Rebecca Ingber Wins Mike Lewis Prize for National Security Law Scholarship

Award recognizes notable contributions to the field.

Associate Professor Rebecca IngberIn recognition of her significant contributions to the field of national security law, Associate Professor Rebecca Ingber has been honored as a co-recipient of the inaugural 2017 Mike Lewis Prize for National Security Law Scholarship for her article, “Co-Belligerency,” published in the Yale Journal of International Law.

The prize is given by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin and Ohio Northern University’s Pettit College of Law (ONU), with the consultation of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Section on National Security Law.

The award is made in honor of the late ONU Law Professor Mike Lewis for his contributions to academia and the community. Winners are selected based upon the quality of their work, originality, and the contributions of the piece within their field.

In her paper, Ingber examines how US presidents have used a theory derived from international law, the concept of “co-belligerency,” to justify an aggressive interpretation of their authority to use of force against terrorist groups under a 2001 congressional statute, the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Under this theory, co-belligerency determines whether a group can be classified as a target of the 2001 statute based upon its ties to the direct targets of that statute—al Qaeda and the Taliban. The executive branch thus interprets the president’s authority to use force under the AUMF to extend to terrorist groups that were not referenced in the 2001 authorization, even to groups that did not exist at the time the authorization was passed.

While the courts and Congress have relied upon executive branch declarations that its use of the co-belligerency theory is firmly grounded in legal precedent, Ingber argues that it in fact remains imprecise and undefined, and that the other branches have not engaged in sufficient scrutiny of the executive’s position.

In what Ingber calls a “grey-ish legal space,” the domestic powers of the executive branch are neither clearly circumscribed nor entirely lawless. The executive branch has won for itself significant discretion under the AUMF through this interpretation, and yet remains constrained by it as well.

Ingber received her BA from Yale University and her JD from Harvard Law School. Her scholarship focuses on international law, national security, foreign affairs law, and executive power. Her work has been published in the American Journal of International Law, the Yale Journal of International Law, the Harvard International Law Journal, and the Texas Law Review. Before joining BU Law in 2015, she served in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the US Department of State, and was a fellow at Columbia Law School.

Shirin Sinnar, of Stanford Law School, is a co-recipient of the Mike Lewis Prize.

Reported by Josee Matela (COM/CAS'20)

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