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Gabriella Blum

  • Man sitting at desk cluttered with papers

    In Memoriam: Philip B. Heymann 1932 – 2021

    December 3, 2021

    When asked what he wanted to be remembered by, longtime Harvard Law Professor and former Watergate prosecutor Philip B. Heymann ’60 replied: “Speaking truth to power.” Heymann, a beloved colleague and distinguished public servant, died Nov. 30 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.

  • A woman in a colorful scarf stands in front of a building on the Harvard Law School campus.

    Catherine Peshkin appointed assistant dean for Harvard Law School’s Graduate Program and International Legal Studies

    November 22, 2021

    Catherine Peshkin has been appointed assistant dean for the Harvard Law School Graduate Program and International Legal Studies.

  • Woman with short gray hair wearing a navy blue sweater and purple shirt

    Jeanne Tai, who influenced the careers of a generation of lawyers around the globe, retires

    June 9, 2021

    Jeanne Tai, who as a senior administrator at the HLS Graduate Program and International Legal Studies has deeply influenced the careers of thousands of lawyers and legal academics around the world, will retire on June 15 after 24 years at Harvard Law School.

  • Naz K. Modirzadeh

    Modirzadeh briefs UN on self-defense and state silence

    March 5, 2021

    On Feb. 24, Professor of Practice Naz Modirzadeh ’02, founding director of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC), briefed a United Nations Security Council Arria-formula meeting convened by the Permanent Mission of Mexico.

  • Gus Hauser Headshot

    Gustave M. Hauser: 1929 – 2021

    February 22, 2021

    Gustave Hauser ’53 was a cable television pioneer and, with his wife Rita Hauser ’58, a dedicated supporter of Harvard Law School.

  • Hiroshima Atomic Bombing Raising Questions 75 Years Later

    August 6, 2020

    The dawn of the nuclear age began with a blinding, flesh-melting blast directly above the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. It was 8:16 a.m. on a Monday, the start of another work day in a city of nearly 300,000 inhabitants. An estimated two-thirds of that population — nearly all civilians — would soon be dead. The dropping by American warplanes of that first atomic bomb, code-named Little Boy -- and another, code-named Fat Man, three days later in Nagasaki — led to Japan's surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, and the end of World War II. At the time, the morality and legality of those nuclear attacks was hardly the subject of public debate...Four years ago, President Barack Obama became the first American head of state to visit Hiroshima's Peace Memorial. He offered condolences, but pointedly did not offer apologies. "The morning of August 6, 1945 must never fade," Obama told a crowd gathered near the shell of the sole building left standing where the bomb exploded. "That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change." Pope Francis took a more critical stance during a November visit to that same peace memorial in Hiroshima. "Using nuclear power to wage war is today, more than ever, a crime," the pontiff declared, adding it was immoral even to possess nuclear weapons. Some prominent experts in the law of war are also reexamining the Hiroshima attack. "There is no question that a dropping of a large nuclear weapon amongst the civilian population is a war crime," says Harvard Law School professor Gabriella Blum. "Under the current laws of war, if you know you are going to impact civilians, you must provide warning and you must take precautions to avoid harming civilians to the extent possible. There is no doubt none of that was considered and none of that was seriously weighed in reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

  • Portrait of Riley Vann

    Being in control of U.S. nuclear weapons taught Riley Vann how to cope—and maintain leadership—under pressure

    November 5, 2019

    As a U.S. Air Force Nuclear and Missile Operations officer, Riley Vann was one of 90 missileers whose job it was to ensure that U.S. nuclear weapons are ready to launch on command. The experience taught her how to cope—and maintain leadership—under pressure.

  • The Promise and Perils of Designer Genes

    August 5, 2019

    The industrialization of synthetic biology is possible thanks to the same trend that has supercharged computing power...In the future, everyone might be an amateur synthetic biologist, programming the matter of life. If digital apps on our smartphones have transformed how we live and work, imagine what biological apps might do. It could be something as domestic as engineering a houseplant that rarely needed watering, or something as transformative as creating new forms of life...Even the advanced biotechnology of the future will require more expertise than pushing a button on a cellphone—but perhaps not that much more, and certainly far less than is required to use current weapons of mass destruction. “What we now have [with biotechnology] is the mirror opposite of nuclear weapons, which require great infrastructure, access to controlled materials and knowledge that you can’t simply go and look up online,” said Gabriella Blum, a professor at Harvard Law School and the coauthor of the book “The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting a New Age of Threat.” “So we ask ourselves: What’s people’s propensity to inflict harm, and in what ways?”

  • Why Israel’s — and America’s — Legal Justifications for Assassinations Don’t Add Up

    October 18, 2018

    ...This month, The Intercept published an article about the history of this Israeli legal effort. In the story, Harvard law professor Gabriella Blum explained how, when she was a young lawyer working for the Israel Defense Forces, she and her team sought to give a legal justification for Israel’s burgeoning assassination program.

  • The Internationalists Mini-Forum: The Internationalists Mini-Forum: Wars of Self-Defense, An Exception that Swallows the Rule

    November 16, 2017

    An op-ed by Gabriella Blum. Wars used to be justified by their goals. Territorial expansion, restitution or claiming property, securing a throne, and mass religious conversion were all acceptable goals under the tenets of Just War Theory; and they all justified war to begin with, particularly if you ended up attaining them at the end. But since we no longer live in a legal world that sees war as the continuation of diplomacy, when we do end up going to war, it is becoming harder to define our goals. Indeed, our preoccupation with the legality or the justification for war often clouds our ability to see war – and judge it – in terms of goals sought and achieved.

  • At the UN General Assembly, Modirzadeh discusses protecting health care in armed conflict 1

    At the UN General Assembly, Modirzadeh discusses protecting health care in armed conflict

    October 4, 2017

    HLS Professor of Practice Naz K. Modirzadeh ’02 gave a talk at a United Nations General Assembly event on Sept. 22 called, “International Humanitarian Law: Addressing violations in light of recent conflicts,” which focused on failures of international law to protect health care systems in armed conflict in Syria involving designated terrorists.

  • House sets aside Trump’s biggest budget cuts

    September 18, 2017

    The House this week quietly pushed aside some of the most controversial proposals in President Trump’s budget request...By throwing out an enormous initial proposal for non-defense cuts, Trump may have made it easier for Congress to adopt cuts that are nonetheless significant. Psychologists call the strategy “anchoring,” because it anchors the first number— in this case $54 billion in discretionary non-defense cuts — at the center of a negotiation. “It’s a hugely powerful tool, as behavioral economists and psychologists have proven,” says Gabriella Blum, a negotiations expert at Harvard Law School. “Once you throw a number out there, it serves as a very powerful anchor that your mind is drawn to. It forces the conversation around it.”

  • Connecting beyond the classroom

    April 21, 2017

    More than 60 Harvard Law students and 27 HLS faculty members took over the typically quiet tables of the library reading room for the first “Notes and Comment” event.

  • HLS Program on International Law and Armed Conflict releases report on ‘indefinite’ war

    February 27, 2017

    The Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC) has released a new report titled "Indefinite War: Unsettled International Law on the End of Armed Conflict."

  • Harvard Law School: 2016 in review

    December 22, 2016

    A look back at 2016, highlights of the people who visited, events that took place and everyday life at Harvard Law School.

  • Can international law keep up with organized violence?

    September 7, 2016

    By Gabby Blum LL.M. '01 S.J.D. '03 and Naz Modirzadeh '02Committed to the notion that international law can play a role in shaping conduct, including in war, the attacks of 9/11 — and the ensuing violence and warfare — have forced us to face the weaknesses of our current legal regimes and address the challenges that they must be able to withstand. Continue Reading »

  • Philip B. Heymann '60

    Wise Promoter of Accountable Government

    May 10, 2016

    For more than half a century, Phil Heymann has served the nation— and Harvard Law School—with distinction.

  • Gabriella Blum

    Gabriella Blum named Andrew Carnegie Fellow

    April 19, 2016

    Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03, Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School has been named a 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellow by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

  • Growing from all branches of the Armed Forces: A look at this year’s military service members

    November 9, 2015

    Harvard students who have served in the various branches of the Armed Forces represent a diverse range of backgrounds and experience, but all have at least one thing in common: a profound dedication to serving the nation, under the most perilous of circumstances.

  • PILAC report finds doctors may risk prosecution for treating alleged terrorists

    September 29, 2015

    Doctors who provide medical assistance to people labeled terrorists are increasingly vulnerable to prosecution in the United States and other Western democracies, according to a law briefing by the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC).

  • Doctors in a hard place

    September 27, 2015

    Doctors who provide medical assistance to people labeled terrorists are increasingly vulnerable to prosecution in the United States and other Western democracies, according to a law briefing by the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (PILAC). The 236-page report highlights the prosecution of an American physician who offered to work as an “on-call” doctor for wounded members of al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia. The report also details the prosecution of a Peruvian doctor who cared for members of the Shining Path guerrillas, and of a physician who provided medical and surgical services to insurgents in Colombia...safeguards have been around since the establishment of the Red Cross in 1863, said Gabriella Blum, one of the report’s authors and the Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School. But the new report’s authors contend that the law has been weakened by the war on terror and the United Nations Security Council’s antiterrorist directives...Blum, who is also the PILAC faculty director, co-authored the report with Dustin Lewis, program senior researcher, and Naz K. Modirzadeh, program director and lecturer on law.

  • To be happy lawyers (and human beings), eight rules for law students to live by

    May 6, 2015

    On Thursday, April 23, Bruce Bromley Professor of Law John Manning ’85 capped off a four-part series of “Last Lectures” for the Harvard Law School Class of 2015 with a list of eight simple rules students should live by if they wish to be both “happy lawyers and human beings.”

  • Power–and Peril–to the People

    May 4, 2015

    In a new world of technology, Gabriella Blum and Benjamin Wittes argue, we are more powerful and more vulnerable than ever

  • Small groups, dangerous technology: Can they be controlled?

    May 4, 2015

    Attempting to usher in the apocalypse in the 1990’s, the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo managed to procure VX nerve gas and a military helicopter. Fortunately a botched chemical weapons deployment limited the casualties to only a few thousand injured and about a dozen killed. Despite having a doctorate in molecular biology, Aum Shinrikyo's Seiichi Endo couldn’t access any truly catastrophic bioweapons—in 1995 nation-states were still by and large the only entities that could realistically kill millions. How long this limitation will hold is still an open question...We’re entering an era in which smaller and smaller groups can project violence in unprecedented ways, even rivaling the destructive capacity of states. This shift in power dynamics is the topic of The Future of Violence, a new book by Benjamin Wittes at the Brookings Institution and Gabriella Blum at Harvard Law School. The book addresses one of the most fundamental challenges of our century—how can we structure our society so that these newfound technological powers don’t end in catastrophe?

  • New Laws for New Threats Like Drones and Bioterrorism

    April 20, 2015

    An op-ed by Gabriella Blum and Benjamin Wittes. You walk into your shower and see a spider. You don’t know whether it is venomous—or whether it is even a real spider. It could be a personal surveillance mini-drone set loose by your nosy next-door neighbor, who may be monitoring the tiny octopod robot from her iPhone 12. A more menacing possibility: Your business competitor has sent a robotic attack spider, bought from a bankrupt military contractor, to take you out. Your assassin, who is vacationing in Provence, will direct the spider to shoot an infinitesimal needle containing a lethal dose of poison into your left leg—and then self-destruct...These scenarios may sound fantastical, but they are neither especially improbable nor particularly futuristic. Insect-size drones are busily being developed throughout the defense establishment, in academic facilities and by private firms. Slightly larger drones are widely available for purchase on the open market, some already rigged with cameras. Making such drones lethal is just the next step, and it isn’t that complicated.

  • Two books look at how modern technology ruins privacy

    March 24, 2015

    ‘Even the East Germans couldn’t follow everybody all the time,” Bruce Schneier writes. “Now it’s easy.” This may sound hyperbolic, but Schneier’s lucid and compelling “Data and Goliath” is free of the hysteria that often accompanies discussions about surveillance. Yes, our current location, purchases, reading history, driving speed and Internet use are being tracked and recorded. But Schneier’s book, which focuses mainly on the United States, is not a rant against the usual bad guys such as the U.S. government or Facebook. Schneier describes how our data is tracked by both corporate and government entities, often working together. And in many cases, the American people allow them to do it...The theme of dangerous little brothers is central to Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum’s “The Future of Violence,” a lively and often terrifying exploration of the dark side of our technological age. Technology is increasingly cheap and widely available, a trend that can help empower the masses and weaken central governments. Sounds great, right? We tend to celebrate this phenomenon when individual dissidents use social media to provoke authoritarian regimes. But what happens when these tools of mass empowerment fall into the wrong hands?

  • Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum: “The Future of Violence” (audio)

    March 24, 2015

    Advances in cybertechnology, biotechnology, and robotics mean that more people than ever before have access to potentially dangerous technologies. Authors Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum explore what this means for how government should protect our us.

  • License To Kill

    March 24, 2015

    ‘As a thought experiment,” write Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum, “imagine a world composed of billions of people walking around with nuclear weapons in their pockets.” If such an exercise doesn’t strike you as bonkers, then I’ve got an enthusiastic book recommendation for you. Sadly for the rest of us, the fear-mongering in “The Future of Violence” is no laughing matter but rather a depressingly accurate summation of how centrist Washington has come to view the democratization of technology: with a distrust bordering on panic. Mr. Wittes and Ms. Blum, from their respective perches at the Brookings Institution and Harvard Law School, are worried chiefly about what they almost pejoratively describe as “technologies of mass empowerment”—the Internet, gene-splicing, nanotechnology, robots, 3-D printing and so forth.

  • Will You Be Murdered By a Robot?

    March 23, 2015

    With a bit of technical knowledge and a good imagination, any malevolent person may soon be able to eradicate the human race. This is a mildly exaggerated version of a fundamental claim in The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting a New Age of Threat, an alarming and informative new book by Benjamin Wittes and Gabriela Blum.

  • A better Big Brother: Liberty, privacy and security must be re-thought

    March 23, 2015

    Imagine a robot drone the size of a spider that can crawl into the shower and inject poison into a political opponent while being operated by an assassin thousands of kilometres away. Imagine an aerial drone flying through a sold-out football stadium, spraying deadly anthrax spores. Imagine some creep getting teen girls to download malicious software that allows him to take sexually explicit photos and videos of them through their webcams and then post them on the Internet. Wait. That last one really happened. The spider assassin and the anthrax drone haven't happened yet -- but they could, warn Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum in The Future of Violence. Wittes is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. Blum is a professor of human rights and international humanitarian law at Harvard Law School. Together they direct the Harvard Law School-Brookings Project on Law and Security. Both have written previous books in the field. This is their first book together.

  • Mideast war crimes? (video)

    July 28, 2014

    Secretary of State John Kerry presents his ceasefire plan to Israel and Hamas and it raises an important underlying legal question: are these war crimes? Professor Gabriella Blum, a former attorney for the Israel Defense Forces and a Professor of international humanitarian law at Harvard and Ronan Farrow debate.

  • Law experts give Obama 10 reasons to free Pollard

    June 30, 2014

    A group of leading American constitutional and criminal law scholars and practitioners wrote to US President Obama to urge that he commute American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time served. The letter, dated June 20, was signed by seven professors from Harvard Law School, Obama’s alma mater: Alan M. Dershowitz, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Philip B. Heymann, Mary Ann Glendon, Gabriella Blum, Frank I. Michelman and Irwin Cotler (a Canadian law professor emeritus, former justice minister and attorney general of Canada, and a sometimes visiting professor at Harvard).

  • Kristin Fleschner '14 [right] running with friend/guide Jess Kochman

    Running the marathon, no end in sight: A blind Harvard Law student takes on the challenge (video)

    April 15, 2014

    For Kristin Fleschner ’14, running in next week’s Boston Marathon is a way to fight back against the bombing that terrorized last year’s runners. She has worked for the federal government in national security since 2008, and she’ll continue her work for the federal government after she graduates from Harvard Law School this spring.

  • Cravath Fellows explore robots in combat, international IP, and Aboriginal art

    March 25, 2014

    For Harvard Law School’s recipients of the Cravath International Fellowship, January’s three-week winter term is a chance to immerse themselves in an academic project with an international, transnational, or comparative law focus. The experiences of three students illustrate the range and depth of the projects students pursue.

  • A clear and future danger? Blum explores 'Invisible Threats' in national security and law 2

    A clear and future danger? Blum explores ‘Invisible Threats’ in national security and law

    July 1, 2013

    In her essay “Invisible Threats,” Harvard Law Professor Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03 builds on themes from a joint book project with Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution.

  • Military after Boston Marathon Bombings

    Blum, Feldman weigh in on aftermath of Boston Marathon bombings

    April 17, 2013

    In the wake of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings, experts across Harvard University analyzed the puzzle and potential of the attack’s aftermath.

  • Gabriella Blum

    In chair lecture, Blum cuts through the “fog of victory” (video)

    April 19, 2012

    Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03 delivered the lecture “The Fog of Victory” on April 10 to mark her appointment as the Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School.

  • Double Strength: A new collaboration between HLS and Brookings takes on security issues

    December 15, 2011

    A new collaboration seeks to pair the academic expertise of HLS professors on issues of national and international security with the policy expertise and access of the Brookings Institution in D.C.

  • Zarate with Professor Kontorovich

    At HLS 9/11 conference, White House adviser unveils counterterrorism policy (video)

    September 28, 2011

    Harvard Law School commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with a two-day conference of top-level advisers and experts to elucidate the changing legal landscape in the battle against terrorism. "Law, Security and Liberty post-9/11," was held Sept. 16 and 17, and marked the launch of the new Harvard Law School-Brookings Project on Law and Security, a joint venture of HLS and the Brookings Institution.

  • Gabriella Blum

    Blum gains tenure as professor of law at Harvard

    March 25, 2011

    Following a vote of the Harvard Law School faculty, Gabriella Blum LL.M. '01 S.J.D. '03, a specialist in the laws of war and conflict resolution, has been promoted from assistant professor to professor of law—a tenured faculty position.

  • Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists

    Looking for the Third Paradigm

    January 1, 2011

    Assistant Professor Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03 is a specialist in the laws of war. Professor Philip Heymann ’60 is an expert in domestic law enforcement. With these different backgrounds, they decided to teach a course together on counterterrorism.

  • Professors Heymann and Blum

    ‘Laws, Outlaws and Terrorists:’ A panel discussion (video)

    November 4, 2010

    Prominent legal and political scholars explored the relationship between terrorism, diplomacy and law in a panel discussion in early October in light of “Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists” (2010), a book written by Harvard Law School Professor Philip Heymann ’60 and Associate Professor Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03.

  • Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists

    Professors Heymann and Blum receive award for their book “Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists”

    October 7, 2010

    Professor Philip Heymann ’60 and Associate Professor Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03 received the 2010 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize for their recently published book “Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists” (MIT Press, 2010).

  • Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists

    Professors Heymann and Blum receive award for their book “Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists”

    October 7, 2010

    Professor Philip Heymann ’60 and Associate Professor Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03 received the 2010 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize for their recently published book “Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists” (MIT Press, 2010).

  • Fired-up scholars give a warm reception to ‘Devil,’ hot off the presses

    February 9, 2010

    A reception and panel discussion was held at Harvard Law School on Feb. 4 to celebrate the publication of  “Bargaining with the Devil,” the…

  • Chilling Zone illustration

    Chilling Zones in Killing Zones

    December 1, 2008

    At first, the notion that Israel could sit down with its sworn enemies and achieve a limited agreement to protect civilians seemed far-fetched to Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03. The year was 1997, Blum was a young officer in the Israel Defense Forces, and she’d just been assigned to a group with the task of monitoring that noble, if dubious, effort.

  • Gabriella Blum

    Needed: A Regional Approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    September 1, 2008

    Assistant Professor Gabriella Blum LL.M. ’01 S.J.D. ’03, an international law scholar, is a native of Israel, where, as a young officer in the Israel Defense Forces International Law Department, she was involved in Israeli-Arab peace negotiations.