Skip to content


Jack Goldsmith

  • Obama’s Breathtaking Expansion of a President’s Power To Make War

    September 11, 2014

    An op-ed by Jack Goldsmith. Future historians will ask why George W. Bush sought and received express congressional authorization for his wars (against al Qaeda and Iraq) and his successor did not. They will puzzle over how Barack Obama the prudent war-powers constitutionalist transformed into a matchless war-powers unilateralist. And they will wonder why he claimed to “welcome congressional support” for his new military initiative against the Islamic State but did not insist on it in order to ensure clear political and legal legitimacy for the tough battle that promised to consume his last two years in office and define his presidency.

  • Asking Congress to Back ISIS Strikes in Syria Is Tricky for Obama

    September 2, 2014

    When President Obama summoned his closest advisers to the Oval Office a year ago this week to tell them he was holding off on a missile strike against Syria, one of his arguments was that if he acted without Congress, he might not get congressional backing for military intervention the next time he needed it…Such an authorization, said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who served in the Bush administration and has written extensively about this debate, could be a political victory for Mr. Obama, giving him much-needed backing for a long, potentially arduous military campaign. “It doesn’t guarantee him a political blank check,” Mr. Goldsmith said in an interview, “but it gives him so much more political legitimacy and cover in case things go wrong.”

  • Treaty-ish

    August 29, 2014

    .By contrast, Harvard professor Jack Goldsmith points out that the president cannot enter a treaty on his own. He can make agreements with foreign leaders until he is blue in the face, but those agreements can’t force a reduction in U.S. emissions unless Congress passes a law saying so. Goldsmith sees the president’s action as symbolic, a way to stake out a legacy and inspire his base. So which is it, gauzy PR or yet another step toward dictatorship?

  • U.S. Asserts Self-Defense in Benghazi Suspect Case

    June 24, 2014

    The Obama administration has told the United Nations that Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected ringleader of the 2012 attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was plotting additional attacks on Americans and that the United States conducted the weekend raid that seized him under its right to self-defense…Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who was a senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, wrote Wednesday that the critics “don’t have a legal leg to stand on” and that “civilian trial appears to be the only legally available option.”

  • Was the POW swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl legal?

    June 9, 2014

    Republicans have reacted harshly to the Obama administration’s decision to swap five top former Taliban commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was the sole American prisoner of war in Afghanistan. When it comes to the legality of the decision to do so, they have a point…The fact that the law doesn’t address “a time-sensitive prisoner-exchange negotiation of this sort,” Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith argues, doesn’t mean Obama was within the law when he approved the transfer. “I don’t think it accurate or useful to say that the statute doesn’t address the Bergdahl situation, since it imposes a requirement without exception,” Goldsmith writes.

  • Recent Faculty Books – Summer 2014

    May 15, 2014

    In two new books, Professor Cass Sunstein, former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, addresses human behavior and how government should best respond to it.

  • Will the Supreme Court fundamentally alter the laws governing labor unions and collective bargaining? A Q&A with Benjamin Sachs

    January 29, 2014

    Harvard Law School Professor Benjamin Sachs, a labor law specialist who focuses on unions in politics, sat down with a reporter for the HLS News office to reflect on the Supreme Court's increased involvement in labor cases and the state of labor law today.

  • Jack Goldsmith speaking with a student

    In the Classroom: Curbing Corruption

    January 1, 2014

    Twenty law students take their seats in a third-floor seminar room of Wasserstein Hall, and their professors get right down to business. How do we evaluate claims made in the literature about the impact of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act on U.S. businesses and U.S. leadership around the world? Instantly, a student ventures that broad anti-corruption efforts might help the U.S. economy, even if the benefits to particular firms are unclear. For the next two hours, the air crackles with refutations, clarifications, elaborations, insights and reality checks. The break that’s scheduled at the one-hour mark comes 15 minutes late because the students are too engaged to stop.

  • Panelists David Barron, Mark Tushnet, James Lindgren, and Jack Goldsmith

    A question of balance: intellectual diversity in legal education

    April 16, 2013

    At Harvard Law School on April 5, a panel of four leading legal scholars examined a single question: Is there a lack of intellectual diversity at law schools?

  • All’s Fair in Lawfare

    December 21, 2012

    A little over a year ago, HLS Professor Jack Goldsmith, Benjamin Wittes and Robert Chesney ’97 decided almost on a whim to put their collective experience…

  • Illustration of a shell shape with a hair pik through it

    A Question of Accountability

    October 1, 2012

    In a Supreme Court case, the International Human Rights Clinic argues that the Alien Tort Statute applies to corporations.

  • Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at HLS

    Briefs: Some memorable moments, milestones and a Miró

    October 1, 2012

    In October 1962, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Harvard Law School on “The Future of Integration.” It was six months before he would be imprisoned in a Birmingham jail, 10 months before the March on Washington, almost two years before the signing of the Civil Rights Act and almost six years before his assassination. “It may be that the law cannot make a man love me,” he said, “but it can keep him from lynching me.”

  • ‘A Harmonious System of Mutual Frustration’

    July 1, 2012

    As Barack Obama ’91 was making criticism of Bush administration policies on terrorism a centerpiece of his campaign for the presidency in 2008, Jack Goldsmith offered a prediction: The next president, even if it were Obama, would not undo those policies. One of the key and underappreciated reasons, he wrote in a spring 2008 magazine article, was that “many controversial Bush administration policies have already been revised to satisfy congressional and judicial critics.”

  • Goldsmith Power and Constraint Bookcover

    Goldsmith, Minow, Fried and Nye discuss the accountability presidency after 9/11

    March 28, 2012

    The presidency is more powerful, larger, and has more tools at its disposal than ever before, said Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith. But, he quickly added, that’s only half the story. The other half of the story—the forces that constrain presidential power—was the main topic during a March19 panel discussion of his new book “Power and Constraint: The Accountability Presidency after 9/11,” hosted by the Harvard Book Store at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square.

  • Jack Goldsmith on American Institutions and the Trump Presidency

    Goldsmith on ‘On Point:’ The case for targeted killing

    March 13, 2012

    Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith appeared on the Mar. 12 edition of NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook alongside ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. The two addressed the controversy over Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent remarks at Northwestern University Law School in which he defended the legality of the Obama administration’s use of targeted killings of Americans suspected of terrorism-related activity.

  • Hearsay - Winter 2011 Bulletin

    Hearsay: Faculty short takes

    December 6, 2011

    “Politics and Corporate Money” Professor Lucian Bebchuk LL.M. ’80 S.J.D. ’84 Project Syndicate Sept. 20, 2010 “A recent decision issued by the United States Supreme Court expanded the freedom of corporations to spend money on political campaigns and candidates. … This raises well-known questions about democracy and private power, but another important question is often overlooked: who should decide for a publicly traded corporation whether to spend funds on politics, how much, and to what ends?

  • Jack Goldsmith on American Institutions and the Trump Presidency

    Goldsmith on “On Point” Libya and the power of the president (audio)

    June 29, 2011

    Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith was a guest on National Public Radio’s On Point on June 28, discussing presidential war powers and Congressional authority in relation to the United States’ current military action in Libya.

  • Jack Goldsmith on American Institutions and the Trump Presidency

    Goldsmith in Slate: The president’s campaign against Libya is constitutional

    March 24, 2011

    In a recent op-ed in Slate, Professor Jack Goldsmith makes the case for why President Obama's campaign of air and sea strikes against Libya is constitutional.  Goldsmith says that while he agrees with "many of the arguments from critics of the intervention that  President Obama acted imprudently in committing American forces to a conflict with an ill-defined national security justification,"  he does not believe that the military action is unconstitutional. Goldsmith's op-ed, "War Power," appeared in the March 21, 2011 edition of Slate. A former assistant attorney general in the Bush Administration, Goldsmith is the author of "The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgement Inside the Bush Administration" (New York : W.W. Norton & Company 2007).

  • Jack Goldsmith on American Institutions and the Trump Presidency

    Goldsmith in The Washington Post: Ghailani verdict makes stronger case for military detentions

    November 19, 2010

    Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith co-wrote an op-ed with Benjamin Wittes for the Nov. 19, 2010 edition of The Washington Post titled “Ghailani verdict makes stronger case for military detentions.” The piece addresses debate over the Obama administration’s policy to try former Guantanamo detainees in civilian court.

  • Jack Goldsmith on American Institutions and the Trump Presidency

    Goldsmith in the Washington Post: Our nation’s secrets, stuck in a broken system

    October 22, 2010

    Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith wrote an op-ed for the Oct. 21, 2010 edition of the Washington Post titled “Our nation’s secrets, stuck in a broken system.” The piece addresses Bob Woodward’s book, “Obama Wars,” in which ostensibly classified information – presumably obtained from senior White House officials – is disclosed regardless of the “grave damage” that could result from its release.  

  • Jack Goldsmith on American Institutions and the Trump Presidency

    Goldsmith in the New York Times: The pitfalls of federal trials of Guantánamo Bay detainees

    October 13, 2010

    In an Oct. 8 op-ed in the New York Times, Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith argues that the trial of suspected terrorists – whether in criminal, civilian, or military court – is the “wrong approach.”