Sean M. Watts, JD, LLM
Sean M. Watts, JD, LLM

Sean M. Watts, JD, LLM

Endowed Professorship, James L. Koley '54 Professor of Constitutional Law
School of Law

Academic Appointments


  • Law


  • Professor

Teaching Activity

  • Constitutional Law I and II
  • Federal Courts
  • Federal Habeas Corpus
  • International Criminal Law
  • Law of Armed Conflict
  • Military Law


Professor Watt’s primary research interest is international legal regulation of emerging forms of warfare. From 2010-2012 he participated in drafting the Tallinn Manual on International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the NATO Collective Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCD COE), engaged in drafting an update to the Tallinn Manual. From 2009-2011 he served as a defense team member in Gotovina et al. at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia.
Professor Watts also serves as an Instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point in his capacity as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army JAG Reserve. Prior to teaching, Professor Watts served as an active-duty U.S. Army officer for fifteen years in legal and operational assignments including: Professor of International Law at the Army JAG School, Rule of Law Advisor to the Afghan National Army and Ministry of Defense, Chief of Federal Tort Claims, Trial Defense Counsel, Chief of International and Operational Law, Tank Company Executive Officer, and Tank Platoon Leader in a U.S. Army Tank Battalion.
Professor Watts was recently awarded Creighton School of Law’s Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year and the American Society of International Law (ASIL) Francis Lieber Military Prize.

Publications and Presentations


  • Sean Watts, Public International Law and Cyber Incitements to Violence, in Incitement to Terrorism 22 (Anne F. Bayefsky & Laurie R. Blank eds), 2018
  • Sean Watts, Who Is a Prisoner of War?, in The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary (Andrew Clapham, Paola Gaeta & Marco Sassòli eds.), 2015
  • Sean Watts, Constitutional Law (Int'l Humanitarian Law Clinic at Emory Univ. Sch. of Law, International Humanitarian Law Teaching Supplement Vol. 3, 2014),, 2014
  • Sean Watts, Report on United States Law of Armed Conflict Investigations and Prosecution Practices, in Israel's Mechanisms for Examining and Investigating Complaints and Claims of Violations of the Laws of Armed Conflict According to International Law 485 (Turkel Comm'n ed.), 2013
  • Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (Michael N. Schmitt ed.), 2013
  • Sean Watts, The Notion of Combatancy in Cyber Warfare, in 2012 4th International Conference on Cyber Conflict: Proceedings 235 (Christian Czosseck, Rain Ottis & Katharina Ziolkowski eds.), 2012
  • Sean Watts, Present and Future Conceptions of the Status of Government Forces in Non-International Armed Conflict, 88 Int'l L. Stud. 145, 2012
  • Sean Watts, Domestic Investigation of Suspected Law of Armed Conflict Violations: United States Procedures, Policies, and Practices, in 14 Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law 85 (Michael N. Schmitt & Louise Arimatsu, eds), 2012
  • Sean Watts, Low-Intensity Computer Network Attack and Self-Defense, 87 Int'l L. Stud. 59 (2011), reprinted in 41 Israel Yearbook on Human Rights 83 (Yoram Dinstein ed.), 2011
  • Sean Watts, Human Rights, in Operational Law Handbook (John Rawcliffe & Jeannine Smith eds.), 2006


  • Michael N. Schmitt & Sean Watts, Common Article 1 and the Duty to “Ensure Respect”, 96 INT’L L. STUD. 674, 2020
  • Sean Watts, Humanitarian Logic and the Law of Siege: A Study of the Oxford Guidance on Relief Actions, 95 Int'l L. Stud. 1, 2019
  • Sean Watts & Theodore Richard, Baseline Territorial Sovereignty and Cyberspace, 22 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 771, 2018
  • Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations (Michael N. Schmitt ed., 2017) (prepared by the International Group of Experts) (member of the International Group of Experts), 2017
  • Eric Talbot Jensen & Sean Watts, A Cyber Duty of Due Diligence: Gentle Civilizer or Crude Destabilizer?, 95 Texas L. Rev. 1555, 2017
  • Sean Watts, Cyber Law Development and the United States Law of War Manual, in International Cyber Norms: Legal, Policy & Industry Perspectives 49 (Anna-Maria Osula and Henry Rõigas eds), 2016
  • Michael N. Schmitt & Sean Watts, Beyond State-Centrism: International Law and Non-state Actors in Cyberspace, 21 J. Conflict & Security L, 2016
  • Sean Watts, Autonomous Weapons: Regulation Tolerant or Regulation Resistant?, 30 Temp. Int'l & Comp. L.J. 177, 2016
  • Sean Watts, Regulation-Tolerant Weapons, Regulation-Resistant Weapons and the Law of War, 91 Int'l L. Stud. 540, 2015
  • Watts, Sean M., State Opinio Juris and International Humanitarian Law Pluralism, International Law Studies, v. 91, 171, 2015
  • Sean Watts, Low-Intensity Cyber Operations and the Principle of Non-Intervention, 14 Baltic Y.B. Int'L L. 137 (2014), reprinted in Cyberwar: Law and Ethics for Virtual Conflicts 249 (Jens David Ohlin, Kevin Govern & Claire Finkelstein eds.), 2015
  • Michael N. Schmitt & Sean Watts, The Decline of International Law Opinio Juris and the Law of Cyber Warfare, 50 Tex. Int'l L.J. 189 (2015), reprinted in 91 Int'l L. Stud. 171, 2015
  • Sean Watts, Law-of-War Perfidy, 219 Mil. L. Rev. 106, 2014
  • Sean Watts, Under Siege: International Humanitarian Law and Security Council Practice Concerning Siege Operations, Research and Policy Paper, Counterterrorism and Humanitarian Engagement Project (May 2014),, 2014
  • Sean Watts, International Law and Modern Armed Conflict: Can Law Really Make a Difference?, Neb. Law., Nov./Dec. 2013, at 19, 2013
  • Sean Watts, Cyber Conflict: Once Far-Fetched, Now a Global Threat, Creighton Law., Fall 2013, at 12, 2013
  • Watts, Sean M., Foreword, Creighton Law Review, v. 46 no. 3, 339-341, 2013
  • Sean Watts, Combatant Status and Computer Network Attack, 50 Va. J. Int'l L. 391, 2010
  • Michael J. Kelly & Sean Watts, Rethinking the Security Architecture of North East Asia, 41 Victoria U. Wellington L. Rev. 273, 2010
  • Sean Watts, Reciprocity and the Law of War, 50 Harv. Int'l L.J. 365, 2009
  • Geoffrey Corn, Eric Talbot Jensen, & Sean Watts, Understanding the Distinct Function of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals: A Response to Blocher, 116 Yale L.J. Pocket Part 327,, 2007
  • Mark David Maxwell & Sean M. Watts, 'Unlawful Enemy Combatant': Status, Theory of Culpability, or Neither? 5 J. Int'l Crim. Just., 2007


  • Loyola Law School Chicago, Symposium on the Department of Defense Law of War Manual, Panelist, "The Law of War Manual Cyber Chapter", Chicago, Illinois, 2016
  • University of Texas Law School & American Bar Association, The Frontiers of Cyber Security, Policy and Law, Panelist, "Teaching the Law of Armed Conflict Applicable to Cyber Warfare", Austin, Texas, 2016
  • United States European Command, United States Africa Command, United States Central Command, Joint Legal Conference, Co-Presenter, "The Tallinn Manual 2.0", Stuttgart, Germany, 2016
  • Universite de Montreal, Lecturer, "The Law of War Applicable to Cyber Warfare", Montreal, Canada, 2015
  • Temple University Law School, Presenter, Draft Paper "Regulation Resistance, Regulation Tolerance, and Lethal Autonomous Weapons", 2015
  • United States Cyber Command, Co-Lecturer "Update on Tallinn Manual 2.0", Maryland, 2015
  • Europa College & International Committee of the Red Cross, Bruges Colloquium on International Humanitarian Law, Panelist, "Sieges and the Law of War", 2015
  • Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Lecturer, "Use of Force and Self-Defence in Cyber Space", 2015
  • Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Lecturer, "The Tallinn Manual on International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare", 2015
  • Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Panelist, "Future Regulation of Warfare", 2015
  • Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Lecturer, "Protected Persons and Neutrality", 2015
  • Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Lecturer, "Sovereignty, Jurisdiction and State Responsibility in Cyber Space", 2015
  • Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Sydney, Australia, Lecturer, "Conduct of Cyber Attacks", 2015
  • Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, Lecturer, "Participation in Cyber Hostilities", 2015
  • American Society of International Law, Annual Meeting, Panelist, "The Law of War Above the Fold", 2015
  • U.S. Naval War College, Future Weapons Technology Winter 2015 Presenter, Cyber Warfare and International Humanitarian Law, 2015
  • Yale Law School, Cyber Warfare and Killer Robots Winter 2015 Panelist, How the Law of War Regulates New Technology, 2015
  • Korea University Law School, Seoul, South Korea Fall 2014 Lecturer, The Tallinn Manual 2.0, 2014
  • Republic of Korea Army, Judge Advocate General’s Law Symposium Fall 2014 Panelist, The Tallinn Manual and Cyber Warfare, 2014
  • Chatham House, London England Spring 2014 Panelist, Cyber Security: Evolving State Responsibilities, 2014
  • University of Texas Law School, Symposium on Cyber Warfare Winter 2014 Panelist, The Tallinn Manual Panelist, The Future Regulation of Cyber Warfare, 2014
  • Duke Law School, LENS National Security Law Annual Conference Winter 2014 Panelist, Drones, Cyber, and More: IHL and the Path Ahead, 2014
  • Tartu University, Tartu, Estonia Winter 2014 Lecturer, The Principle of Non-Intervention and Cyber Operations, 2014
  • International Committee of the Red Cross & Brigham Young Law School, Teaching IHL Seminar Winter 2014 Lecturer, The Framework and Scope of IHL, 2014
  • International Law Association, American Branch Fall 2013 Panelist, Cyber Warfare and the Law of War, 2013
  • Duke Law School, International Humanitarian Law Symposium Fall 2013 Panelist, Weapons Law, 2013
  • Oxford University, International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Summer 2013 Roundtable Invited Expert and Session Moderator, 2013
  • United States Pacific Command, MILOPS Legal Conference Summer 2013 Panelist, Cyber Warfare and the Law of War, 2013
  • NATO School, Oberammergau, Germany Winter 2012 Speaker, Combatant Status and Cyber Warfare, 2012
  • American Bar Association, Standing Section on National Security Law Fall 2012 Panelist, The Past, Present and Future of the Law of War, 2012
  • Chatham House, London, England Speaker, U.S. Law of War Investigation Practices, 2012
  • Centre for Cooperative Defense Centre of Excellence, Tallinn, Estonia Panelist, Combatant Status in Cyber Warfare, 2012
  • United States Naval Academy, Sen. John McCain Ethics Conference Panelist, Ethics of Military Cyber Operations, 2012
  • United States Naval War College, Panelist, Collective Self-­?Defense in Cyber Warfare, 2012
  • University of California, Berkeley School of Law Fall 2011 Panelist, Perfidy in Cyber Warfare, 2011
  • United States Pacific Command Legal Conference, Brisbane, Australia Summer 2011 Panelist, Cyber Warfare and the Law of War, 2011
  • Beijing University and International Committee of the Red Cross Summer 2011 Lecturer, Means and Method of Warfare; Private Security Contractors, 2011
  • United States 8th Circuit Judicial Conference Summer 2011 Lecturer, The 2010 Supreme Court Term, 2011
  • United States Naval War College Summer 2011 Panelist, Status in Non-International Armed Conflict, 2011

Awards and Honors

  • Senior Fellow, United States Military Academy at West Point, Center for the Rule of Law, Lieber Institute, 2016
  • Senior Fellow, NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, 2013