Articles 19 & 20 of UNCLOS do not in any way restrict U.S. intelligence operations
[MYTH] The Convention, specifically articles 19 and 20, prohibit two functions vital to American security: collecting intelligence in, and submerged transit of, territorial waters.
- This assertion is not correct.
- The Convention does not prohibit U.S. intelligence activities, nor would it have any negative effect on those activities.
- In the 1958 Convention, Article 14 provides that passage is innocent “so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State” and that “submarines are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag.”
- The United States is already a party to the 1958 Territorial Sea Convention, which contains provisions very similar to articles 19 and 20 of the 1982 Convention.
- The 1982 Convention’s specification of activities that are considered to be “prejudicial to the peace, good order, or security of the coastal State” are more favorable than the provisions of the 1958 Convention both because the list of activities is exhaustive and because it generally uses objective, rather than subjective, criteria in the listing of activities.
- Since President Reagan’s 1983 Oceans Policy Statement, the United States has conducted its activities consistent with the non-deep seabed provisions of the 1982 Convention.
- U.S. accession to the Convention supports ongoing U.S. military operations, including the continued prosecution of the war on terrorism.
Opponents of U.S. ratification of UNCLOS have argued that U.S. intelligence operations will be complicated by UNCLOS because it will prevent U.S. submarines from gathering intelligence in territorial waters. However, these operations are already regulated by the existing 1958 convention which the U.S. ratified and expects other nations to abide by. Furthermore, the intelligence community has reviewed the treaty and concluded that it was still in U.S. interests to ratify the treaty.