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Is “National Security Law” Inherently Paradoxical?

By Stephen Vladek

I’m perhaps the last person who should be asking the question at the heart of this essay—whether “national security law” really deserves to be its own independent field of study, and, in that vein, an appropriate subject for field-specific publications such as this one. I offer this caveat at the outset not just because it is perhaps a bit unbecoming on my part to use the pages of a publication to question the entire project to which that publication is dedicated, but because it is also potentially hypocritical on a more personal—or at least professional—level.

After all, I am a national security law professor who was hired at least largely as such; I am currently the Chair of the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on National Security Law, and I am a senior editor of the Journal of National Security Law and Policy. Put simply, without “national security law,” I might well be unemployed. Nevertheless, the more time that I spend thinking about, writing, and teaching “national security law,” the less I understand what “it” is as a unified whole—and the less comfortable I am with what it has increasingly become.

About the Author Stephen I. Vladeck is a Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law, where his teaching and research focus on federal jurisdiction, constitutional law (especially the separation of powers), national security law, and international criminal law. A nationally recognized expert on the role of the federal courts in the war on terrorism, he was part of the legal team that successfully challenged the Bush Administration’s use of military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), and has co-authored amicus briefs in a host of other lawsuits challenging the U.S. government’s surveillance and detention of terrorism suspects.[/author_info] [/author]



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