Jack Goldsmith

Senior Fellow

Jack Goldsmith is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law at Harvard University. From 2003 to 2004, he served as the assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel; from 2002 to 2003 he served as the special counsel to the general counsel of the Department of Defense. Goldsmith also taught at the University of Chicago Law School from 1997 to 2002 and at the University of Virginia Law School from 1994 to 1997.

In his academic work, Goldsmith has written widely on issues related to national security law, presidential power, international law, and Internet regulation. His books include Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency after 9/11 (2012), The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment inside the Bush Administration (2009), Who Controls the Internet: Illusions of a Borderless World (with Tim Wu) (2006), and The Limits of International Law (with Eric Posner) (2005). He blogs on national security matters at the Lawfare blog,and on issues of labor law and policy at the On Labor blog.

Goldsmith is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds a JD from Yale Law School, a BA and an MA from Oxford University, and a BA from Washington & Lee University. He clerked for Supreme Court justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Court of Appeals judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, and Judge George Aldrich on the Iran-US Claims Tribunal.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

The Lawfare Podcast: Mary Ann Glendon On Unalienable Rights

by Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Saturday, August 3, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jack Goldsmith interviews Mary Ann Glendon to discuss the Commission on Unalienable Rights. They talk about why examining the root bases of human rights claims is a worthwhile endeavor for a State Department commission.


Jack Goldsmith Talks To Former Secretary Of Defense Ash Carter

interview with Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Friday, July 19, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jack Goldsmith interviews Ash Carter about Carter's new book, his time as head of the Pentagon, the challenges of conveying national security threats to the American public, the Obama administration's response to the rise of the Islamic State, offensive cyber operations, and the role of lawyers in defense policy.

In the News

How Congress Should Think About Mueller’s Testimony

quoting Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Tuesday, July 9, 2019

On July 17, Robert Mueller will testify publicly before Congress for the first time since June 2013, when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in his role as FBI director. Democratic members of Congress have framed Mueller’s testimony as a final act of public service following his resignation as special counsel.


Jack Goldsmith: Errol Morris On Documenting Bannon

interview with Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Jack Goldsmith discusses films about law and national security including "The Fog of War," which won an Oscar for its account of Robert McNamara's role in and lessons from the Vietnam War, and "The Unknown Known," which told the story of the political career of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and "American Dharma," a documentary profile of former Trump strategist Steve Bannon. 

Analysis and Commentary

Spring 2019 Issue Of Harvard National Security Journal

by Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Elad Gil argues that judges too frequently rely on the executive’s special competence in foreign affairs to apply a de facto presumption of near-total deference, which he terms “totemic functionalism.” He traces the conceptual underpinnings of totemic functionalism and, using three case studies, shows how it undermines the American system of checks and balances, first between the organs of government and then, indirectly, inside the executive branch.
Analysis and Commentary

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly In The Attorney General’s CBS Interview

by Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Sunday, June 2, 2019

Jan Crawford’s extraordinary CBS interview with Attorney General William Barr was released on Friday, May 31. In it Barr said some good things about why his investigation of the Trump campaign investigation is needed. He also said some bad things about his attitude toward his investigation that reveal the depressingly ugly state of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement institutions.


A Different View On The President’s Delegation Of Declassification Authority To The Attorney General

by Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Saturday, June 1, 2019

President Trump’s delegation of a narrowly defined declassification authority to Attorney General Bill Barr has attracted criticism, notably on this site by my colleagues David Kris and Benjamin Wittes. I think these criticisms tell only one side of the story, and that the matter is more complicated than they let on.


The U.S. Media Is In The Crosshairs Of The New Assange Indictment

by Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Friday, May 24, 2019

(New Media Days/Peter Erichsen) I have written a lot on how hard it is to distinguish WikiLeaks from the New York Times when it comes to procuring and publishing classified information. One implication of the comparison is that any successful prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would have adverse implications for mainstream U.S. news publications efforts to solicit, receive and publish classified information. The May 23 indictment of Assange makes clear that these concerns are real. As Susan Hennessey said, “[I]t will be very difficult to craft an Espionage Act case against him that won’t adversely impact true journalists.” I don’t think this is an accident. I think the government’s indictment has the U.S. news media squarely in its sights.


The Mueller Report’s Weak Statutory Interpretation Analysis: Part II

by Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Thursday, May 23, 2019

I argued earlier this month that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report misapplied the presidential clear statement rule and improperly exposed many of President Trump’s actions in response to the Russia investigation to potential criminal liability. The argument drew disagreement from Benjamin Wittes, Andrew Kent and Marty Lederman, which in turn provoked a response by Josh Blackman, who holds views similar to mine.

Analysis and Commentary

The Mueller Report’s Weak Statutory Interpretation Analysis

by Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Saturday, May 11, 2019

Someone on Twitter recently asked: “What is your most [fire emoji] take that absolutely infuriates people and you know deep down in your heart is 100% true”? I was inclined to respond: “The statutory interpretation analysis in the Mueller report is one-sided and weak.”