Investigating Terrorism: Was Boston Preventable?  Is the title of a presentation I will be giving at Arizona State University’s School of Law.  The event will be held in Room 118, a free lunch will be served.  The presentation will include commentary by Mr. John Bruch a 25 year veteran of the FBI.  The flyer is pasted below.

Were the Boston Terrorism Attacks Preventable


I recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding drones and domestic surveillance.  Pepperdine ran a story on the testimony which I’ve pasted below.


Associate Professor of Law Gregory McNeal testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary on May 17 regarding the use of unmanned aerial systems, known commonly as drones, for surveillance purposes inside the U.S. Professor McNeal, an expert in national security law and policy, cautioned against the use of broadly worded warrant requirements as a tool to protect privacy or public safety. Instead, he recommended surveillance legislation that would require more transparency in the use of these systems by law enforcement.

McNeal’s testimony offered various considerations for pending legislation, including arguing against blanket prohibitions on the use of drones for the collection of evidence or information unless authorized by a warrant, and the argument that broadly worded use restrictions that prohibit use of evidence gathered by drones exceed the parameters of the Fourth Amendment and may not serve to protect privacy. Furthermore, McNeal argued that Congress should eschew drone specific legislation and instead look to legislating what places are entitled to privacy protection and clearly define search terminology including terms such as surveillance and private property.

“What’s interesting about working in national security is that there is a foreign affairs and international law aspect to my work that was one strand of my research, drones being used on battlefields,” McNeal said. “But, national security also encompasses domestic law enforcement, homeland security, and all manner of government surveillance and tracking. Those issues also relate to my teaching, specifically criminal procedure and criminal law.”

McNeal noted that his writing on the topic began when policymakers became interested in how drone technology would be used in the United States and what the legal implications of such use might be. That writing, he said, was in the form of short essays that have appeared in Forbes and longer draft papers that will soon be published law review articles. The writing provided an opportunity for McNeal to speak at the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International national conference.

“This was the biggest gathering of manufacturers in the aerospace industry and my panel was focused on privacy law and surveillance,” McNeal said. “From that experience I began hearing from legislators at the federal level and from various state governments, to the point where about once every other week over the past year I’ve been fielding a phone call or an email from someone asking me to comment on draft legislation. All of that came to a head last week with my invitation to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.”

McNeal is a professor at Pepperdine University where his research and teaching focus on national security law and policy, criminal law and procedure and international law. He previously served as Assistant Director of the Institute for Global Security, co-directed a transnational counterterrorism grant program for the U.S. Department of Justice, and served as a legal consultant to the Chief Prosecutor of the Department of Defense Office of Military Commissions on matters related to the prosecution of suspected terrorists held in the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He is a Forbes contributor where he writes a column about law, policy and security.

On Wednesday June 5, 2013 I’ll be participating in an event sponsored by the Los Angeles Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society and the Libertarian Law Council.  The event is entitled “Drones and Due Process.


  • Prof. John C. Yoo, Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law
  • Prof. Gregory S. McNeal, Associate Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law
  • Ahilan Arulanantham, Deputy Legal Director, ACLU of Southern California
  • Moderator: Jeremy B. Rosen, Partner, Horvitz & Levy LLP

At this luncheon, John Yoo (UC Berkeley), Greg McNeal (Pepperdine), and Ahilan Arulanantham (ACLU) will discuss the due-process, privacy, and national-security implications of drone use for targeted killings overseas and aerial surveillance at home.

McCormick & Schmick’s
4th & Hope Streets
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Registration details:

Please respond by sending an email to if you wish to attend.

The cost of the luncheon is $25. Public employees, public-interest lawyers, students, and law clerks may pay a discounted rate of $20. Payment (cash or checks only) will be accepted at the door.

MCLE Credit: One Hour


Tagged with:

dronetargetI’ll be discussing targeted killings, drone strikes and drone warfare on Friday, April 26th in Las Vegas, NV.   In the talk I will describe the legal justification for the U.S. practice of targeted killings and the bureaucratic and political approval process for conducting strikes. I will also touch on the controversies associated with targeted killings, including matters such as collateral damage, blowback, and transparency.  The talk is based on an article “Kill Lists and Accountability” forthcoming in the Georgetown Law Journal, a draft of which can be downloaded for free at

The Las Vegas Sun is carrying details and booking information CLE will also be available.

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I’ll be on a speaking tour in Texas the week of March 24th, discussing my article Kill-Lists and Accountability, which is forthcoming in The Georgetown Law Journal.

All events are open to the public although some may require pre-registration:

Monday, March 25th at Noon Southern Methodist University School of Law, Dallas, TX The Federalist Society (student chapter)
Monday, March 25th at 7:30pm University of Dallas, Dallas, TX (Lynch Auditorium) The Hamilton Society
Tuesday, March 26th at 5:00pm Baylor University School of Law, Waco, TX The Federalist Society (student chapter)
Wednesday, March 27th at 11:30am Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Austin, TX   Pre-registration required The Federalist Society (Austin lawyers chapter)
Wednesday, March 27th at 3:30pm University of Texas School of Law, Austin, TX The Federalist Society (student chapter)
Thursday, March 28th at 7:45am Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Houston, TX  Pre-registration required The Federalist Society (Houston lawyers chapter)
Thursday, March 28th at Noon Texas A&M University, Bush School of Government and Public Service The Hamilton Society



This is a presentation based on Professor McNeal’s paper, “Kill-Lists and Accountability” ( Available here: ).

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Interactive Course on International Humanitarian Law

January 11-13, 2012  Pepperdine University School of Law


I’m proud to announce that Anne Quintin of the ICRC and I will be hosting an interactive course on the law of armed conflict here at Pepperdine University School of Law.  This event is in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross and is a special workshop led by legal professionals from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the American Red Cross, military lawyers and law professors who specialize in IHL.

Course Description:

Interactive training using response-based technology to place participants in an operational context. The course will combine lectures and technology enabled exercises on International Humanitarian Law (IHL), or the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC).

Open To:

Graduate students with a background in international law, legal practitioners, and NGO staff.

To Apply:

Please fill in the application form and send it back to Deadline for application is December 15, 2012.

Draft Schedule:

Continue reading »


Today I appeared on Huffington Post Live on a panel discussing rules for the use of drones in targeted killings.  The panel information and video clip appear below.

In anticipation of the election, the Obama administration started working to codify drone policies. Why did they wait so long and what might the rules look like?  Originally aired on November 27, 2012

Hosted by:

  • Josh Hersh (Washington, DC) HuffPost Foreign Policy Correspondent @joshuahersh
  • Hina Shamsi (New York, NY) Director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. @hinashamsi
  • Gregory S. McNeal (Malibu) Professor, Pepperdine University @gregorymcneal


I appeared on a panel sponsored by the International & National Security Law Practice Group of the Federalist society.  The panel was entitled “National Security vs. International Law?” and was held on Friday, November 16, 2012, during the 2012 National Lawyers Convention.

International: National Security vs. International Law?
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Grand Ballroom

  • Prof. Kenneth Anderson, American University Washington College of Law
  • Prof. Rosa Brooks, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Prof. Julian Ku, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of International Programs, Hofstra University School of Law
  • Prof. Gregory S. McNeal, Associate Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law
  • Moderator: Prof. John O. McGinnis, Northwestern University School of Law

Ken Anderson had a write-up about the panel at Volokh and a video of the panel is embedded below.

GMU Law Logo

On November 14th at 12pm at George Mason University School of Law, I will be making a presentation entitled Kill-Lists and Accountability, based on my identically titled paper.  The abstract of the paper appears below:

This paper examines the U.S. practice of targeted killings. It proceeds in two parts, the first part is an empirical description of the process of targeted killings. Based on qualitative empirical research conducted pursuant to proven case study techniques, part one describes how kill-lists are created, what government actors approve the name of individuals to be added to kill lists, how targeted killings are executed, and how the U.S. implements its International Humanitarian Law obligation to mitigate and prevent harm to civilians.

Specifically, the paper explains in rich detail the process the U.S. follows to estimate and mitigate the impact of conventional weapons on collateral persons and objects in most targeted killings. Key Findings: In pre-planned operations the U.S. follows a rigorous collateral damage estimation process based on a progressively refined analysis of intelligence, weapon effects, and other information. When followed, this process dramatically reduces the amount of collateral damage in U.S. operations, and also ensures high levels of political accountability. However, due to the realities of combat operations, the process cannot always be followed; Data about the U.S. military’s collateral damage estimation process reveals that the system is intended to ensure that there will be a less than 10 percent probability of serious or lethal wounds to non-combatants; In actuality, less than 1% of pre-planned operations that followed the collateral damage estimation process resulted in collateral damage; When collateral damage has occurred, 70% of the time it was due to failed “positive identification” of a target. 22% of the time it was attributable to weapons malfunction, and a mere 8% of the time it was attributable to proportionality balancing – e.g. a conscious decision that anticipated military advantage outweighed collateral damage; According to public statements made by U.S. government officials the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense must approve any pre-planned ISAF strike where 1 civilian casualty or greater is expected.

In the second part of the paper, I turn from the empirical to the normative. I describe the various mechanisms of accountability embedded in the targeted killing process. Specifically, I set forth an analytical framework which allows for the examination of legal, political, bureaucratic, and professional mechanisms of accountability. I then assess the strengths and weaknesses of these four accountability mechanisms as applied to U.S. targeted killings. The paper concludes by suggesting legal and policy reforms to address the shortcomings identified in the normative section.