One of the most important responsibilities of educational institutions is to aid in the understanding and resolution of the world’s most pressing problems. Harvard Law School has an especially important role to play in this regard. As the nation’s pre-eminent center of legal research and training, HLS must ensure that its faculty and students are addressing, from a variety of perspectives, the urgent legal issues of the day.

Today, many of these issues arise from or involve global terrorism. Almost every political or policy question that has arisen since Sept. 11, 2001, has significant legal dimensions. How do we provide increased security at home while safeguarding privacy interests and ensuring equal treatment of persons? What protections should we provide to individuals suspected of aiding and abetting terrorism, both in this nation and abroad? How do the laws of war apply to a non-state terrorist organization such as Al Qaeda?

It gives me great pride to know that Harvard Law School is rising to the challenge of considering and attempting to answer these questions. In this issue of the Bulletin, you will learn what our faculty and students are doing to examine and better understand a range of issues related to terrorism and its impact on the world.

Professor Philip Heymann ’60, along with Juliette Kayyem ’95 of the Kennedy School, recently drafted a legal framework for countering terrorism–a set of detailed legislative proposals for Congress on issues ranging from interrogation policies to data-mining guidelines. Other faculty members–including Alan Dershowitz, Jack Goldsmith, Ryan Goodman and Detlev Vagts ’51–are contributing their views on international and domestic legal issues that relate directly to the fight against terrorism.

These issues are making it into HLS classrooms every day. Enrollment in Professor Heymann’s terrorism class is now at an all-time high. He and Professor David Rosenberg have established a new clinical offering, which gives HLS students the opportunity to work with lawyers in the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism section. Professors Heymann and Rosenberg are also leading a seminar focused on producing policy recommendations designed to combat terrorism.

Meanwhile, scores of alumni–of different political parties and ideologies–are on the front lines of this struggle, working for the 9/11 Commission, the Department of Defense, the White House, Congress and various international organizations. This issue of the Bulletin focuses on three: Christopher Cox ’76 (’77), chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security; Jane Harman ’69, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; and Jamie Gorelick ’75, who served on the 9/11 Commission. I have every expectation that many of today’s students–all of whom enrolled in law school after 9/11–will follow these accomplished alumni in working for a safer and more just world.

The scourge of terrorism is a reminder of the importance of the law school’s broadest and most crucial objective: to advance the rule of law in the world. To contemplate lawless acts and lawless nations is also to appreciate how essential law is to the well-being of communities–to freedom, security, prosperity and hope. A society is strong to the extent that law is its foundation and lawyers are among its foremost leaders. Perhaps more than anything else, that fact gives Harvard Law School its purpose and mission.