Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Data, Detection, and the Redistribution of the Sensible in International Law

  • Fleur Johns (a1)

One dusty day in 2002, at Takhta Baig Voluntary Repatriation Centre near Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan, an Afghan woman—let us call her Amena—entered a nondescript room and sat down in front of a camera. A brief conversation took place with a woman sitting nearby at a computer terminal. Amena placed her chin where she was directed to do so, swept back a few strands of hair creeping out of her veil, and stared straight ahead for a few seconds while a series of photographs of one of her eyes was taken. Almost immediately, a small alarm sounded on the computer terminal of the woman seated alongside her. Amena was gently ushered toward the other side of the room for discussions with other officials. Some short time later, she was advised that her request to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for a modest cash grant and some supplies to aid her and her family's repatriation to Afghanistan had been denied. This was because, according to output of the UNHCR’s iris verification program, she had already received assistance earlier the same year. When asked, Amena admitted that she had indeed sought UNHCR repatriation assistance multiple times, under pressure from family members. She walked away. Soon, she could soon no longer be seen amid the press of trucks, cars, bicycles, and people that stretched to the suburbs in the distance.

Hide All

1 Ruiz, Hiram A., Afghanistan: Conflict and Displacement 1978 to 2001, 13 Forced Migration Rev. 8, 9 (2002). See generally Ghufran, Nasreen, The Role of UNHCR and Afghan Refugees in Pakistan, 35 Strategic Analysis 945 (2011).

2 See generally Guglielmo Verdirame & Barbara Harrell-Bond, Rights in Exile: Janus-Faced Humanitarianism 68–70 (2005) (describing methods by which the UNHCR tried to distinguish “recyclers” from refugees first seeking assistance on the Kenyan-Sudanese border during the 1990s).

3 Afghan “Recyclers” Under Scrutiny of New Technology, UNHCR News Stories (Oct. 3, 2002), at On deployment elsewhere, see, e.g., Justin Lee, WFP, UNHCR Using Iris Recognition for Syrian Refugee Food Program in Zaatari, Biometric Update (Oct. 17, 2016), at Two of the four iris verification centers set up near the Afghan-Pakistan border in 2002 were closed in 2004 after a decline in the number of refugees returning to Afghanistan. UNHCR Closes Two Iris Verification Centres in Pakistan, IRIN (Sept. 20, 2004), at

4 Jurisdiction, n., Oxford English Dictionary Online, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

5 Zieck, Marjoleine, The Legal Status of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan, a Story of Eight Agreements and Two Suppressed Premises, 20 Int'l J. Refugee L. 253 (2008).

6 Sensory, adj.; sense, n.; and sensation, n., Oxford English Dictionary Online, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

7 This article's account of sense thus departs from a claim made in some legal theory scholarship that the law privileges the visual. See, e.g., Alison Dundes Renteln, Sensational Jurisprudence: Visual Culture and Human Rights. Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource 1–15 (2015).

8 Indeed, drawing upon feminist scholarship, the account of sense presented here rejects conventional oppositions between abstract, principled reasoning, and embodied, material practice. See, e.g., Jane Gallop, Thinking Through the Body (1988) (exploring how literature and philosophy have cast the body as that which must be transcended or dominated, and arguing instead for thinking of the body as a site of (philosophical) knowledge).

9 Economy, n., Oxford English Dictionary Online, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

10 Johns, Fleur, The Temporal Rivalries of Human Rights, 23 Ind. J. Glob. Legal Stud. 39 (2016).

11 Paul Bowman & Richard Stamp, Introduction: A Critical Dissensus, in Reading Rancière, Critical Dissensus xi, xii (2011).

12 Rancière, Jacques, The Thinking of Dissensus: Politics and Aesthetics, in Reading Rancière, Critical Dissensus , supra note 11, at 1, 7 (Bowman, Paul & Stamp, Richard eds., 2011).

13 This idea may be related to the ideals of humanism, but that is not a relationship that will be developed here.

14 Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics 12 (Rockhill, Gabriel trans., 2004).

15 See, e.g., Root, Elihu, The Need of Popular Understanding of International Law, 1 AJIL 1, 2 (1907) (arguing for the importance of improving public knowledge of international law, and “promot[ing] a popular habit of reading and thinking about international affairs,” in light of growing nonstate (popular) control over national conduct); Eagleton, Clyde, Organization of the Community of Nations, 36 AJIL 229 (1942) (writing of the need for the international lawyer to speak “[f]rom his [sic] post of expert knowledge” as the “authoritative voice” of a community, to “reveal to statesmen and to peoples what is necessary to make his law effective”[sic]).

16 See, e.g., Bodansky, Daniel, The Legitimacy of International Governance: A Coming Challenge for International Environmental Law?, 93 AJIL 596 (1999) (highlighting the perception that international environmental institutions and processes are insufficiently democratic and surveying means by which this could be addressed); Sarfaty, Galit A., Why Culture Matters in International Institutions: The Marginality of Human Rights at the World Bank, 103 AJIL 647 (2009) (analyzing the organizational culture of one powerful international institution—the World Bank—to understand why international institutions behave as they do and exploring the marginality of human rights principles within this organizational culture).

17 See, e.g., The Role of ‘Experts’ in International and European Decision-Making Processes: Advisors, Decision Makers or Irrelevant Actors? (Monika Ambrus, Karin Arts, Ellen Hey & Helena Raulus eds., 2014). The proliferation and circulation of experts charged with various types of international legal responsibility has been a topic of burgeoning scholarly interest over the past decade, but there is also a literature on this theme that dates from, or looks back to, the Cold War era. See, e.g., Moon, Donna C. Mehos & Suzanne M., The Uses of Portability: Circulating Experts in the Technopolitics of Cold War and Decolonization, in Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Cold War 4374 (Hecht, Gabrielle ed., 2011); Shen, Zhihua, A Historical Examination of the Issue of Soviet Experts in China: Basic Situation and Policy Changes, 29 Russ. Hist. 377 (2002); Gillian White, The Use of Experts by International Tribunals (1965).

18 David Kennedy, A World of Struggle: How Power, Law, and Expertise Shape Global Political Economy (2016). The focus on the technical shaping of modes of “public reason” as such is Sheila Jasanoff's contribution. See Sheila Jasanoff, Science and Public Reason 5 (2012).

19 Kennedy, supra note 18, at 32.

20 Samuel Moyn voices comparable skepticism: Moyn, Samuel, Knowledge and Politics in International Law, 129 Harv. L. Rev. 2164, 2167 (2016) (reviewing Kennedy, supra note 18).

21 Kennedy, supra note 18, at 78–82.

22 Id. at 165–66.

23 Id. at 93.

24 Id. at 164–67 (describing the professional experience of “yielding” as one of relative freedom, or untethered expert discretion, that emerges when “an expert abandons his position in the face of another”).

25 The Quiet Power of Indicators: Measuring Governance, Corruption, and the Rule of Law (Sally Engle Merry, Kevin E. Davis & Benedict Kingsbury eds., 2015) (a book featuring chapters by social scientists, such as Sally Engle Merry and Smoki Musaraj, and lawyers, including Benedict Kingsbury, Kevin Davis, and René Urueña).

26 Id. at 2.

27 Compare Kevin E. Davis, Sally Engle Merry, Benedict Kingsbury, Introduction: The Local-Global Life of Indicators: Law, Power, and Resistance, in The Quiet Power of Indicators, supra note 25, at 4 (2015).

28 Galton, Francis, Biometry, 1 Biometrika 7 (1901) (discussing the application to biology of the methods of statistics). Galton is noteworthy for his elaboration of the correlation coefficient and his observation of the phenomenon of regression to the mean. See Nicholas Wright Gillham, A Life of Sir Francis Galton: from African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics (2001). See also Porter, Theodore, Making Things Quantitative, 7 Sci. in Context 389 (1994).

29 McFarland, Daniel A. & McFarland, H. Richard, Big Data and the Danger of Being Precisely Inaccurate, 2 Big Data & Soc'y (2015), at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

30 See, e.g., The Quiet Power of Indicators, supra note 25, at 2.

31 Kitchin, Rob, Big Data, New Epistemologies, and Paradigm Shifts, 1 Big Data & Soc'y 1 (2014).

32 Power, Michael, Counting, Control and Calculation: Reflections on Measuring and Management, 57 Hum. Rel. 765, 769 (2004). See, e.g., Smoki Musaraj, Indicators, Global Expertise, and a Local Political Drama: Producing and Deploying Corruption Perception Data in Post-Socialist Albania, in The Quiet Power of Indicators, supra note 25, at 222, 224 (citing the work of Michael Power, among others).

33 Theodore M. Porter, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life ix (1996); Porter, Theodore, Measurement, Objectivity, and Trust, 1 Measurement: Interdisc. Res. & Persp. 241, 242 (2003). See, e.g., The Quiet Power of Indicators, supra note 25, at 2 (citing the work of Theodore Porter, among others).

34 Cf. Orford, Anne, In Praise of Description, 25 Leiden J. Int'l L. 609 (2012) (arguing for the productiveness of a turn to description, as a method of writing about law, in lieu of explanation and critique, or at least an alternative to those modes of critique most prevalent in international legal scholarship). Of course, philosophy often also entails description, phenomenological description being the obvious example. However, unlike most works of phenomenological description, this article is not a study of the structure or nature of consciousness as experienced in the first person by an individual human subject. See Dermot Moran, Introduction to Phenomenology (2000) (introducing the principal writings of the classical phenomenologists and those of some related thinkers).

35 Cf. Kennedy, David, When Renewal Repeats: Thinking Against the Box, 32 N.Y.U. J. Int'l L. & Pol. 335, 476–500 (2000) (describing Kennedy's “efforts to launch and sustain an extravernacular project in the field [of international law]”—that is, a project that departs from argumentative routines and concerns typical of international legal scholarship). This description is meso-level in the sense that it is neither a deep empirical dive into the details of any one or more case study or studies, nor an all-encompassing, all-explaining account of global legal order.

36 Samuel A. Chambers, The Lessons of Rancière 38–64, 122–56 (2013) (explaining Rancière's reinvention of politics premised on the prevalence of orders of inequality and domination, and insistence that the “disordering logic” of democracy must operate on this terrain). In referring to the embedded inequality of the international legal field, I am saying something more than that international law is implicated in, and helps to reproduce “real world” inequalities understood as external to the field. Rather, the claim is that the purported commonality of the international legal field is made of inequality; that inequality in the distribution of sense-making capacity is fundamental to its operation in ways not well captured by critiques of international law for gender bias, racial bias, or other modes of external critique.

37 See, e.g., Plato, Republic, Book VII 107–17 (Emlyn-Jones, Chris & Preddy, William ed. & trans., Harvard Univ. Press 2014) (c. 380–360 B.C.E.) (the allegory of the cave, a famous exposition of Plato's conviction that reality may only be apprehended intellectually, through an appreciation of abstract “forms,” not by the senses); David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 2329 (Millican, Peter ed., Oxford Univ. Press 2007) (1748) (arguing that knowledge arises not from reason but from experience); Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception (Landes, Donald A. trans., Routledge 2012) (1945) (emphasizing the role of bodily experience in consciousness); Nancy, Jean-Luc & Syrotinski, Michael, Extraordinary Sense, 8 The Senses & Soc'y 10 (2013) (on the sensory or sensible foundations of philosophic thought and their resistance to rational ordering).

38 These statements are not made out of any circumspection about Rancière's project, or doubt about the importance or politics of his work. What I am seeking to avoid here is any suggestion that the dilemmas by which international law is plagued and by which international lawyers should be concerned—as represented in this article—might be cured or transcended by recourse to another discipline. All too often in legal writing, appeal is made to some deus ex machina drawn from another scholarly field, presumed to be free of the difficulties attributed to the legal discipline in question and capable of leading hapless lawyers out of those difficulties with benign grace. My engagement with Rancière's work in this article is brief and contained only to avoid any such representation of his power (a representation of which Rancière's work itself counsels wariness).

39 Yasuaki, Onuma, International Law in and with International Politics: The Functions of International Law in International Society, 14 Eur. J. Int'l L. 105, 108 (2003). On the role played by functionalism in international legal thought, see Johnston, Douglas M., Functionalism in the Theory of International Law, 26 Can. Y.B. Int'l L. 3 (1988).

40 UN Charter pmbl.; Art. 1, para.1.

41 See, e.g., Martti Koskenniemi, From Apology to Utopia: The Structure of International Legal Argument 515 (rev. ed. 2005) (“Juristic discussion appeared to remain in a constant flux. It could find no position in which to remain permanently.”).

42 Rancière, Jacques, Panagia, Davide & Bowlby, Rachel, Ten Theses on Politics, 5(3) Theory & Event (2001), available at

43 Id.

44 Alvarez-Verdugo, Milagros, Comparing U.S. and E.U. Strategies Against Weapons of Mass Destruction: Some Legal Consequences, 11 Ann. Surv. Int'l & Comp. L. 119 (2005) (“Weapon(s) of mass destruction (WMD) is not a legal concept. Nonetheless the social sciences regularly use this term to encompass nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to distinguish them from conventional weapons … .”). See generally Daniel Joyner, International Law and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (2009); Joyner, Daniel, The Security Council as a Legal Hegemon, 43 Geo. J. Int'l L. 225 (2012) (discussing UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and related resolutions, concerning the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction).

45 Jensen, Eric Talbot, The International Law of Environmental Warfare: Active and Passive Damage During Armed Conflict, 38 Vand. J. Transnat'l L. 145 (2005); Burch, Thomas, Non-state Actors in the Nuclear Black Market: Proposing an International Legal Framework for Preventing Nuclear Expertise Proliferation & Nuclear Smuggling by Non-state Actors, 2 Santa Clara. J. Int'l L. 84 (2004).

46 Weapons Under International Human Rights Law (Stuart Casey-Maslin ed., 2014).

47 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, opened for signature July 1, 1968, 21 UST 483, 729 UNTS 161 (entered into force March 5, 1970), available at [hereinafter Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty].

48 Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War 1–25, 203–31 (2d ed. 1996).

49 Mohamed Shaker, The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: Origin and Implementation 1959–1979, Vol. 1, at 5 (1980). See also Joyner, supra note 44, at 3–11.

50 Shaker, supra note 49

51 Joyner, supra note 44, at 7.

52 Id. at 9.

53 Id. at 8. See Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, supra note 47, Art. IX, para. 3.

54 UNODA, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Status of the Treaty, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

55 UNRCPD, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

56 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, supra note 47, Art. I.

57 Joyner, supra note 44, at 11.

58 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, supra note 47, Art. II.

59 Id. Art. III. For wider-angle insights into the work of the IAEA, see David Fischer, History of the International Atomic Energy Agency: The First Forty Years (1997) (narrating the history of the IAEA from 1957 to 1997); Hecht, Gabrielle, The Power of Nuclear Things, 51 Tech. & Culture 1, 8 (2010) (arguing that the IAEA's “distinctions about nuclearity” serve in part to constitute “a technopolitical frame for global trade”).

60 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, supra note 47, Arts. IV–V.

61 Id. Art. VI.

62 IAEA, The Structure and Content of Agreements Between the Agency and States Required in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (June 1, 1972), at [hereinafter INFCIRC/153]. See Joyner, supra note 44, at 20.

63 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, paras. 7–9, 31–32, 51–90.

64 Rancière, supra note 14, at 19.

65 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, para. 87 (emphasis in original).

66 IAEA, Biography of Hans Blix, at https:// (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

67 Helena Smith, Blix: I Was Smeared by the Pentagon, Guardian (June 11, 2003), at See generally Hans Blix, Disarming Iraq (2004).

68 Sydney Peace Found., Hans Blix, 2007, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017); Fulbright Ass'n, Past Laureates of the Fulbright Prize, 2014 – Hans Blix, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

69 Nobel Prize, Mohamed ElBaradei – Biographical, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017). The latter was the title of ElBaradei's 2011 memoir: Mohamed ElBaradei, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times (2011).

70 Scott Ritter, We Ain't Found Shit, 37 London Rev. Books 35 (July 7, 2015).

71 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, para. 85.

72 But see The Role of ‘Experts’ in International and European Decision-Making Processes, supra note 17 (analyzing experts’ role at the international and European levels in the policy areas of environment, trade, human rights, migration, and financial regulation).

73 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, paras. 9, 49–69.

74 This seems in tension with Michael Power's widely read account of the “drift from an inspection style to an audit style of oversight” with audit style treating “the management system as its primary object” whereas inspection style “focuses more on the substantive conduct of the inspectee” (although it is “difficult to distinguish definitively between them”). See Michael Power, The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification 130–31 (1997).

75 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, paras. 51–69, 74–75.

76 Id., paras. 8–9, 88.

77 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62; IAEA, Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) Between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards (Sept. 1, 1997), at [hereinafter INFCIRC/540].

78 Hirsch, Theodore, The IAEA Additional Protocol: What It Is and Why It Matters, 2004 Non-proliferation Rev. 140, 143 (2004).

79 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, para. 6.

80 INFCIRC/540, supra note 77, Arts. 5(c), 6, 9, 18(f), 18(g).

81 Latour, Bruno, Circulating Reference. Sampling the Soil in the Amazon Forest, in Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies 24, 36 (1999).

82 On the notion of “circulating reference” being drawn upon here, see id.

83 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, para. 1; Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, supra note 47, Art. III, para. 1.

84 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, paras. 43(b)–(c), 49(a), 58(c), and, for the definition of a “facility” to be so described, para. 106; INFCIRC/540, supra note 77, Art. 2.

85 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, paras. 74–75, 91–97; INFCIRC/540, supra note 77, Art. 6(a).

86 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, paras. 76–82; INFCIRC/540, supra note 77, Arts. 4–9 (emphasis in original).

87 INFCIRC/540, supra note 77, Art. 15.

88 Id. Art. 14(b).

89 Hirsch, supra note 78, at 143.

90 Pilat, Joseph F., The Future of the NPT, in Routledge Handbook of Nuclear Proliferation and Policy 131, 139 (Pilat, Joseph F. & Busch, Nathan E. eds., 2015).

91 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, paras. 74–75; INFCIRC/540, supra note 77, Arts. 6, 14. For background on the controversies and sensitivities surrounding the IAEA gaining access to, and relying on, intelligence data gleaned from satellites under individual nations’ control, see Fischer, supra note 59, at 283.

92 Guy S. Goodwin-Gill & Jane McAdam, The Refugee in International Law 1 (2d ed. 2007).

93 Id.; see also Johns, Fleur, The Madness of Migration: Disquiet in the International Law Relating to Refugees, 27 Int'l J. L. & Psych. 587, 588 (2004) (discussing the tendency of “international refugee law … to foster a sense that multivalent allegiance and migratory diffusion are deviant, unnatural impulses”).

94 UNHCR, Registration: A Practical Guide for Field Staff (Jan. 1, 1994), available at [hereinafter 1994 UNHCR Guide].

95 Id.

96 UNHCR, Commodity Distribution: A Practical Guide for Field Staff (June 1997), at [hereinafter 1997 UNHCR Guide]. For insight into practices of refugee registration, identification, and counting beyond the scope of these manuals, and ways in which these play into the global politics of refugee protection and aid distribution, see Harrell-Bond, Barbara, Voutira, Eftihia & Leopold, Mark, Counting the Refugees: Gifts, Givers, Patrons and Clients, 5 J. Refugee Stud. 205 (1992); Edwards, Alice, A Numbers Game: Counting Refugees and International Burden-Sharing, 32 U. Tasmania L. Rev. 1 (2013); Zetter, Roger, Labelling Refugees: Forming and Transforming a Bureaucratic Identity, 4 J. Refugee Stud. 39 (1991).

97 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94; 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96.

98 See Handl, Gunther F., Reisman, W. Michael, Simma, Bruno, Dupuy, Pierre Marie & Chinkin, Christine, A Hard Look at Soft Law, 82 ASIL Proc. 371 (1988); Robilant, Anna di, Genealogies of Soft Law, 54 Am. J. Comp. L. 499 (2006).

99 Contra Harrell-Bond, Voutira & Leopold, supra note 96, at 211 (arguing that “the attitudes of assistance agencies themselves lead to disbelief of any self-generated estimates of refugee numbers … ”).

100 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 2, para. 7.3.

101 Id., pt. 2, para. 7.3; pt. 3, para. 1.2.

102 Id., pt. 2, para. 7.11.

103 Id.

104 Id., pt. 4, para. 6.2(e).

105 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, Key Points.

106 Id., sec. 1.4.5.

107 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 2, para. 7.10; pt. 3, para. 2.2; pt. 4, paras. 1.7, 6.1, 6.3.

108 Id., pt. 4, para. 10.6.

109 Id., pt. 4, para. 10.8.

110 Id., pt. 2, para. 7.12.

111 Id., pt. 2, paras. 1.3–1.4.

112 Id., pt. 2, para. 9.5.

113 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, secs. 1.2, 3.1.

114 Id., sec. 1.1.

115 Id., sec. 3.5.

116 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 2, paras. 8.1–8.4.

117 Id., pt. 2, paras. 5.1, 7.8, 8.4.

118 Id., pt. 2, para. 8.3.

119 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, sec. 1.4.1.

120 Id., secs. 1.2, 5.2.

121 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 2, paras. 1.6, 10.1.

122 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, supra note 47, Art. III.

123 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, para. 2.

124 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, sec. 1.4.2.

125 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 4, para. 10.5(c).

126 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, sec. 1.4.2.

127 Id.

128 Id., sec. 1.4.3.

129 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 2, para. 9.10.

130 Id.

131 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, sec. 2.1.

132 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 4, para. 10.11.

133 Id., pt. 4, paras. 10.11(a), (g).

134 Id., pt. 4, para. 9.2; 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, secs. 3.5–3.6.

135 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 3, para. 2.3(b); 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, secs. 2.3, 3.5.

136 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 4, para. 9.2.

137 Martti Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960, at 406 (2004).

138 1994 UNHCR Guide, supra note 94, pt. 2, para. 9.1.

139 Id., pt. 5, para. 4.1.

140 1997 UNHCR Guide, supra note 96, sec. 2.2.

141 Id.

142 Id., sec. 6.2.

143 Id., sec. 2.2.

144 Contra Friedrich A. Hayek, 2 Law, Legislation, and Liberty: The Mirage of Social Justice 107, 109 (1978).

145 Contra Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, Andreas, Atmospheres of Law: Senses, Affects, Lawscapes, 7 Emotion, Space & Soc'y 35 (2013) (emphasizing law's regulation and control of the sensing body, although Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos does not, admittedly, posit a prelegal, authentic mode of bodily existence as such).

146 Contra Danilo Mandic, Caterina Nirta, Andrea Pavoni & Andreas Philoppopoulos-Mihalopoulos, Introduction: Law and Taste 5 (The Westminster Online Working Papers Series, Law and the Senses Series: The Taste Issue, 2013), available at (“[S]ince [it is] deemed much too close to the animal, the elemental, the corporeal … taste has to be controlled, disciplined and moderated, to avoid it turning into a capital vice (gluttony).”).

147 The reference to law and policy having “weight” makes use of a phrase in Pilat, supra note 90, at 139 (discussing the “normative and legal weight of the [NPT] regime”). Regarding the “pull” to/of law and lawfulness, there are many scholarly accounts of this phenomenon and how it may be sustained. One of my favorites, albeit not one directly transposable here, is Duncan Kennedy's account of an encounter with a rule that “just applies itself” in the course of adjudication. See Kennedy, Duncan, Freedom and Constraint in Adjudication: A Critical Phenomenology, 36 J. Leg. Educ. 518, 520 (1986).

148 Gary Milhollin, The Iraqi Bomb, New Yorker, Feb. 1, 1993, at 47; ElBaradei, supra note 69, at 9–28.

149 Philip Towle, The Disarmament of Iraq: Precedents and Prospects, 12 Defense Analysis 53, 57 (1996); Iraq: A Deadly Game of Chicken, Time (Oct. 7, 1991), at,9171,973980,00.html.

150 Adam Gorlick, Stanford's North Korea Team of Siegfried Hecker and John Lewis Keeps the World Informed of Pyongyang Nuclear March, Stanford News (Nov. 30, 2010), at

151 IAEA, Strengthening the Effectiveness and Improving the Efficiency of Agency Safeguards, General Conference, GC (58)/16, 3 (Aug. 5, 2014), at; James Doyle, Nuclear Safeguards, Security and Nonproliferation: Achieving Security with Technology and Policy 74 (2011); Eugene P. Bertin, Principles and Practice of X-Ray Spectrometric Analysis 6–12, 89–92 (2012); Hem Raj Verma, Atomic and Nuclear Analytical Methods: XRF, Mössbauer, XPS, NAA and Ion-Beam Spectroscopic Techniques 1–2, 19 (2007).

152 IAEA Symposium on International Safeguards: Linking Strategy, Implementation and People, Oct. 20–24, 2014, Book of Abstracts Presentations and Papers, Doc. No. IAEA-CN-220 (Mar. 23, 2015), at [hereinafter IAEA Safeguards Symposium Proceedings].

153 Monitoring Nuclear Weapons: The Nuke Detectives, Economist (Sept. 5, 2015), at

154 Id. (quoting Dr. Lassina Zerbo, head of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization).

155 Timothy Oleson, Beyond the Bomb: The World's Nuclear Watchdog Expands its Science, Earth Mag. (Apr. 27, 2015), at

156 Cf. Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays 3–35 (William Lovitt trans., 1977) (on technology as revealing). Not all, however, subscribe to this expectation, and those who do voice it do so in varying degrees. Former director general of the IAEA Hans Blix, for example, has emphasized that “international civil servants” charged with on-site inspection and qualitative, as well as quantitative, analysis may reach “conclusions … closer to reality” than conclusions yielded by remotely or indirectly sourced intelligence data. For this reason, Blix has argued strongly for the maintenance of both modes of verification practice—inspection and intelligence data-gathering—and for “keep[ing] them apart.” Pomper, Miles A., Getting it Right the Next Time: An Interview with Hans Blix, 34 Arms Control Today 14, 16 (2004).

157 Oleson, supra note 155.

158 Alisa L. Carrigan, Can the IAEA Verify the Iran Deal?, Bull. Atomic Scientists (May 5, 2015), at

159 Yukiya Amano, Statement at IAEA Symposium on International Safeguards: Linking Strategy, Implementation and People (Oct. 20, 2014), at

160 Yukiya Amano, Challenges in Nuclear Verification: The IAEA's Role on the Iranian Nuclear Issue (Oct. 31, 2014), at's-role-iranian-nuclear-issue.

161 Denise Bleakly, Karl Horak, & Michael McDaniel, Sandia National Laboratories, Enhancing Safeguards Analysts’ Geospatial Usage 15 (2012). See Bhupendra Jasani, Bernd Richter, Gotthard Stein, Maurice D. Ward & Mark Killinger, Enhancing IAEA Safeguards Using Commercial Satellite Imagery: A Pilot Study (1996).

162 Niemeyer, Irmgard, Listner, Clemens & Nussbaum, Sven, Object-Based Image Analysis Using Very High-Resolution Satellite Data, 40 J. Inst. Nuclear Materials Mgmt. 100, 100 (2012); IAEA, IAEA Safeguards: Staying Ahead of the Game 21 (2007); IAEA, New and Emerging Trends in Satellite Imagery, Presentation at 2014 Safeguards Symposium (Oct. 21, 2014), at

163 IAEA, IAEA Safeguards, supra note 162, at 21. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization), there were 1,419 operating satellites orbiting the earth as of June 2016. See UCS Satellite Database, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017). About 40 percent of those orbiting in 2014 were used primarily for commercial purposes. See David Yanofsky & Tim Fernholz, This is Every Active Satellite Orbiting Earth (Dec. 21, 2015), at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

164 Bleakly, Horak & McDaniel, supra note 161, at 15–16; open source, adj., Oxford English Dictionary Online, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017) (“designating software for which the original program files used to compile the applications are available to users to be modified and redistributed as they wish”).

165 Bleakly, Horak & McDaniel, supra note 161, at 16 (endnote omitted).

166 Laura Rockwood, The IAEA and International Safeguards, in Routledge Handbook of Nuclear Proliferation and Policy, supra note 90, at 142, 151–52.

167 Id. at 150–54.

168 Laura Rockwood, The IAEA's State-Level Concept and the Law of Unintended Consequences, Arms Control Today, at

169 E.g., Julian Ryall, Satellite Imagery Reveals North Korea Is Refurbishing Nuclear Facility, Telegraph (Aug. 13, 2015), at; North Korea Shrouded in Darkness in Stunning New Photo from Space Station, CBS News (Feb. 25, 2014), at

170 Contra Shim, David, Remote Sensing Place: Satellite Images as Visual Spatial Imaginaries, 51 Geoforum 152, 159 (2014). See also Sheila Jasanoff, Image and Imagination: The Formation of Global Environmental Consciousness, in Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance 309 (Clark A. Miller & Paul N. Edwards eds., 2001).

171 Susan Sontag, On Photography 2 (1977). Contra Perkins, Chris & Dodge, Martin, Satellite Imagery and the Spectacle of Secret Spaces, 40 Geoforum 546, 548 (2009) (emphasizing the amenability of satellite image data to being “re-imagined and subverted” for “counter-hegemonic” purposes).

172 Jeffrey Richelson, Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea 451 (2007).

173 Irmgard Niemeyer, Clemens Listner & Prashanth Reddy Marpu, Treaty Monitoring from Space – Satellite Imagery Analysis for Verifying Treaty Compliance, in Sensors, Systems, and Next-Generation Satellites XII, 7474, Proc. of SPIE 74741U, 74741U-3 (Roland Meynart, Steven P. Neeck & Haruhisa Shimoda eds., 2009).

174 See generally Lucy Suchman, Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions (2d ed. 2007).

175 Jiawei Han, Micheline Kamber & Jian Pei, Data Mining: Concepts and Techniques 6 (3d ed. 2012).

176 Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest & Clifford Stein, Introduction to Algorithms 5 (3d ed. 2009).

177 Ian H. Witten, Eibe Frank & Mark A. Hall, Data Mining: Practical Machine Learning Tools and Techniques (3d ed. 2011).

178 Niemeyer, Listner & Marpu, supra note 173, at 74741U-4.

179 Hillol Kargupta & Krishnamoorthy Sivakumar, Existential Pleasures of Distributed Data Mining, in Data Mining: Next Generation Challenges and Future Directions (Hillol Kargupta, Anupam Joshi, Krishnamoorthy Sivakumar & Yelena Yesha eds., 2004); Jure Leskovec, Anand Rajaraman & Jeffrey D. Ullman, Mining of Massive Datasets (rev. ed. 2014).

180 Garcia, Humberto et al. , Integration of Facility Modeling Capabilities for Nuclear Nonproliferation Analysis, 54 Progress in Nuclear Energy 96, 99 (2012).

181 Tom Soukup & Ian Davidson, Visual Data Mining: Techniques and Tools for Data Visualization and Mining xxiii (2002); Adelchi Azzalini & Bruno Scarpa, Data Analysis and Data Mining: An Introduction 5 (2012).

182 Niemeyer, Listner & Nussbaum, supra note 162, at 100.

183 INFCIRC/153, supra note 62, para. 7.

184 See generally Abburu, Sunitha & Golla, Suresh Babu, Satellite Image Classification Techniques: A Review, 119 Int'l J. Comput. Applications 20 (2015).

185 See generally Leskovec, Rajaraman & Ullman, supra note 179, at 415–17.

186 Trevor Hastie, Robert Tibshirani & Jerome Friedman, Unsupervised Learning (2009).

187 See generally Dahlman, Ola, How Can Science Support a Process Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons?, 21 Sci. & Glob. Sec'y 95 (2013).

188 Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

189 Louis Charbonneau & John Irish, Experts Urge Release of Details of IAEA Inspection at Iran Site, Reuters (Sept. 18, 2015), at

190 Monitoring Nuclear Weapons, supra note 153.

191 See generally Jill Lepore, The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Innovation Gets Wrong, New Yorker (June 23, 2014), at

192 Amy F. Woolf, The Role of Technology in Monitoring and Verification, in Routledge Handbook of Nuclear Proliferation and Policy, supra note 90, at 349, 356.

193 Frank Pabian, G. Renda, R. Jungwirth, L.K. Kim, E. Wolfart & G.G.M. Cojazzi, Open Source Analysis in Support to Nonproliferation Monitoring and Verification Activities: Using the New Media to Derive Unknown New Information, in IAEA Safeguards Symposium Proceedings, supra note 152, at 322; Cristina Versino, Pattern Recognition by Humans and Machines, in IAEA Safeguards Symposium Proceedings, supra note 152, at 330.

194 Langdon Winner, Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-control as a Theme in Political Thought (1977).

195 Burr, William, A Scheme of ‘Control’: The United States and the Origins of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, 1974–1976, 36 Int'l Hist. Rev. 252, 271 (2014).

196 Monica Dreicer, Clemens Listner, Cliff Chen, Gotthard Stein & Irmgard Niemeyer, Applying State-Level Approaches to Arms Control Verification (Presented at Ann. Mtg. of Inst. Nuclear Materials Mgt., July 17, 2014), available at

197 Bleakly, Horak & McDaniel, supra note 161, at 15–16.

198 Nikolai Khlebnikov, Davide Parise & Julian Whichello, Novel Technologies for the Detection of Undeclared Nuclear Activities, IAEA-CN-148/32 (2007), available at (discussing “techniques and instruments that will be used for the implementation of additional protocols, including the conduct of complementary access,” such as satellite image analysis).

199 Yaron Ezrahi, The Descent of Icarus: Science and the Transformation of Contemporary Democracy 275 (1990).

200 This is in contrast to many accounts of law's “privileging of the visual,” the prevalence of which is something on which Emily Grabham remarks. See Grabham, Emily, Shaking Mr. Jones: Law and Touch, 5 Int'l J. L. in Context 343, 344 (2009).

201 Jacobsen, Katja Lindskov, Experimentation in Humanitarian Locations: UNHCR and Biometric Registration of Afghan Refugees, 46 Sec'y Dialogue 144, 149 (2015).

202 Zieck, supra note 5, at 256–65.

203 Kronenfeld, Daniel, Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Not All Refugees, Not Always in Pakistan, Not Necessarily Afghan?, 21 J. Refugee Stud. 43 (2008).

204 Afghan “Recyclers” Under Scrutiny of New Technology, supra note 3.

205 Id.; UNHCR Gears Up for 2003 Afghan Repatriation, UNHCR News Stories (Feb. 24, 2003), at; Afghanistan: Iris Testing Proves Successful, UNHCR Briefing Notes (Oct. 10, 2003), at Barbara Harrell-Bond, Eftihia Voutira, and Mark Leopold suggest that disputes over numbers between the UNHCR and its donors may put pressure on the organization to improve its official statistics, and that enumeration practices often proceed on the “assumption that ‘refugees always lie.’” See Harrell-Bond, Voutira & Leopold, supra note 96, at 213.

206 BioID Technologies, UNHCR Refugee Identification System, at (last visited Mar. 28, 2017).

207 Afghanistan: Iris Testing Proves Successful, supra note 205; UNHCR, Agreement Between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Governing the Repatriation of Afghan Citizens Living in Pakistan (2007), at [hereinafter Tripartite Agreement].

208 Zieck, supra note 5, at 264; Tripartite Agreement, supra note 207.

209 UNHCR, Agreement Between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Governing the Repatriation of Afghan Citizens Living in Pakistan (2003), Art. 15, at

210 Colonna, Liane, A Taxonomy and Classification of Data Mining, 16 SMU Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 309, 316 (2013); Azzalini & Scarpa, supra note 181, at 8.

211 See generally Daugman, John, How Iris Recognition Works, 14 Circuits & Systems for Video Technology, IEEE Transactions 21 (2004).

212 Liam Lye, Ali Chekima, Liau Chung Fan & Jamal Ahmad Dargham, Iris Recognition Using Self-Organizing Neural Network, Student Conference on Research and Development, SCOReD 2002 (July 2002), available at; Wenming Cao, Jianhui Hu, Gang Xiao & Shoujue Wang, Iris Recognition Algorithm Based on Point Covering of High-Dimensional Space and Neural Network, in Machine Learning and Data Mining in Pattern Recognition (Petra Perner & Atsushi Imiya eds., 2005); Sibai, Fadi N., Hosani, Hafsa I., Naqbi, Raja M., Dhanhani, Salima & Shehhi, Shaikha, Iris Recognition Using Artificial Neural Networks, 38 Expert Systems with Applications: Int'l J. 5940 (2011); Bowyer, Kevin, Hollingsworth, Karen P. & Flynn, Patrick J., Image Understanding for Iris Biometrics: A Survey, 110 Comput. Vision & Image Understanding 281 (2008); Mark J. Burge & Kevin Bowyer, Handbook of Iris Recognition 79–80 (2013).

213 Richard Roiger & Michael Geatz, Data Mining: A Tutorial-Based Primer 45–47, 245–64 (2003).

214 Burge & Bowyer, supra note 212, at 300; Nathan D. Kalka, Jinyu Zuo, Natalia A. Schmid & Bojan Cukic, Image Quality Assessment for Iris Biometric, in SPIE 6202: Biometric Technology for Human Identification III Proceedings 6202:D1–D11 (2006).

215 S. Sumathi & S.N. Sivanandam, Introduction to Data Mining and its Applications 402 (2006); Roiger & Geatz, supra note 213, at 9–11.

216 Iris Testing of Returning Afghans Passes 200,000 Mark, UNHCR News Stories (Oct. 10, 2003), at; Afghanistan: Iris Testing Proves Successful, supra note 205.

217 Afghan “Recyclers” Under Scrutiny of New Technology, supra note 3.

218 Afghanistan: Iris Testing Proves Successful, supra note 205. For discussion of error rates in iris recognition generally, see Vatsa, Mayank, Singh, Richa & Noore, Afzel, Improving Iris Recognition Performance Using Segmentation, Quality Enhancement, Match Score Fusion, and Indexing, 38 Systems, Man & Cybernetics, Part B: Cybernetics, IEEE Transactions 1021 (2008); Burge & Bowyer, supra note 212.

219 Iris Testing of Returning Afghans Passes 200,000 Mark, supra note 216. Commentators have, however, been critical of the UNHCR’s failure to disclose the risk of false matches likely to arise in large-scale applications of biometric technology, or to put in place measures “to detect and correct for such false matches,” especially in view of the fact that data anonymization might hinder their detection. See Jacobsen, supra note 201, at 151–52.

220 BioID Technologies, supra note 206.

221 Afghan “Recyclers” Under Scrutiny of New Technology, supra note 3.

222 Iris Testing of Returning Afghans Passes 200,000 Mark, supra note 216.

223 Afghan “Recyclers” Under Scrutiny of New Technology, supra note 3.

224 Id.

225 Id.

226 See, e.g., BioID Technologies, supra note 206; Afghanistan: Iris Testing Proves Successful, supra note 205.

227 Afghan “Recyclers” Under Scrutiny of New Technology, supra note 3.

228 Cf. Amoore, Louise, Lines of Sight: On the Visualization of Unknown Futures, 13 Citizenship Stud. 17, 18 (2009) (observing that “items of data” need not comprise “a picture or a snapshot of a person” in order be made actionable in counterterrorism operations, but rather “a projected line of sight” or a “digital alter ego … a projected person”).

229 Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation), in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays 121, 160–65 (Ben Brewster trans., 2d ed. 1977).

230 Afghan “Recyclers” Under Scrutiny of New Technology, supra note 3; Afghanistan: Iris Testing Proves Successful, supra note 205.

231 Afghanistan: Iris Testing Proves Successful, supra note 205.

232 Afghan “Recyclers” Under Scrutiny of New Technology, supra note 3.

233 Id.

234 David J. Hand, Heikki Mannila & Padhraic Smyth, Principles of Data Mining 163 (2001).

235 Loh, Stanley, de Oliviera, José Palazzo M. & Gameiro, Mauricio A., Knowledge Discovery in Texts for Constructing Decision Support Systems, 18 Applied Intelligence 357, 358 (2003).

236 Daugman, supra note 211, at 27–29 (discussing the “decision environment” for iris recognition).

237 Yanhong Li, A User-Guided Association Rules Mining Method and its Application, Fifth Int'l Conf. on Comput. & Info. Tech. (Sept. 21–23, 2005), available at

238 Jain, Anil K., Data Clustering: 50 Years Beyond K-means, 31 Pattern Recognition Letters 651, 656 (2010 ).

239 Claudio Ciborra, The Labyrinths of Information: Challenging the Wisdom of Systems (2002).

240 Hand, Mannila & Smyth, supra note 234, at 295, 440–41 (2001).

241 The Quiet Power of Indicators, supra note 25.

242 Vatsa, Singh & Noore, supra note 218; Burge & Bowyer, supra note 212.

243 Afghanistan: Iris Testing Proves Successful, supra note 205.

244 Burge & Bowyer, supra note 212, at 6.

245 Iris Testing of Returning Afghans Passes 200,000 Mark, supra note 216.

246 E.g., Merritt Roe Smith & Leo Marx, Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism (1994) (mapping the meanings associated historically with the concept of technological determinism, including recurrent challenges to it). But see Sally Wyatt, Technological Determinism Is Dead; Long Live Technological Determinism, in The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies 165 (Edward J. Hackett, Olga Amsterdamska, Michael E. Lynch & Judy Wajcman eds., 2007) (arguing that, despite relentless critique of technological determinism in science and technology studies, it remains pervasive in business and policy circles).

247 See, e.g., Winner, supra note 194, at 323.

248 See, e.g., Jean d'Aspremont, Epistemic Forces in International Law: Foundational Doctrines and Techniques of International Legal Argumentation (2015); Jack L. Goldsmith & Eric A. Posner, The Limits of International Law (2007); Weber, Max, The Three Types of Legitimate Rule, 4 Berkeley Pub. Soc'y & Inst. 1 (1958); Ryan Goodman & Derek Jinks, Socializing States: Promoting Human Rights Through International Law (2013).

249 Rancière, Panagia & Bowlby, supra note 42.

250 Koskenniemi, Martti, The Politics of International Law – 20 Years Later, 20 Eur. J. Int'l L. 7, 10 (2009).

I am grateful for financial support from the Australian Centre for Cyber Security at UNSW and the UNSW Law School, for the hospitality of the European University Institute (especially Nehal Bhuta) during the writing of this article, and to Pornsakol Coorey for research assistance. For invaluable comments and questions on earlier drafts, I thank Katherine Biber, Or Bassok, Anna Chadwick, Marc De Leeuw, Rosalind Dixon, Charlotte Epstein, Ben Golder, Stephen Humphreys, Sheila Jasanoff, Liam McHugh-Russell, Bronwen Morgan, Juliet Rogers, Ned Rossiter, Christian Sandvig, Giovanni Sartor, Mariana Valverde, Miguel Vatter, and the participants in the LSE Legal and Political Theory Forum (especially Thomas Poole and Chandran Kukathas, convenors), the EUI Legal and Political Theory Working Group (especially Sofie Møller and Rutger Birnie, convenors), and the Data Associations in Global Law & Policy Workshop at UNSW.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 0002-9300
  • EISSN: 2161-7953
  • URL: /core/journals/american-journal-of-international-law
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed