Wednesday, January 20, 2016



American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies (Attention EU Visitors , possible "cookie" encounter ahead) 

Below is an interesting summary of the international law of the sea associated with surveillance and intelligence collection by submarine. If you have not yet read BLIND MAN'S BLUFF the story of Cold War U.S. submarine intelligence gathering and brinkmanship deployments, this is an interesting short introduction for the international legal context of this best seller.

 Some thoughts derived from legal analysis:

1. The intentional uninvited and especially submerged presence of a submarine in someone else's territorial sea is a violation of international law. U.S. submarines during the Cold War, according to "BLIND MAN'S BLUFF  entered Russian territorial waters so deeply that according  to the book they once were able to read through the periscope submerged cable crossing signs on shore.

2. The operation of a submerged submarine, especially with the intention of intelligence gathering within a coastal state's territorial sea is a violation of international law, yet espionage pretty much remains an internationally tolerated practice and a violation of national law. There seems to be something of a gentleman's agreement for trading intelligence professionals caught in the act, God help the intelligence professional, or submarine crew whose nation doesn't hold any "trade goods". 

3. It is not illegal under international law for the coastal forces of a sovereign nation to fire upon an unauthorized submarine even without first identifying the nationality of the vessel when an uninvited submerged submarine is found within the territorial sea of a sovereign coastal state. 

4. While ill advised there is probably nothing internationally illegal about submerged operations within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of a coastal state. 

EDITORS OBSERVATION: Operating anywhere within 200 miles of a potentially hostile coast while submerged is dangerous, the closer in, the more so. To quote Admiral Kinnaird McKee, USN "It's like putting your head in the tiger's mouth" 

See also 

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