The Law of the Sea Convention and Intelligence

01.07.08 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The Director of National Intelligence last year affirmed the Administration’s support for ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention. But a minority in Congress expressed concern that the Convention would impede U.S. intelligence collection.

“The overwhelming opinion of Law of the Sea experts and legal advisors is that the Law of the Sea Convention simply does not regulate intelligence activities nor was it intended to…,” wrote Charles Allen, then-Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Collection, as quoted in an August 8, 2007 letter from DNI Mike McConnell.

But “the Treaty fails to protect the significant role submarines have played, especially during the Cold War, in gathering intelligence very close to foreign shorelines,” claimed Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and David Vitter (R-LA), in a dissenting view not supported by the DNI or the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Both perspectives were aired in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee volume last month that recommended ratification of the Convention. See “Convention on the Law of the Sea” (pdf), December 19, 2007.