Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists

From Belfer Center Studies in International Security

Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists

Lessons from the War on Terrorism

By Gabriella Blum and Philip B. Heymann

Guidance for maintaining national security without abandoning the rule of law and our democratic values.





Guidance for maintaining national security without abandoning the rule of law and our democratic values.

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.”

In Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists, 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. They demonstrate that the costs are great and the benefits slight from separating security and the rule of law. 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.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262014755 256 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$20.00 T ISBN: 9780262518604 256 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • An important, thoughtful and, above all, reasoned book about how we can adapt the laws of war and the laws of crime to fashion a responsible and effective response to the terrorist threat. In a book devoid of ideological flag waving Blum and Heymann meticulously deconstruct the arguments of necessity and provide hope that a well-led democracy can counter terrorism effectively by forging principled compromises without compromising fundamental values.

    Louise Richardson

    Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of St. Andrews

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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


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