Book - MIT Press

Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists: Lessons from the War on Terrorism

  • Gabriella Blum
  • Philip B. Heymann
| September 2010


In an age of global terrorism, can the pursuit of security be reconciled with liberal democratic values and legal principles? During its "global war on terrorism," the Bush administration argued that the United States was in a new kind of conflict, one in which peacetime domestic law was irrelevant and international law inapplicable. From 2001 to 2009, the United States thus waged war on terrorism in a "no-law zone."

Gabriella Blum and Philip Heymann reject the argument that traditional American values embodied in domestic and international law can be ignored in any sustainable effort to keep the United States safe from terrorism. In Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists, they demonstrate that the costs are great and the benefits slight from separating security and the rule of law.

Blum and Heymann argue that the harsh measures employed by the Bush administration were authorized too broadly, resulted in too much harm, and often proved to be counterproductive for security. Blum and Heymann recognize that a severe terrorist attack might justify changing the balance between law and security, but they call for reasoned judgment instead of a wholesale abandonment of American values. They also argue that being open to negotiations and seeking to win the moral support of the communities from which the terrorists emerge are noncoercive strategies that must be included in any future efforts to reduce terrorism.

Winner of the 2010 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize

The Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize was established in spring 2007 by alumnus Roy C. Palmer '62 and his wife, Susan M. Palmer, to honor a work of scholarship exploring the tension between civil liberties and national security in contemporary American society.


Gabriella Blum is Assistant professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of Islands of Agreement: Managing Enduring Armed Rivalries and former Legal Advisor for the Israel Defense Forces.

Philip B. Heymann is James Barr Ames Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a former Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He is author of Terrorism, Freedom, and Security (2003) and Preserving Liberty in an Age of Terror (2005), both published by the MIT Press.

Praise for Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists: Lessons from the War on Terrorism:

This is an excellent work, with highly creative proposals and sensitive analysis. The most important task in the wars on terror will be the mutual adaptation of strategy and law in order to provide a legitimate basis on which such wars can be fought. It is to this end that Heymann and Blum have made a major contribution."
Philip Bobbitt, Herbert Wechsler Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the Center on National Security, Columbia Law School, and Distinguished Senior Lecturer, University of Texas

"Professors Blum and Heymann have written a comprehensive and insightful study of the legal challenges raised in a post-9/11 world. Some readers (including me) will disagree with particular conclusions, but everyone should agree that the authors have laid out the dimensions of these issues clearly and fairly."
Michael Chertoff, Chairman, The Chertoff Group, Secretary of Homeland Security, 2005–2009

"Blum and Heymann weave together the incisive legal reasoning and strategic thinking essential to protecting both liberty and security. At a time when heated political rhetoric risks drowning out constructive dialogue, they offer the serious thinking needed for just and effective counterterrorism law."
Matthew C. Waxman, Associate Professor, Columbia Law School, Principal Deputy Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State, 2005–2007

About This Book

Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists: Lessons from the War on Terrorism

Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists: Lessons from the War on Terrorism
Gabriella Blum Philip B. Heymann
For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Blum, Gabriella and Philip B. Heymann. Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists: Lessons from the War on Terrorism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, September 2010.

The Authors