern warfare, and cyber security.

The conference schedule can be found here, and registration is available here. The conference is free to students and faculty from any institution, and is open to the public for a modest registration fee.  CLE credit will be available.

Joining Daskal and Divoll will be a VLS graduate, Mr. Gabor Rona (Class of 1978), who is the International Legal Director of Human Rights First.  Other confirmed speakers include the following individuals:

  • Professor John O. McGinnis, George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern Law School, and past winner of Paul Bator award given by the Federalist Society to an outstanding academic under 40;
  • Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow at the CATO Institute, a former special assistant to President Reagan and the former editor of the political magazine, Inquiry;
  • Professor Michael W. Lewis, Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law, a veteran of Operation Desert Shield as a Navy pilot, and a widely-cited author in judicial decisions and media outlets on the legality of drone strikes;
  • Jamil N. Jaffer, who currently serves as Republican Chief Counsel and Senior Advisor to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the George Mason University School of Law, where he teaches a seminar on surveillance law.
  • Jody Prescott COL. (Ret.), U.S. Army; and Senior Fellow, West Point Center for the Rule of Law;
  • Chris Jenks, Assistant Professor of Law, Southern Methodist University, and former chief legal advisor to the Brigade Combat Team in Mosul, Iraq;
  • Naz Modirzadeh, Senior Fellow, HLS-Brookings Project on Law and Security, Harvard Law School whose most recent publication in the Harvard Human Rights Journal is entitled "Taking Islamic Law Seriously: INGOs and the Battle for Muslim Hearts and Minds"; and
  • Robert Delahunty, Professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law and former Deputy General Counsel at the White House Office of Homeland Security in 2002-2003.

Two student organizations at VLS -- the Federalist Society and International Law Society - are serving as the co-organizers of this conference, which will bring international human rights and humanitarian law experts, architects of U.S. national security and counter-terrorism policy, government officials, and constitutional law scholars to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing the legal profession today. 

"Each year, students at Vermont Law School get a chance to host an annual conference on a subject of their choosing.  Known as the 'Solutions Conference,' it is emblematic of the hands-on opportunities VLS students experience here every day," said Marc Mihaly, VLS President and Dean. "I am especially proud of this year's conference in terms of the topic and quality of the speakers. This is an extremely complex issue that is not only making headlines nationally, but represents a thoughtful collaboration between student groups that often have very different views on issues." 

The Solutions Conference is sponsored each year by the VLS Student Bar Association.

For more information, please contact: Federalist Society President, Richard Sala or International Law Society Co-Chair, Molly Gray:

VLS Director of Communications: Peter Glenshaw, 802-831-1318,

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