photo by Michael Manning
JULIETTE KAYYEM IS nostalgic for the policy battles of the pre-September 11 world. A terrorism expert at
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Kayyem spent last spring fighting the use of secret evidence in
deportation proceedings against a handful of immigrants, mainly Arab men. Now, more than 1000 people have
been detained, about 5000 are being sought for questioning, and the White House has announced plans for
everything from the monitoring of conversations between terrorism suspects and their lawyers to the use
of secret military tribunals.
"It seems like a long time ago that we worried about 13 people being held on secret evidence," says Kayyem.
"We lost that." She emphasizes that, as a former Justice Department lawyer, she's hardly blind to the need
for tough measures against terrorism: "I consider myself in the national-security world. I've worked in law
enforcement. I certainly don't consider myself a softie on this stuff." But she worries that President Bush
and Attorney General John Ashcroft are trampling on civil liberties far more than is necessary or even
practical. Law enforcement, she says, "has to be targeted, focused. The bigger you make this investigation,
it seems to me that basically all you're doing is asking for too much work from the FBI."
Kayyem, 32, is that rarest of policy experts: a counterterrorism analyst who's also an Arab-American. She
grew up in West Los Angeles, the daughter of a Lebanese-American father and a Lebanese-immigrant mother. A
graduate of both Harvard College (1991) and Harvard Law School (1995), she worked for several years in the
Justice Department, mainly on civil-rights issues. It was during that time that she was appointed to the
National Commission on Terrorism. As she recalled in a Boston Globe interview earlier this year, the other
commission members saw her as the "acceptable Arab" - yet the Arab Muslim community was suspicious of her
because she is a Christian and a native-born American whose husband, Harvard Law professor David Barron, is
"I don't pretend to speak for a community that I'm not part of," she said in a Phoenix interview last week
in her third-floor office. "I just think I'm more sympathetic to them than a lot of people in my field."
Kayyem left the Justice Department earlier this year to become the executive director of the Kennedy School's
Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness, a group that brings together preparedness specialists, government
officials, and academics. She went on maternity leave in July when her daughter, Cecilia, was born. Mother
and daughter were briefly stranded in New Haven on September 11 when their New York-bound train was stopped;
her husband rescued them by car. She cut her maternity leave short not long after because, she explains,
"there are no Arab-Americans in counterterrorism."
Her biggest worry about the Bush administration's approach is that, by tilting its priorities toward
security rather than liberty, it is sending a negative message to the moderate Arab countries that are part
of the fragile anti-terrorism coalition.
If Kayyem could give the administration one piece of advice, it would be to drop the "war" metaphor. With
September 11 behind us, the pursuit of Al Qaeda well under way, and the anthrax attacks now believed to be
the work of a domestic Unabomber type, the worst of it may already be over - yet the use of the word "war"
justifies anti-liberty policies that serve no purpose in rooting out terrorism.
"It skews the debate too far to the right in a way that I think will have very bad long-term consequences
for America," she says. "We've put this entire structure in place for a war that is essentially over. A lot
of what Ashcroft has gotten through is stuff they've been trying to get through for a long time. Fifty or
100 years from now, what's been done during the past two months may still be around."
Kayyem also bristles at Ashcroft's suggestion that those who oppose his agenda aren't serious about
"I guess I would also say to him, 'Anyone who criticizes you does not care less about human life,' " she
says. "That's what makes me livid."
- Dan Kennedy