Outline and Boxes on a Blue Blackground

National Security and Privacy

The evolving, and often competing, demands of national security, commerce, and privacy create a challenging area of law and policy. Understanding these complexities is critical for lawyers planning to operate in the public sphere.

How can we balance liberty and security in a post-9/11 world? 

Led by faculty with senior government experience, Columbia’s curriculum in national security law and privacy immerses students in the legal and constitutional intricacies posed by government intelligence gathering, use of military force, surveillance, cybersecurity threats, military courts, and related post-9/11 challenges.

Why Columbia?

Learn from faculty experts who have served in Republican and Democratic administrations (and know first-hand the challenges of national security and foreign policy) as well as those who have led court challenges to the constitutionality of preventive detention and secret deportation hearings. 

Take seminars that focus on the ways in which the 9/11 attacks and the government’s response have changed and shaped national security. 

Participate in the National Security Law Program, which sponsors public lectures and events that draw senior government and military officials, coordinates events with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and offers courses that include Intelligence Law; Military Law and the Constitution; and Cybersecurity, Data Privacy, and Surveillance Law.

Join the student-run National Security Law Society, which fosters close connections with faculty and practitioners through events and networking opportunities. 

Work on strategic litigation through an externship with the Knight First Amendment Institute. The institute’s litigation docket includes cases relating to public officials’ use of social media, restraints on speech by government employees and whistleblowers, and government surveillance of journalists.

“We all go through our lives leaving digital footprints about what we do. On the one hand, that gives our intelligence agencies some vast new powers to keep track secretly of what our enemies are doing and, potentially, what our own citizens are doing. On the other hand, new technologies give individuals and organizations vast new powers to expose government secrets. The balance between secrecy and transparency is always in flux. The answer to these puzzles is constantly changing. The way we will continue to balance those two concerns—keeping us safe, preventing government abuse—is by ensuring we have a well-educated public.” 
—Matthew C. Waxman, Liviu Librescu Professor of Law, faculty chair of the National Security Law Program

Related Faculty

Sarah Knuckey

Sarah M. Knuckey

  • Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein Clinical Professor of Human Rights
Professor Harold Edgar

Harold S. Edgar

  • Julius Silver Professor Emeritus of Law, Science and Technology

Related Centers and Programs

National Security Law Program

The National Security Law Program draws on the extensive government experience of Columbia Law School’s faculty to expose students to the real-world challenges facing government officials in the national security field. It supports efforts by faculty members and students to produce policy-relevant scholarship on critical issues, enriching our understanding of both the law and the role of lawyers inside government as well as global issues. The program also hosts events that engage leading government practitioners and legal scholars on contemporary national security issues.


Related Experiential Learning Opportunities

Close up of the columns of the Supreme Court building with an American flag and the US Capitol in the background

Public Interest/Public Service

No matter what your area of interest, find ways to incorporate public interest and public service into your academic program and career.

Academics Careers

Related Student Groups and Journals