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Presidential Power and National Security Decisions: The Domestic and International Legal Justificati

We would like to thank all the attendees and everyone who contributed to a successful syposium.  Below please find links for the webcasts as well as bios for all the panelists.

The 2011 Libyan bombing campaign and the current debate over a possible U.S. intervention in Syria raise many legal questions in the U.S. national security context, in both domestic and international law. When the President chooses to unilaterally use military force in a foreign country, his decision raises important questions about his constitutional authority to do so, Congress’s power to check this authority, and the importance of international support. The National Security Law Brief and the International Law Review will examine these questions in the context of the Libyan and Syrian conflicts. The event will specifically address the War Powers Act, the President’s Article II authority, and the potential international law justifications for military intervention.

If you would like to watch the webcasts, please use the links below:

For the first panel, click here.

For the second panel, click here.

Biographies of Panelists

Jeffrey Bachman

Jeff Bachman is a professor of human rights, with a focus in genocide, U.S. foreign policy and human rights, and state responsibility and individual accountability for violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law. He is especially interested in the misuse of the law as a political tool through its selective application and enforcement. Jeff has field experience working for Amnesty International in the Government Relations for Europe/Eurasia program.

Peter Comstock

Peter Comstock was a Legislative Assistant in Rep. Tim Griffin’s (R-AR) office from 2011-2013.  Since 2013, he has served as the Senior Legislative Assistant.  His work focuses heavily on foreign affairs, defense, and national security issues. During the 112th Congress, when Rep. Griffin served on both the House Armed Services Committee and House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Peter also dealt with similar issues on a daily basis.  Prior to working for Rep. Griffin, Peter spent two years working for Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) as a Legislative Correspondent, also handling defense and foreign affairs issues.  In the spring of 2013, Peter completed the Foreign Policy Fellowship Program at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Jennifer Daskal

Jennifer Daskal joined American University Washington College of Law (WCL) in 2013 as an Assistant Professor of Law. She teaches and writes in the fields of criminal law, national security law, and constitutional law. From 2009-2011, Daskal was counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice and, among other things, served on the Secretary of Defense and Attorney General-led Detention Policy Task Force. Prior to joining DOJ, she was the senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, worked as a staff attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and clerked for the Honorable Jed S. Rakoff. She spent two years before joining WCL’s faculty as a national security law fellow and adjunct professor at Georgetown Law Center.

Daskal is a graduate of Brown University, Harvard Law School, and Cambridge University, where she was a Marshall Scholar. Recent publications include The Geography of the Battlefield: A Framework for Detention and Targeting Outside the ‘Hot’ Conflict Zone, 171 Penn. L. Rev. 1165 (2013), Hamdan v. United States: A Death Knell for Military Commissions?, 11 J. Int’l Crim. L 865 (2013), and Pre-Crime Restraints: The Explosion of Targeted, Non-Custodial Prevention, 99 Cornell L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2014). Daskal has published op-eds in the New York Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, L.A. Times, and, and she has appeared on BBC, C-Span, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, among other media outlets. She is Founding Editor of the recently launched Just Security blog.

Chris Donesa

Chris Donesa was a senior staff member for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for over nine years.  He served as Deputy Staff Director and Chief Counsel for Chairman Pete Hoekstra, and as Chief Counsel for Chairman Mike Rogers. He was the lead House staff legislative coordinator for the conference on the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, and has managed the FISA Amendments Act, multiple renewals of intelligence-related provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, and yearly Intelligence Authorization bills on behalf of Republican Committee members. He also handled legislative and oversight issues relating to a wide variety of intelligence and national security activities.  Before joining the Committee, Donesa served as Chief of Congressional and Public Affairs for the Drug Enforcement Administration and in a variety of senior staff positions for Members and Committees of the House of Representatives.

Chris also practiced law as an associate at Covington and Burling in Washington and was a law clerk to Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  He graduated from Duke University School of Law with J.D. and LL,M. (International and Comparative Law) degrees.

Dr. Louis Fisher

Dr. Louis Fisher is Scholar in Residence at the Constitution Project. Previously he worked for four decades at the Library of Congress as Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers (Congressional Research Service, from 1970 to 2006) and Specialist in Constitutional Law (the Law Library, from 2006 to 2010). During his service with CRS he was research director of the House Iran-Contra Committee in 1987, writing major sections of the final report. Fisher’s specialties include constitutional law, war powers, budget policy, executive-legislative relations, and judicial-congressional relations.

After completing his doctoral work in political science at the New School for Social Research in 1967, he taught full-time at Queens College for three years. Later he taught part-time at Georgetown University, American University, Catholic University law school, Indiana University, Catholic University, the College of William and Mary law school, and Johns Hopkins University. Currently he is a Visiting Professor at the William and Mary Law School.

Dr. Fisher is the author of numerous books on Presidential War Powers and Constitutional law, and has won the Louis Brownlow Book Award twice (for Presidential Spending Power (1975) and Constitutional Dialogues (1988)).  He is also the author of more than 470 articles in law reviews, political science journals, encyclopedias, books, magazines, and newspapers. He has been invited to speak in Albania, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates. The topics include a range of constitutional, political, and institutional issues.

Dr. Fisher has been invited to testify before Congress more than 50 times on such issues as war powers, state secrets privilege, NSA surveillance, executive spending discretion, presidential reorganization authority, Congress and the Constitution, the legislative veto, the item veto, the Gramm-Rudman deficit control act, executive privilege, committee subpoenas, executive lobbying, CIA whistleblowing, covert spending, the pocket veto, recess appointments, the budget process, the balanced budget amendment, biennial budgeting, and presidential impoundment powers.

Andrea Harrison

Andrea Harrison serves as Deputy Legal Advisor for the Washington Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In this capacity, she is responsible for legal support to ICRC activities in the U.S. and Canada, with particular focus on detention issues, military commissions, privileges and immunities, and weapons issues.

Prior to her recent posting in Washington, Andrea served in ICRC’s headquarters in Geneva as Legal Advisor to Operations for the Near and Middle East and Central and Southern Africa.  Before this, she was a legal attachée to the ICRC’s Legal Division in Geneva.

Andrea earned her J.D. at the Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island and is a member of the Texas bar.  She also holds an LLM from The Geneva Academy of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and a B.A. in International Studies and Spanish from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Martin Lederman

Professor Lederman was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2009 to 2010, and an Attorney Advisor in OLC from 1994-2002.  From 1988 to 2004, he was an attorney at Bredhoff & Kaiser, where his practice consisted principally of federal litigation, including appeals, on behalf of labor unions, employees and pension funds.  In 2008, with David Barron, he published a two-part article in the Harvard Law Review examining Congress’s authority to regulate the Commander in Chief’s conduct of war.

Prior to rejoining the Department of Justice, he was a regular contributor to several blogs and web sites, including Balkinization, SCOTUSblog, Opinio Juris, and Slate, writing principally on issues relating to separation of powers, war powers, torture, detention, interrogation, international law, treaties, executive branch lawyering, statutory interpretation and the First Amendment.  He served as law clerk to Chief Judge Jack B. Weinstein on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and to Judge Frank M. Coffin on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Diane Orentlicher

Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law at American University, has been described by the Washington Diplomat as “one of the world’s leading authorities on human rights law and war crimes tribunals.”  She has lectured and published widely on issues of transitional justice, international criminal law and other areas of public international law, and has testified before the United States Senate and House on a range of issues relating to both domestic human rights laws and U.S. foreign policy.  Professor Orentlicher has served in various public positions, including as Deputy for War Crimes Issues in the U.S. Department of State (2009-2011); United Nations Independent Expert on Combating Impunity (on appointment by the UN Secretary-General) and Special Advisor to the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (on secondment from the U.S. Department of State).

Tyler Thompson

Tyler Thompson is counsel at the Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG).   He has advised Syrian opposition members and civil society on peace negotiations, transitional governance planning and international legal issues such as the Responsibility to Protect, U.N. procedure, humanitarian intervention, and international criminal law since 2011.

Tyler manages PILPG’s ceasefires practice area and Libya project portfolio.  He also provides international legal advice and policy analysis for PILPG’s clients and projects in Yemen, Burma, and South Sudan.  He has advised over two dozen governments and non-governmental groups on rule of law; ceasefire negotiation and drafting; peace negotiations; post-conflict constitution drafting; transitional governance and legislation; civil society outreach and collaboration; and engagement with international organizations.  He has served as deputy chief of party in PILPG’s field offices in Kosovo and Libya, and served in PILPG’s offices on the Turkish-Syria border. Tyler holds a JD/MA in International Policy from American University.


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