A Road Less Traveled: National Security Careers After Law School
The Reiss Center on Law and Security, together with the students of the National Security Law Society, sponsors a series of career talks with national security law and policy practitioners in candid conversations about their paths after law school. Featured speakers hail from a diverse range of backgrounds—including government, advocacy, private sector, and/or scholarly work—and address both the details of their work as well as a broader view of their career trajectories. The series is an integral part of fulfilling the Reiss Center’s mission to educate the next generation of national security leaders, demystifying and providing exposure to a diverse range of career experiences in this field.
October 19: Alex Abdo, Litigation Director, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society welcomed our first speaker of the 2021-2022 season of a A Road Less Traveled: Alex Abdo, Litigation Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
Alex Abdo is the inaugural litigation director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. He has been involved in the conception and litigation of nearly all of the Institute’s legal challenges, including a lawsuit challenging the government’s system of “prepublication review,” which requires millions of former employees of the intelligence agencies to submit their manuscripts to government censors prior to publication; the Institute’s challenge to the constitutionality of President Trump’s blocking of critics from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account; and the Institute’s challenge to the pervasive secrecy of the Office of Legal Counsel’s formal written opinions.
Prior to joining the Institute, Abdo worked for eight years at the ACLU, where he argued the appeal that resulted in the Second Circuit’s invalidation of the NSA’s call-records program.
Abdo graduated from Yale College and Harvard Law School. After law school, he clerked for the Hon. Barbara M.G. Lynn, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, and for the Hon. Rosemary Barkett, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
November 15: Akunna Cook, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Southern Africa and Economic and Regional Affairs, U.S. Department of State
On Monday, November 15, 2021, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society welcomed Akunna Cook, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Southern Africa and Economic and Regional Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, our second speaker of the 2021-2022 season of a A Road Less Traveled.
Akunna Cook serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Biden-Harris Administration. In this role, Ms. Cook oversees the development of U.S. foreign policy for Southern Africa, as well as economic and regional issues including trade, investment, climate, health, multilateral engagement, democracy, and human rights. Previously, Ms. Cook was the founder and principal at Drake Road Strategies where she advised individuals and organizations on public policy strategy and advocacy. She was also the inaugural executive director of the Black Economic Alliance, a non-partisan organization focused on driving economic progress in the black community through policy development, advocacy, and supporting candidates for office. Ms. Cook practiced law at a large international law firm, where she advised former Attorney General Eric Holder on political and legal strategy related to redistricting around the country. She also advised a variety of clients on public policy, government affairs, and corporate governance. Ms. Cook was also a legal fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Chris Coons.
Ms. Cook began her State Department career over 20 years ago as a Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow. She served for almost ten years as a career diplomat with the State Department where she focused on economic and political development. Ms. Cook’s foreign service assignments included service overseas in China, South Africa, and Iraq, and several years in Washington serving in the Africa Bureau in various roles. She is a graduate of the Yale Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is also a summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Howard University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration. Ms. Cook is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Washington, D.C. bar. She is also a member of the Alliance for Justice Board of Directors.
February 9: Ben Huebner, Chief, Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency Office, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
On Wednesday, February 9, 2022, Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society resumed our 2021-2022 season of A Road Less Traveled by welcoming our third speaker: Ben Huebner, Chief of the Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency Office at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Ben Huebner is Chief, ODNI Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency Office. In this role, he serves as an independent, primary advisor to the Director of National Intelligence and other senior DNI officials to ensure that the Intelligence Community’s missions, programs, activities, policies, and technologies protect privacy and civil liberties. He serves as ODNI’s primary liaison with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), the designated ODNI Senior Agency Official for Privacy, and ODNI’s Information Sharing Environment Privacy Official. He also leads the effort to implement the Principles of Intelligence Transparency for the Intelligence Community. Mr. Huebner previously served at CIA as the Agency’s first full-time Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer. Prior to CIA, Mr. Huebner was the Counsel for Intelligence to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice, where he advised the Department leaders on intelligence-related matters, including intelligence operations, litigation and oversight. At DOJ, he also developed and managed oversight programs related to intelligence collection conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He has also worked on the Hill and clerked for the Honorable David S. Tatel, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Mr. Huebner is a graduate of Haverford College and the New York University School of Law.
March 4: Ruchi Gill, Deputy Chief Counsel, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
On March 4, 2022, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society welcomed Ruchi Gill, Counsel at Latham & Watkins and former Deputy Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, our fourth speaker of the 2021-2022 season of A Road Less Traveled.
Ruchi Gill is counsel at Latham & Watkins and advises clients on complex national security matters. Before this role, she was Deputy Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, advising on legal matters and legislative activity related to U.S. foreign policy and national security for Chairman Bob Menendez and the Committee’s Democratic staff. She previously worked at Covington & Burling LLP on a variety of international matters, including in connection with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, U.S. export controls and sanctions, and international arbitration. She also served at the U.S. Department of State from 2007 to 2017 in various roles: an attorney-adviser and special assistant to the Legal Adviser, a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, an economic officer in Guangzhou, China, and a paralegal specialist. Ruchi graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and the Georgetown University Law Center, where she served as an editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
April 6: Jonathan Lee, Director of Global Public Policy, WhatsApp
On April 6, 2022, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society concluded the 2021-2022 season of A Road Less Traveled with our fifth speaker: Jonathan Lee, Director of Global Public Policy at WhatsApp.
Jonathan is currently Director of Global Public Policy at WhatsApp, where he helps develop and execute public policy strategy and engagement across the globe for the world’s largest private messaging service. Previously, Jonathan served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Director for Human Rights and National Security Issues on the National Security Council; and Special Assistant to both the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense. He helped lead efforts to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell at the Department of Defense and worked on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center. He has also worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.
September 28: Camille Stewart, Head of Security Policy for Google Play and Android
On Monday, September 28, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society welcomed our first speaker of the 2020-2021 season of a A Road Less Traveled: Camille Stewart, Head of Security Policy for Google Play and Android at Google and former senior policy advisor at DHS in the Obama Administration.
Camille Stewart is Head of Security Policy for Google Play and Android at Google, where she leads cybersecurity, privacy, election integrity, and misinformation policy efforts. Prior to Google, Camille managed cybersecurity, election security, tech innovation, and risk issues at Deloitte. Camille was appointed by President Barack Obama to be the Senior Policy Advisor for Cyber Infrastructure & Resilience Policy at the Department of Homeland Security. She was the Senior Manager of Legal Affairs at Cyveillance, a cybersecurity company after working on Capitol Hill. Camille is a Truman National Security Fellow, and Council on Foreign Relations Term Member. Camille is on the Board of Women of Color Advancing Peace & Security and leads the Cybersecurity & Emerging Tech working group. She also leads a project with a DC think tank addressing the exfiltration of national security-related tech and IP through the courts.
October 26: Nabiha Syed, President of The Markup
On Monday, October 26, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society welcomed Nabiha Syed, President of The Markup, our second speaker of the 2020-2021 season of a A Road Less Traveled.
Nabiha Syed is President of The Markup. She oversees The Markup’s strategy, growth plans and business operations. Nabiha also oversees legal, communications, personnel and other operational matters. Before joining The Markup, Nabiha was vice president and associate general counsel at BuzzFeed, where she counseled on newsgathering, libel, and privacy matters worldwide. Under her leadership, the company successfully defended against libel litigation arising out of the publication of the Steele dossier and initiated numerous notable access litigations. Prior to BuzzFeed, Syed co-founded the nation’s first media access law clinic, currently in its 10th year of operation at Yale Law School, and served as a First Amendment Fellow at The New York Times. Nabiha has been described as “one of the best emerging free speech lawyers” by Forbes magazine, and a “real reporter’s lawyer” by the Reporter’s Committee for the Freedom of the Press, which recognized her with an inaugural award in 2018. She is also a lifelong Girl Scout.
February 1: Ronnie Newman, National Political Director of the ACLU
On February 1, 2021, Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society resumed our 2020-2021 season of A Road Less Traveled by welcoming our third speaker, Ronnie Newman, National Political Director of the ACLU.
Ronald Newman joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in February 2017. As National Political Director, he manages the ACLU’s National Political Advocacy Department (NPAD). Prior to the ACLU, Ronald served as Director of Human Rights and Refugee Protection on the National Security Council in the Obama Administration, serving under National Security Advisor Susan Rice. There, he led Administration efforts to expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, planned and coordinated President Obama’s September 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees at the United Nations, managed U.S. engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council, and directed a range of other White House and interagency actions in the areas of human rights, immigration and refugee protection. He coordinated major Administration initiatives involving all key diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and engaged regularly with representatives of foreign nations, state and local governments, and non-profit advocacy organizations. Prior to that, he served as an Attorney Advisor in the Legal Adviser’s Office at the U.S. Department of State, under Legal Advisor Harold Koh. Ronald graduated summa cum laude from Morehouse College, and holds a J.D. from Yale Law School.
March 1: Alissa Starzak, Head of Public Policy at Cloudflare
On March 1, 2021, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society welcomed Alissa Starzak, Head of Public Policy at Cloudflare, our fourth speaker of the 2020-2021 season of A Road Less Traveled.
Alissa Starzak is the Head of Policy at Cloudflare, a web security and optimization company. Prior to joining Cloudflare, Starzak worked for the U.S government in a variety of national security positions, including serving as General Counsel of the U.S. Army, Deputy General Counsel (Legislation) at the Department of Defense, counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and assistant general counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency. She also worked in private practice in Washington, D.C., and clerked for The Honorable E. Grady Jolly, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. She graduated from Amherst College and the University of Chicago Law School, where she served as an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review.
April 5: Maher Bitar, Senior Director for Intelligence Programs, National Security Council
On April 5, 2021, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society concluded the 2020-2021 season of A Road Less Traveled with our fifth speaker: Maher Bitar, Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council.
Maher Bitar currently serves as Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council. Before this appointment, he served as General Counsel for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). He previously served as Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs on the White House National Security Council staff. On detail from the Department of State, he served as Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. Maher holds a Juris Doctor from Georgetown Law and is a member of the Maryland Bar. A graduate of Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Maher also received a Master of Science in Forced Migration from Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Center while on a Marshall scholarship and has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jerusalem.
Beth George – September 24
On September 24, 2019, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society hosted Beth George, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Reiss Center and partner in the San Francisco office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, for the first session of our 2019-2020 series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. Beth most recently served as the deputy general counsel (legislation) at the US Department of Defense under the Obama administration. In that role, she led an office of lawyers who provided legal advice and support to the Department, particularly the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the areas of legislation and other congressional matters affecting the Department. Previously, Beth served as an associate counsel in the White House counsel’s office, where she worked on national security matters. Beth joined the federal government as an honors attorney in the US Department of Justice’s national security division. She first served as an attorney in the Office of Intelligence, where she worked on surveillance and operational matters. Later, she joined the Office of Law and Policy, where she worked on sensitive policy matters. George also served on detail to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, where she served as the sole legal counsel to a team of bipartisan professional staff members assigned to review intelligence collection activities. Beth clerked for Chief Judge Theodore A. McKee on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, PA. She holds a JD, magna cum laude and Order of the Coif, from New York University School of Law, and a BA, summa cum laude, from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. You can follow her on Twitter @_Beth_George.
Spencer Boyer – October 29
On October 29, 2019, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society hosted Spencer P. Boyer, Director of the Washington Office of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, for the second session of our 2019-20 series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. In this capacity, he represents the Brennan Center among policymakers and thought leaders throughout Washington; advances the Brennan Center’s federal advocacy strategy on major democracy, justice, national security, and civil liberties issues; and oversees the operations of the DC Office. He served in senior roles in both terms of the Obama administration. From 2014-17, he was the National Intelligence Officer for Europe in the National Intelligence Council—the center for long-range strategic thinking within the US Intelligence Community. From 2009-11, he was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. In both roles, he was a key adviser to top government officials on challenges to Western democracy and the intersection of national security and civil liberties post-9/11. Spencer has served as Executive Director and War Powers Initiative Director at the Constitution Project, based at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. He has also been a senior analyst or visiting scholar with numerous think tanks. He began his professional career as an Associate with the international law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in Washington. Subsequently, he worked in The Hague as a Law Clerk to the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in Zurich as a Staff Attorney at the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland, and in Paris as Counsel at the International Court of Arbitration. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and received his JD from NYU School of Law, where he specialized in public international law and the work of international organizations. While at NYU, he also obtained a master’s degree in French Studies, with a concentration in French politics, history, and economy.
Anna Makanju – February 11
On February 11, 2020, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society hosted Anna Makanju, public policy and legal expert working at Facebook, for the third session of our 2019-20 series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. At Facebook, she leads efforts to ensure election integrity on the platform. Previously, Anna was the Special Policy Advisor for Europe and Eurasia to Vice President Biden, Senior Policy Advisor to Ambassador Samantha Power at the United States Mission to the United Nations, Director for Russia at the National Security Council, and the Chief of Staff for European and NATO Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She has also taught at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and worked as a consultant to a leading company focused on space technologies. Anna received her law degree from Stanford University, and her legal career was spent working at the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals as law clerk to Judge Theodore McKee, and in the international arbitration group of Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP. Anna was born and spent her childhood in the Soviet Union before immigrating to the US.
Vance Serchuk – March 9
On March 9, 2020, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society hosted Vance Serchuk, executive director of the KKR Global Institute, the geopolitical analysis unit of the global investment firm KKR, for the fourth session of our 2019-20 series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. In this capacity, he works on KKR’s investments in defense, aerospace, and emerging markets. Vance is also an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC. Prior to joining KKR in 2013, Vance served as the senior national security advisor to Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and a professional staff member on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. In this capacity, he worked on a broad range of international security issues, including Iran and Russia sanctions, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Asia-Pacific strategy. In 2013, he lived in Japan as a Council on Foreign Relations Fellow and was a monthly columnist for the Washington Post. His writings have also appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, National Review, and Politico. Vance is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, holds a JD from Yale Law School, and was a Fulbright scholar in the Russian Federation. He has served for the past 8 years as an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve, deploying overseas in support of Naval Special Warfare. He was recently named as a member of the congressionally-appointed Syria Study Group. Vance has also taught as a lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School.
Josh Geltzer – April 16
On April 16, 2019, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society hosted the final 2018-19 session of A Road Less Traveled, our career series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. Students heard from Joshua Geltzer, Executive Director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, which focuses on constitutional impact litigation and public education on everything from whistleblower protections to the travel ban to DACA.
Geltzer has had a wide-ranging career following law school: prior to his advocacy work at ICAP, Geltzer served in the Obama Administration as Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council. He also served in government as a national security lawyer, including as Deputy Legal Advisor at the National Security Council and before that as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice. His work in government spanned issues such as closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the counter-ISIL campaign, and Americans held hostage overseas. He was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Additionally, Geltzer is an editor of Just Security and has been a prolific public writer, appearing in The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, Politico, and the Washington Post, among others. He can be found on Twitter at @jgeltzer.
Geltzer shared insights on his constitutional advocacy work, experience in government, and advice for law students on navigating national security careers and making an impact both in and out of government.
Hina Shamsi – April 8
On April 8, 2019, the Reiss Center on Law and Security, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, and the National Security Law Society hosted Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, for the fourth session of our 2018-19 series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. Prior to her work at the ACLU, Shamsi was the acting director of Human Rights First’s Law & Security Program and previously served as senior advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions. She spoke with students about her career path after law school and her experience working in the public interest national security and human rights field.
Wally Adeyemo – March 26
On March 26, 2019, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society hosted Wally Adeyemo, Senior Advisor at BlackRock, for the third session of our 2018-19 series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. Prior to his work for BlackRock, Adeyemo was the former Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, as well as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury. He spoke with students about his career path after law school and his experience working at the intersection of law and economics in both the public and private sector.
Margaret Taylor – February 12
On February 12, 2019, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society hosted Margaret Taylor, Senior Editor at Lawfare and Fellow at the Brookings Institution, for the second session of our 2018-19 series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. Taylor previously served as the Democratic Chief Counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as an attorney with the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State.
Taylor spoke with students about her career path during and after law school, including her experience working on Capitol Hill and in the Executive Branch. She began by discussing her longstanding interest in public international law, and the courses and activities she found most formative while in law school. She discussed her work at the State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as her transition from advising Executive Branch clients to Congress. She considered ways that lawmakers can influence the debate on foreign policy issues through hearings, resolutions, and other methods, even without the pulpit of the presidency. Taylor also described her current role as Senior Editor and Counsel with Lawfare and fellow at Brookings, along with the new experience of working in a more public-facing role after spending the earlier part of her career as an advisor to policymakers.
In her advice to students interested in a career in national security law, Taylor emphasized the need for seizing opportunities as they arise. She highlighted the importance of approaching these challenges with confidence in one’s own expertise, coupled with an honesty about areas in which one can learn and grow. Taylor explained that she allowed her desire to pursue work of genuine interest to guide her career decisions, and she encouraged students to do the same, and to embrace serendipity and be willing to take risks – wherever that might lead them.
You can follow her on Twitter @MargLTaylor.
Rachel Goldbrenner – January 25
On January 23, 2019, the Reiss Center on Law and Security and the National Security Law Society hosted Rachel Goldbrenner, Executive Director of the Reiss Center on Law and Security for the inaugural session of our 2018-19 series featuring national security law and policy practitioners. Prior to heading the Reiss Center, Goldbrenner served in a number of national security roles in the White House and State Department, including as a senior advisor to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and as a director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council. She has also practiced as an international litigator and served at several think tanks and advocacy organizations.
In her roundtable discussion with current NYU law students, Goldbrenner discussed her career path both leading into and following law school. She discussed the challenges and rewards of government service and gave her advice for students interested in pursuing a career in national security. Turning to her current role, she also provided an overview of the Reiss Center’s renewed agenda, plans for the future, and opportunities and resources for students interested in national security at NYU Law.