Chris Jenks

Full-time faculty

Associate Professor of Law

"The machine has no feelings, it feels no fear and no hope ... it operates according to the pure logic of probability. For this reason, I assert that the robot perceives more accurately than man." - Max Frisch


Chris Jenks is an associate professor of law and teaches criminal law, evidence and the law of armed conflict. He also serves as a consultant for the Department of Defense Office of the General Counsel, a research fellow at the Program on the Regulation of Emerging Military Technology in Australia and as member of the Council for International Institute of Humanitarian Law in Sanremo, Italy.

Professor Jenks’ research interests are at the intersection of the law of armed conflict, accountability norms and emerging technology. He is the co-author of a law of armed conflict textbook and has published book chapters with both Oxford and Cambridge University Presses.  His articles have appeared in the law reviews and journals of Harvard, Berkeley, Georgetown, Stanford, & Washington & Lee and the International Review of the Red Cross. His blog posts have been featured on Lawfare, Just Security, and Opinio Juris.  He has published opeds with both USA Today and Newsweek.  He has presented to House and Senate Staffers on Capitol Hill, at the American Society of International Law, the Council on Foreign Relations, and at universities and institutes around the world.

In 2020 he testified at a Commission on Security Cooperation in Europe hearing on Artificial Weapons and Autonomous Systems. In 2019, he worked with both the Defense Innovation Board and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.  Between 2017-2018, while on leave from SMU and serving as the Special Counsel to the General Counsel for the Department of Defense, Professor Jenks twice served on the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts meetings on Lethal Autonomous Weapons in Geneva, Switzerland.  He previously presented on autonomous weapons at a similar United Nations meeting. In 2015, he was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholars Grant to research autonomous weapons as part of a multidisciplinary research group based out of Melbourne, Australia. In 2014, he served on a working group on the environment and armed conflict at the United Nations in New York organized by the Special Rapporteur for the International Law Commission. And in 2013, he served as a consultant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense on security sector reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Prior to joining the SMU faculty, Professor Jenks served for more than 20 years in the U.S. military, first as an infantry officer and later as a judge advocate and was detailed to the human rights and refugees section of the Office of the Legal Adviser at the Department of State and as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney on both the civil and criminal side at the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Section nominated him for the John Marshall Award for interagency cooperation following his work as the lead prosecutor in the Army’s first counterterrorism trial involving a soldier who attempted to aid the al-Qaeda terrorist network. While working at the Department of State, he served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. In his last assignment, Professor Jenks served as the chief of the international law branch for the U.S. Army in the Pentagon, where he supervised the program by which foreign countries asserted criminal jurisdiction over U.S. service members and represented the Department of Defense at Status of Forces Agreement negotiations; he was also the legal adviser to the U.S. military observers group, which provides personnel to U.N. missions around the world.


Areas of Expertise

  • Autonomous Weapons
  • Military Law
  • National Security Law
  • Evidence
  • Criminal Law
  • International Law
  • Human Rights


B.S., United States Military Academy, West Point
J.D., University of Arizona College of Law
LL.M.,  U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's School
LL.M., with distinction, Georgetown University Law Center
Ph.D Candidate, Melbourne University Law School


Law of Armed Conflict
Criminal Law
Criminal Clinic 





The Legal Framework for Deprivation of Liberty in the Context of Screening Operations in Times of NIAC, Deprivation of Liberty and Armed Conflicts: exploring realities and remedies 40th Round Table on Current Issues of International Humanitarian Law Int’l Inst. Hum. Law (2019)

The Gathering Swarm: The Path to Increasingly Autonomous Weapon Systems, 57 Jurimetrics 341 (2017)

A Matter of Policy:  United States Application of the Law of Armed Conflict, 46 Southwestern Law Review 337 (2017)

False Rubicons, Moral Panic & Conceptual Cul-De-Sacs: Critiquing and Reframing the Call to Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons, Pepperdine Law Review (forthcoming 2016 or 2017)

Sexual Assault as a Law of War Violation & U.S. Service Members' Duty to Report, 69 Stanford Law Review Online 1 (2016) (with Jay Morse)

Debate:  The Role of International Criminal Justice in Fostering Compliance with International Humanitarian Laws, 96 International Review of the Red Cross 775 (2015) (with Guido Acquaviva)

State Labs of Federalism and Law Enforcement "Drone" Use, 72 Washington & Lee Law Review 1389 (2015)

A Military Justice Solution in Search of a Problem: A Response to Vladeck, 104 Geo. L. J. Online 29 (2015) (co-authored)              

Sentencing Complexities in National Security Cases, 27 Fed. Sent. Rep 151 (2015)

Book Chapters

Specifically Vague:  The Defensive Purpose of the DoD Law of War Manual, in THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE LAW OF WAR MANUAL: COMMENTARY AND CRITIQUE (Michael A. Newton ed., Cambridge University Press, 2018)

The Distraction of Full Autonomy & The Need To Refocus The CCW LAWS Discussion on Critical Functions, in LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS:  TECHNOLOGY, DEFINITIONS, ETHICS, LAW & SECURITY (Robin Geiss ed.) (2016)

A Rose by Any Other Name:  How the United States Charges Its Service Members for violating the Laws of Warin MILITARY JUSTICE IN THE MODERN AGE 365 (Alison Duxbury & Matthew Groves eds., Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Reimagining the Wheel: Detention – and Release – of Non-State Actors Under the Geneva Conventions, in DETENTION OF NON-STATE ACTORS ENGAGED IN HOSTILITIES:  THE FUTURE LAW (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Detention under the Law of Armed Conflict, in ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF THE LAW OF ARMED CONFLICT 301 (Rain Liivoja & Tim McCormack eds., Routledge 2016)

United Nations Peace Operations:  Creating Space for Peace, in U.S. MILITARY OPERATIONS: LAW, POLICY, AND PRACTICE 691 (Geoffrey S. Corn, Rachel E. VanLandingham & Shane R. Reeve eds., Oxford University Press 2015)

Self-Interest or Self-Inflicted? How the United States Charges Its Service Members for Violating the Laws of War in  MILITARY SELF-INTEREST IN ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CORE INTERNATIONAL CRIMES (Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher 2015)


Other Publications

Soleimani and the Tactical Execution of Strategic Self-Defense LAWFARE (Jan. 24, 2020)

In Guyger Case, Remember:  Justice Is a Process, Not a Desired Outcome, INSIDE SOURCES, (Oct. 30, 2019)

Sticking it to Yourself: Preemptive Pardons for Battlefield Crimes Undercut Military Justice and Military Effectiveness, JUST SECURITY (May 30, 2019)



The Tangled History of Confederate Generals at West Point and in the U.S. Army:  What's in a Name?  JUST SECURITY (Aug. 28, 2017) reprinted in Think About This Before You Tear Down That Robert E. Lee Statute Newsweek (Aug. 28, 2017)

CCW Review Conference: Autonomous Weapons Discussion to Continue But Regulation Remains Unlikely, Just Security (Dec. 21, 2016) available at

What to Expect from Next Week’s Fifth CCW Review Conference Focusing on Lethal Autonomous Weapons, , Just Security (Dec. 9, 2016) available at

Coalition Operations & The Obligation to Investigate IHL Violations, EJIL Talk (Sept. 28, 2016) available at

Letter to the Editor: Suggestions for Just Security’s Questions to the Presidential Candidates, Just Security (Sept. 27, 2016) available at

The International Discussion Continues: 2016 CCW Experts Meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons, Just Security (Apr. 20, 2016), available at (co-authored)




Autonomous Weapons
Testimony at Helsinki Commission Hearing AI
Hypersonics and Autonomous Systems: Emerging Technologies and Euro-Atlantic Security
University of Texas at Arlington
Arlington, Texas (Jan. 2020)

Navigating the Backlash to International Humanitarian Law: Promoting IHL in an Era of Challenge
Part of Indiana University’s Navigating the Backlash Against Global Law & Institutions Conference
Indiana University
Bloomington, Indiana (Oct. 2019)

International Armed Conflicts vs. Non-international Armed Conflicts,
Law of Targeting and Detention, and
Emerging Technologies: Legal Issues in DSCA

Part of Defense Institute of International Legal Studies Legal Aspects of Defense Support of Civil Authorities Course
Naval Station Newport
Newport, Rhode Island (Aug. 2019)

Cyber and Autonomy
Part of Boston College Cyber Security Course
Boston College, Massachusetts (June 2019)

Legal Ramifications of Increased Technological Autonomy
Presentation to SMU’s Digital Transformation and AI: Reimagining Work in an Age of Disruption
SMU, Dallas, Texas (Sept. 2018)

UN Peacekeeping Operations & the Law: An Overview,
Status of Forces Agreements in Peace and Stability Operations UN and NATO SOFAs,
Non-International Armed Conflict, and
Contemporary Challenges: Detention and Targeting in Robust Peace Operations
Presentations to Armenia Army and Police forces as part of
Legal Aspects of Peace and Stability Operations – Protection of Civilians Seminar,
Yerevan, Armenia (Sept. 2018)

The legal framework for deprivation of liberty in the context of screening operations in times of NIAC
Presentation as part of
International Institute of Humanitarian Law Roundtable
“Deprivation of Liberty and Armed Conflicts: Exploring realities and remedies”
Sanremo, Italy (Sept. 2018)

Emerging Technology and the Law of Armed Conflict
Presentation to Lieber Institute for Law and Land Warfare A
Military Operations Course
United States Military Academy
West Point, New York (A
ug. 2018)

Cyber and Autonomy
Presentation to International Cyber Security Class
Boston College University
Boston, Mass. (Jul. 2018)

Legal Basis for Detention in IAC,
Tactical Questioning and Interrogation and
Due Process

Detention and Captured Persons Course
International Institute of Humanitarian Law
Deputy Course Director and Presenter
Sanremo, Italy, (Jun. 2018)

Key Instruments: Cease Fire Agreements and Peace Agreements,
Privileges, Immunities, Duties and Responsibilities of Peace Keepers and
The Interrelation of Criminal Responsibility Under Domestic Law, Host Nation and International Law

Conduct of Peace Support Operations Course, International Institute of Humanitarian Law
Deputy Course Director and Presenter
Sanremo, Italy, (Jun. 2018)

Autonomy, Weapons & the Law of Armed Conflict
US Pacific Command Military Operations and Law Conference
Singapore, (Apr. 2018)

Cyber Operations: Covert Action and Congressional Revenge
Speaker as part of US Southern Command Legal Conference
Dural, FL (Apr. 2018)

The Application of International Humanitarian Law as a Matter of Policy
Panelist as part of SOAS Legal Legacies of the Iraq War
London, United Kingdom (Mar. 2018)

Protecting Detainees in Non-International Armed Conflict:
State and Non-State Actors

Moderator, panel discussion as part of the International Committee of the Red Cross and New York University’s Annual Seminar on International Humanitarian Law
New York City, New York (Mar. 2018)

Key Instruments: Cease Fire Agreements and Peace Agreements,
Privileges, Immunities, Duties and Responsibilities of Peace Keepers and,
The Interrelation of Criminal Responsibility Under Domestic Law, Host Nation and International Law

Conduct of Peace Support Operations Course
International Institute of Humanitarian Law
Deputy Course Director and Presenter
Jinga, Uganda (Feb. 2018)

Law and Policy of Targeting in Military Operations
Military Briefing Series
Geneva Academy
Geneva, Switzerland (Nov. 2017)

Conduct of Hostilities: Principles and Weapons;
Conduct of Hostilities: Targeting Persons & IHL in Action:
Perspectives from the Field

ICRC Introductory International Humanitarian Law Course for Humanitarian Practitioners
Geneva, Switzerland (Nov. 2017)

Other Loyalty: The U.S. Military’s Approach to IHL Violations
Marine Corps Reserve Law of War Detachment
Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall, Virginia (Nov. 2017)

Weapons Review of Learning Systems
Program on Regulation of Emerging Military Technologies Future Wars & Public Conscience Symposium
Melbourne Law School
Melbourne, Australia (May 2017)

Military Justice in the Modern Age: Characteristics & Challenges
Military Briefing Series, Geneva Academy
Geneva, Switzerland (May 2017)

SOFAs in UN Peacekeeping,
UN Police in Peacekeeping and,
UN Peacekeeping and the ICC

Legal Aspects of Peacekeeping Operations Seminar with Moldovan Armed Forces
Chisinau, Moldova (May 2017)

Key Instruments: Cease Fire Agreements and Peace Agreements,
PSO: When Does IHL Apply?,
Conduct of Peacekeepers & Addressing Their IHL Violations

Conduct of Peace Support Operations Course, International Institute of Humanitarian Law
Deputy Course Director and Presenter
Sanremo, Italy (May 2017)

Right Against Torture and Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment,
Non-international Armed Conflict & the Law and,
Targeting Under the Law of Armed Conflict

Human Rights & International Humanitarian Law Seminar with Hungarian Armed Forces
Debrecen, Hungary (Jan. 2017)