Captain America The First Avenger features Hydra under the leadership of the Red Skull as the principal World War II villains. Hydra begins as Nazi Germany’s advanced weapons division/cult, which then commits mutiny and declares war on the world.

What is Hydra’s Legal Status? Is it a nation-state? A terrorist organization? Is Germany responsible for any post-war activities of Hydra?

There is no question that [fictional] World War II Era Germany was responsible for all actions done under the direction of Hitler and the 3rd Reich. The Nazis built the first bases, funded the research and provided the troops to support Hydra’s operations. All of these actions could be the subject of a war crimes trial.

Things become legally cloudy after the Red Skull murdered the visiting 3rd Reich officers. Hydra made a total break with the Reich, including plans to destroy Berlin, and their own creepy “Hail Hydra” salute.

There is a strong argument that Hydra post-mutiny would be a terrorist organization, because it was no longer sponsored by a nation (in this case, Germany).

Applying the current law to the World War II Era, the Secretary of State could designate Hydra as a terrorist organization because:

1) Hydra is a foreign organization (formerly German);

2) Hydra engaged in terrorist activity 22 U.S.C. 2656f(d)(2)) in that it conducted premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets (though not completed thanks to Captain America);

3) Hydra’s activities threatened the security of the United States.

8 USCS § 1189(a)(1)(A) to(C).

Hydra’s actions included building advanced weapons in secret bases across war torn European countries with the intent to destroy the world, starting with the United States.  Hydra’s flying wing bomber mother ship was launched with the purpose of destroying the eastern United States within an hour. These actions would violate US law and would constitute terrorist activity to “affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction” 22 U.S.C. 2331(A)(1).

Cap_Hydra_1054Germany and the United States had mutual declarations of war against each other. Hydra no doubt would have been included under the US declaration of war as a German military unit. However, after Hydra went rogue from Germany, Hydra legally was a terrorist organization, because it was no longer sponsored by Germany and enacted their own political agenda.

Hydra’s post mutiny actions would subject it to legally be treated under anti-terrorism laws, especially if they continued terrorist activity after World War II. Germany would be responsible for any war crimes Hydra committed before the mutiny, but unless attacking the United States was part of Germany’s plan, Hydra was no longer part of the German military and a terrorist organization.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.