DiscoverLaw on FilmEye in the Sky (Guest: Craig Martin) (episode 19)
Eye in the Sky (Guest: Craig Martin) (episode 19)

Eye in the Sky (Guest: Craig Martin) (episode 19)

Update: 2024-02-07


Eye in the Sky (2015), directed by Gavin Hood from a script by Guy Hibbert, depicts the operation of a multinational team aimed at high-level operatives from the Al-Shabaab terrorist group in Nairobi, Kenya. When the British army learns of the location of the suspects,  it plans to capture them. But surveillance reveals the suspects are preparing two new recruits to carry out a suicide bombing. British military officials, with their U.S. partner, seek to shift the operation from capture to kill. Officials must decide whether to authorize a lethal drone strike to avoid a possible terrorist attack, despite the possibility of civilian casualties, including of a young girl who is nearby. Eye in the Sky, which stars Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, and Alan Rickman (in his last screen role), depicts the new reality of drone warfare and the complex legal and moral issues it raises. I’m joined by Craig Martin, Professor of Law at Washburn University School of Law and the creator and host of the JIB/JAB: The Laws of War Podcast (, which features top and upcoming experts in different aspects of the laws of war.


0:00      Introduction
4:41      Background for the military operation
6:42 .    Does the law of armed conflict even apply?
13:14   A drone strike in a friendly country not at war
16:54   Why Kenya’s consent and involvement matters
19:10   Who is targetable under IHL?
26:31     Applying the jus in bello factors
30:42     The policy and strategic issues
34:40     "Revolutions are fueled by postings on YouTube"
36:52     The “Trolley Problem”
40:27     Is targeted killing a misnomer?
44:23   "Group Think” in drone operations
47:00     The impact of drone warfare on the participants
51:44     The role of lawyers
55:22     The “double tap” and the movie’s clear war crime
58:43     Other great movies about the laws of war

Further reading:

“‘Eye in the Sky’ film puts the use of drones in the spotlight,” PBS News Hour (Mar 18, 2016) (transcript)

Martin, Craig, “A Means-Methods Paradox and the Legality of Drone Strikes in Armed Conflict,” 19 Int’l J. Hum. Rights 142 (2015)

Melzer, Nils, Targeted Killing in International Law (Oxford Univ. Press 2009)

Milanovic, Marko, “Eye in the Sky,” EJIL: Talk (May 9, 2016)

Stimson Center, Recommendations and Report of the Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy (2d ed. Apr. 2015)

The White House, Remarks by the President at the National Defense University (May 23, 2013)

Law on Film is created and produced by Jonathan Hafetz. Jonathan is a professor at Seton Hall Law School. He has written many books and articles about the law. He has litigated important cases to protect civil liberties and human rights while working at the ACLU and other organizations. Jonathan is a huge film buff and has been watching, studying, and talking about movies for as long as he can remember.
For more information about Jonathan, here's a link to his bio:
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Eye in the Sky (Guest: Craig Martin) (episode 19)

Eye in the Sky (Guest: Craig Martin) (episode 19)

Jonathan Hafetz