The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
James Baker is a Visiting Fellow in Governance Studies, where he contributes to Brookings’s scholarship on issues related to artificial intelligence, cyber security, and national security. In addition to his role at Brookings, Baker holds an affiliated appointment with the Lawfare Institute. He is also a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School.
Throughout his distinguished career, including four years as general counsel for the FBI, Baker has worked on numerous national security matters, including in particular, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
After clerking for the Honorable Bernard A. Friedman in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Baker joined the Department of Justice (DOJ) with the Criminal Division through the Attorney General’s Honors Program in 1990 and worked as a federal prosecutor with the division’s Fraud Section.
In 1996, Baker joined the former Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), which later became part of DOJ’s National Security Division. From 2001 to 2007, Baker served as counsel for intelligence policy and head of OIPR. In this position, he developed, coordinated, and implemented national security policy with regard to intelligence and counterintelligence matters for the department. Moreover, he provided the attorney general, the U.S. intelligence community, and the White House with legal and policy advice on a range of national security issues and conducted oversight of the intelligence community, including the FBI, on behalf of the attorney general.
In 2006, Baker received a U.S. Intelligence Community Award for Excellence in counterterrorism. A year later, he received the NSA’s Intelligence Under Law Award; the NSA Director’s Distinguished Service Medal; and DOJ’s highest award—the Edmund J. Randolph Award. That same year, he became a fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a lecturer at Harvard Law School. From 2008 to 2009, Baker was assistant general counsel for national security at Verizon Business. He then returned to DOJ, and from 2009 to 2011, served as an associate deputy attorney general working on a range of national security issues, including cyber security. In 2014, FBI Director James Comey selected Baker as the FBI's general counsel.
Baker holds a juris doctorate and master’s degree from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.Last Updated: