Jameel Jaffer

Jameel Jaffer

Distinguished Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy


Jameel Jaffer is the founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which works to protect and expand the freedoms of speech and the press through strategic litigation, research, and public education. Until recently, Jaffer was deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union and director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, in which role he oversaw the ACLU’s work relating to free speech, privacy, technology, national security, and international human rights.

Jaffer has litigated some of the most significant post-9/11 cases relating to national security and civil liberties, including cases concerning detention, interrogation, surveillance, targeted killing, and government secrecy. He co-led the litigation that resulted in the publication of the Bush administration’s “torture memos”—a lawsuit the New York Times described as “among the most successful in the history of public disclosure.” More recently, he led the ACLU’s litigation that resulted in the publication of the Obama administration’s “drone memos.”

He has argued in multiple appeals courts, as well as in the U.S. Supreme Court, and he has testified several times before the U.S. Congress. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, Index on Censorship, and the Harvard Law Review. His first book, Administration of Torture: From Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond, co-authored with Amrit Singh, was published by Columbia University Press in 2007. His next one, The Drone Memos, will be published by The New Press in the fall of 2016.

Early in his legal career, Jaffer was a law clerk to the Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, and to the Hon. Amalya L. Kearse, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He is a graduate of Williams College, Cambridge University, and Harvard Law School.

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