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 




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

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

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)

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)

Strange Bedfellows: How Expanding the Public Safety Exception to Miranda Benefits Counterterrorism Suspects, 61 Fordham Urban Law Journal 1 (2014)

Belligerent Targeting and the Invalidity of a Least Harmful Means Rule, 89 International Law Studies 536 (2013) (with Geoffrey S. Corn, Laurie R. Blank and Eric Talbot Jensen) listed in the U.S. Navy War College Information Paper Series, 

Introductory Note: Prosecutor v. Perišić, 52 International Legal Materials 1065 (2013)

International Decisions: Prosecutor v. Perišić, 107 American Journal of International Law 622 (2013)

Law as Shield, Law as Sword: The ICC’s Lubanga Decision, Child Soldiers and the Perverse Mutualism of Participation in Hostilities, 3 University of Miami National Security National Security and Armed Conflict Review 106 (2013)

United States Practice in International Humanitarian Law - National Report, Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law (2012)

Introductory Note: Şahin v. Turkey, 51 International Legal Materials 268 (2012)

Two Sides of the Combatant COIN: Untangling Direct Participation in Hostilities From Belligerent Status in Non-International Armed Conflicts, 33 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 313 (Winter 2011) (with Geoff Corn)

Indefinite Detention "Under the Laws of War," 22 Stanford Law and Policy Review 41 (2011) (with Eric Jensen)

Siren Song: The Implications of the Goldstone Report on International Humanitarian Law, 7 Berkeley Journal of International Law Publicist (2011) (with Geoff Corn)

All Human Rights Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others: The Extraordinary Rendition Of A Terror Suspect In Italy, The NATO SOFA, And Human Rights, 1 Harvard National Security Journal 171 (2010) (with Eric Jensen)

A Sense of Duty: The Illusory Criminal Jurisdiction of the U.S./Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, 11 San Diego Journal of International Law 411 (2010)

Square Peg In A Round Hole: Government Contractor Battlefield Tort Liability and the Political Question Doctrine, 28 Berkeley Journal of International Law 178 (2010)

Introductory Note: The United States Supreme Court: Graham v. Florida and the Federal Court of Australia: Habib v. Commonwealth, 49 International Legal Materials 1029 (2010)

Introductory Note: European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber: Varnava and Others v. Turkey, 49 International Legal Materials 358 (2010)

Law from Above: Unmanned Aerial Systems, Use of Force, and the Law of Armed Conflict, 85 North Dakota Law Review 649 (2009)

Notice Otherwise Given: Will In Absentia Trials at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Violate Human Rights?, 33 Fordham Journal of International Law 57 (2009)

Human Rights and Military Decisions: Counterinsurgency and Trends in the Law of International Armed Conflict, 30 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 1367 (2009) (with Dan E. Stigall and Christopher L. Blakesley)

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, forthcoming 2019)

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, forthcoming)

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)

Agency of Risk: The Competing Balance Between Protecting Military Forces and the Civilian Population During Counterinsurgency Operations in Afghanistan, in LAW, SPIRITUALITY AND ETHICS (Marine Corps University Press 2012) revised and reprinted in COUNTERINSURGENCY LAW:  NEW DIRECTIONS IN ASYMMETRIC WARFARE (Oxford University Press 2013)

Other Publications

Invited post to Just Security, Eyes Wide Shut: Scahill and Greenwald’s Flawed Critique of U.S. SIGINT Based Targeting, (February 18, 2014),

Invited Submission for Professional in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection’s Current Challenges in International Humanitarian Law, The Janus Moon Rising-Why 2014 Heralds United States’ Detention Policy on a Collision Course…..With Itself, (February 10, 2014),

Invited submission to Just Security, Amnesty International’s Drone Strike Report: Once more into the lex lata/ferenda breach? ( responding to Amnesty International’s report on U.S. drone strikes)  (October 22, 2013),

Posting to Opinio Juris, The Truth About Criminal Jurisdiction Over U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: Questions for Secretary of State Kerry, the Loya Jirga… and National Public Radio (guest commentator discussing U.S. Secretary of State comments on criminal jurisdiction over U.S. service members) (October 21, 2013),

Op/ed contribution to Al Jazeera America, The Truth About Criminal Jurisdiction Over U.S. Troops in Afghanistan (October 19, 2013),

Contribution to SMU Experts: What to do About Syria, If You Don’t Know Where You are Going, Any Road will Get You There – Assessing U.S. Military Options in Syria (September 5, 2013),

Contributor to American Society of International Law Cables online reporting of the ASIL annual meeting, The Regulation of Private Military and Security Contractors; Twenty Years of International Criminal Law From the ICTY to the ICC and Beyond; and Book Comment: International Criminal Justice: Legitimacy and Coherency (April, 2013)

Postings to Lawfare, Capture Instead of Kill: A Dangerous Conflation of Law and Policy (guest commentator responding to NYU Law Professor Ryan Goodman’s contention that the law of armed conflict imposes a duty to capture instead of kill) (with Professors Laurie Blank, Geoff Corn and Eric Jensen) (February 25 and March 1, 2013) 

Posting to Opinio Juris,, Auguring Afghanistan: Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction of US Service Members (guest commentator discussing the prospects of a US/Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement) reposted on both Lawfare, and the Air Force General Counsel Blog,  (November 25, 2012)

Posting to Lawfare, Italy, the Abu Omar Rendition Prosecution, and Violation of the NATO SOFA (guest commentator discussing Italian Court of Cassation decision affirming criminal conviction of USAF officer involved in extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar) (September 22, 2012),

Posting to Opinio Juris, President Bashir in Chad: Enough Failure to Go Around (guest commentator discussing Sudanese President Bashir’s visit to a State Party to the Rome Statute while under an ICC arrest warrant) (July 25, 2010),

Posting to Opinio Juris, The STL, In Absentia Trials & Notice “Otherwise Given,” (guest commentator discussing the Special Tribunal For Lebanon’s in absentia trial provisions) (May 28, 2010),

The Law And Policy Implications of ‘Baited Ambushes’ Utilizing Enemy Dead And Wounded, Army Lawyer (June 2010)

Posting to Jurist, Not Child's Play: Revisiting the Law of Child Soldiers, (guest columnist) (April 13, 2010),

Posting to Opinio Juris, US Government Contractors, Battlefield Tort Liability, and the Political Question Doctrine, (guest commentator discussing the Supreme Court inviting the Solicitor General to submit a brief in Carmichael v. KBR) (March 14, 2010),

Posting to Opinio Juris, Bidding for Justice, (guest commentator on the implications of Canadian war crimes prosecutions) (November 14, 2009),


Governmental, Nongovernmental, and Other Government Organizations 
 “The War on Terror and IHL” presentation with Andrew Carswell of the ICRC and Professor Amos Guiora of Utah Law School to Teaching International Humanitarian Law Workshop
International Committee of the Red Cross and BYU Law School
BYU Law School
Provo, UT (February 2014)
Battlefield Status and Protected Persons and
International Criminal Law
International Humanitarian Law Workshop
International Committee of Red Cross and Berkeley Law
Berkeley Law (Berkeley, CA (January 2014)
The Laws of War for the 21st Century
Panel Chair
Appellate Judges Education Institute discussion
Attended by the U.S. Solicitor General
San Diego, CA (November 2013)
Cyber Warfare
Panel Chair
Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and
Society International Biennial Conference
Chicago, IL (October 2013)
Security Cooperation with Foreign Governments
anelist with Canadian Army Lt Col Rob Holman
Moderated by USAF General (ret) Charlie Dunlap)
“US-Canada International Humanitarian Law Workshop”
International Committee of the Red Cross and Duke Law School
Duke Law School
Durham, NC (October 2013)
Use of Force: Law Enforcement and Military Operations
Symmetries: International Humanitarian Law and
International Human Rights Law
Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and
Armed Conflict
Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict
Oxford, UK (July 2013)
Professional Responsibility and National Security Law Advice
Washington State Bar CLE
Seattle, WA (May 2013)
Enforcement and Judicial Responses to Violations of the Law of Armed Conflict
Presentation to the Chief Executive Officer, board, and staff
American Red Cross
Dallas, TX (February 2013)
Stand Your Ground….When Necessary: A Call For A Return to the Necessity of Self-Defense Testimony to the American Bar Association National Taskforce on Stand Your Ground Laws
Dallas, TX (February 2013)
Expanding the Reach: Prospects for Expanding the War Crimes Statute and Prospects of a Crimes Against Humanities Statute
Office of Global Criminal Justice
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. (January 2013)
Signaling Effects of War Crimes Prosecutions
Facilitated discussion of the international law department
U.S. Navy War College
Newport, RI (January 2013)
Battlefield Status and Protected Persons
Interactive International Humanitarian Law Workshop
International Committee of Red Cross and
Pepperdine University School of Law
Pepperdine School of Law
Pepperdine, CA (January 2013)
Battlefield Status and Protected Persons
International Humanitarian Law Workshop
International Committee of Red Cross and Berkeley Law
Berkeley Law
Berkeley, CA (January 2013)
Indefinite Detention of Terrorism Suspects
Panelist on “Detained Suspected Terrorists: Try in
Military Courts or Civilian Courts”
Federalist Society’s Security vs Freedom:
Contemporary Controversies Conference
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL (March 2014)
Fair Trials and the Modern Jury
Moderated discussion by Professors Daryl Brown,
Nancy King, Youngjae Lee and Nancy Marder
SMU Criminal Justice Colloquium
SMU Dedman School of Law
Dallas, TX (January 2014)
United States v Robert Bales: Perspectives on Military Justice and Cultural Context
Moderated discussion by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Morse, lead prosecutor, and Morwari Zafar, Afghan culture expert at the Defense Intelligence Agency
SMU Dedman School of Law
Dallas, TX (November 2013)
The Paradox of Government Investigations
Warren Commission Assistant Counsel and Staff Members
 “The Work of the Warren Commission, Half a Century On: Its Methods, Successes & Questions”
SMU Dedman School of Law
Dallas, TX (October 2013)
Constraining Targeting in Non-international Armed Conflicts: Safe Conduct for Combatants Conducting Informal Dispute Resolution
Presentation and moderated discussion of Professor Peter Margulies’ article
The 6th Annual National Security Law Faculty Workshop
South Texas College of Law
Houston, TX (May 2013)
Drone Strikes: Security, Human Rights, and Morality
Moderator of panel involving Professors Naureen Shah, Columbia Law School,
Mike Lewis, Ohio Northern, and Jeff Kahn, SMU Dedman School of Law
SMU Dedman School of Law
Dallas, TX (April 2013)
Are You on the List? The Legal Implications of Targeted Killing
Reaching Critical Mass: International and U.S. Law in the Wake of Modern Exigencies conference
Vermont Law School
Royalton, VT (March 2013)
Foreign Audiences

Implementing and Enforcing the Law of Armed Conflict: The U.S. Approach
International Conference on Human Rights
Centro Universitário de Brasilia (UniCEUB) Action
Brasilia, Brazil (August 2013)
Implementing and Enforcing the Law of Armed Conflict: The U.S. Approach
International Conference on Human Rights
Centro Universitário do Estado do Pará (CESUPA)
Belem, Brazil (August 2013)
Landscape of Legal Regulation,
Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations and
Latest Developments in Counterterrorism
Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection Thematic Workshop on Counterterrorism Polices and Implications for Humanitarian Action
New York City, NY (July 2013)
Qualification of Situations,
Applicable Law to International and Non-International Armed Conflicts,
Regulating the Conduct of Hostilities – Targeting Objects, and International Criminal Law
Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection Core Professional Training on Humanitarian Law and Policy
New York City, NY (July 2013)
Conduct of Peacekeepers & Addressing Human Rights Violations,
Use of Force in Peace Operations, and
The Responsibility to Protect
Conduct of Peace Support Operations Course
International Institute of Humanitarian Law
Deputy Course Director and Presenter
Sanremo, Italy (June, 2013)
Drones and Targeted Killings
(Panelist along with Ben Wittes, Brookings Institute; Sarah Knuckey, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice NYU Law; and Dick Jackson, Special Advisor to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War Matters
US Pacific Command International Operations and Law Conference
Bangkok, Thailand (June 2013)