The terrorist attacks of 9/11 took the United States into unfamiliar legal territory, in which domestic policy and national security can often collide with civil liberties and international laws governing war and armed conflict. In the decade since, the Law School has frequently used the convening power of Harvard to consider questions of law, security and liberty in a post-9/11 world.
The following anthology offers a look at how Harvard Law School faculty, students and alumni have played an integral role in national security and in drawing new lines in the endeavor to maximize safety without imperiling the values of freedom, privacy and human rights.


Law in a time of terror

As long as humans have engaged in warfare–about 4,000 years–we have been making up rules to govern it. We’ve sought to identify the causes that must be present for a “just” war. … But on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by a stateless organization. And the international laws of war, developed to govern the actions of states with identifiable flags and uniforms and geographical borders, have little to say about how to conduct a war against large, transnational terrorist organizations that are not military branches of particular states.

As a member of the 9/11 Commission, Jamie Gorelick ’75 found herself scrutinizing the defense and justice departments she’d help run.

HLS Constitutional law scholars tackle separation of powers in wartime
In one week last January, two constitutional scholars from Harvard Law School testified in separate congressional hearings on the growing clash between Congress and the executive branch over war powers and other critical issues. While it’s not unusual for law professors to testify on Capitol Hill, the twin appearances by HLS faculty members that week neatly symbolized the urgency and importance of constitutional expertise and scholarship in wartime—and the prominent contributions that HLS professors have been making lately in some critical national debates.


Can a veteran prosecutor whip the Department of Homeland Security into shape? Michael Chertoff ’78 has already started.

On Sept. 11, 2001, even before the attacks from the skies over the Eastern seaboard had ended, Michael Chertoff ’78 was making some of the government’s first critical decisions in reaction to what was turning out to be the worst criminal act in U.S. history. As head of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, it fell to Chertoff to lead the government’s law enforcement efforts until the attorney general, John Ashcroft, could return from an out-of-town trip.


Goldsmith and Waxman survey the post-9/11 terrain of constitutional law

The Supreme Court’s recent decisions on the rights of detainees in the war on terror have raised as many questions as they’ve answered, and the legal terrain remains highly unsettled and “sub-optimal,” said former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman at a Harvard Law School forum on September 9, 2008.

Experts discuss striking a balance in an age of terror

Is the war on terror succeeding? That was the question for an all-star panel of experts at Harvard Law School on Oct. 24, 2008. Michael B. Chertoff ’78, who was appointed by President Bush as the second secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told a packed Ames Courtroom gathering that he believes the effort has largely been a success, but that terrorism is still a grave threat.


Battle-tested soldiers bring records of service to Harvard Law School.

Waking to the threat matrix: How Juan Zarate ’97 survived four years inside the ultimate pressure cookerFor the last four years, Juan Zarate ’97 has not gotten very much sleep. As the deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, Zarate spent countless hours poring over the National Counterterrorism Center’s threat matrix.


Human Dignity, Democracy and the Loaded Gun

Charles Fried and Gregory Fried, the father-and-son authors of “Because It Is Wrong: Torture, Privacy and Presidential Power in the Age of Terror” (Norton, 2010), ask what can be justified in an age of terror.

Master Problem-Solver Kenneth Feinberg discusses his work resolving national crises (video)

As part of the “Views from Washington” lecture series at Harvard Law School, Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent lawyer with a reputation for resolving complicated claims cases, shared his experiences with law students in November. Feinberg is currently the administrator for the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, dealing with the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

New to law school, but veterans of war and service

From helping to prosecute Saddam Hussein to targeting enemy combatants to defending fellow service members, seven active duty or military veterans served in the war efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both, and have matriculated at HLS this year.

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

Prominent legal and political scholars explored the relationship between terrorism, diplomacy and law in a panel discussion in early October 2010 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. The conversation took place after the authors recently received the 2010 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize.


HLS Medal of Freedom recipient Brig. Gen. Mark Martins ’90 (video)

Army Brigadier General Mark Martins ’90 has assumed command of the newly established Rule of Law Field Force – Afghanistan, which provides essential field capabilities, liaison and security in partnership with Afghan and coalition civil-military rule-of-law project teams in non-permissive areas of the country.

National security experts discuss detention and prosecutions post 9/11 (video)

The United States’ response to the 9/11 attacks has altered the legal landscape. That premise was outlined by William K. Lietzau, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Policy, in his keynote address at a conference titled “Understanding Detention and Predicting Prosecutions: Legal Challenges and Legislative Options Ten Years After 9/11.”