Ramzi Kassem is a Professor of Law at the City University of New York. His writing, teaching, and clinical legal practice grapple with the expressions and excesses of the sprawling U.S. security state, both domestically and abroad.

From 2022 to 2024, Professor Kassem took leave to serve as a Senior Policy Advisor at the White House. Among his Domestic Policy Council duties, Professor Kassem led Interagency Policy Committees and other complex processes to support and drive the President’s agenda on a host of sensitive concerns ranging from the immigration court backlog and immigration legislation and regulations, to watchlisting, screening, and profiling policy, to countering the threats posed by commercial spyware. He also collaborated with the National Security Council Intelligence Programs Directorate and with the NSC Transborder Directorate. Professor Kassem is the first CUNY faculty member named to serve at the White House.

Professor Kassem has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Second Circuit (including en banc), the D.C. Circuit, several federal district courts, the Military Commission at Guantànamo Bay, and in immigration courts.

In 2009, Professor Kassem founded CLEAR, an award-winning clinic and legal non-profit at CUNY School of Law. For over a decade, he also directed or co-directed the law school’s Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic. Before joining the CUNY faculty, Professor Kassem taught law at Yale and Fordham.

In support of clients, communities, and social movements, Professor Kassem and his CUNY students have provided a wide spectrum of legal services and litigated civil rights, constitutional, criminal, immigration, national security, wartime detention, and war crime cases at all levels of the federal judiciary, before military commissions and international tribunals, and in various administrative proceedings.

In addition to law review articles and contributed book chapters, Professor Kassem’s writing has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian and other outlets. He is also frequently interviewed and quoted in these major news outlets and beyond. He was tasked by the Public Interest Law Network (PILnet) to lead and produce a feasibility study on clinical legal education in Tunisia. He has lectured broadly overseas, spanning a dozen countries on four continents.

Professor Kassem is a proud immigrant and an incorrigible New Yorker. He is a graduate of Columbia College and holds law degrees from Columbia Law School, where he was a Senior Editor for the Columbia Law Review, and from the Sorbonne.

Among other honors, Professor Kassem is an elected member of the American Law Institute; a member of the inaugural cohort of Freedom Scholars selected nationwide in recognition of their work towards social, racial, and economic justice; a Non-Resident Fellow of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft; an Honorary Fellow of the Foreign Policy Association; and a Paul & Daisy Soros New American Fellow.

Notable Cases and Advocacy

Civil Rights

Law of War

  • Professor Kassem and his students represented fifteen prisoners of various nationalities incarcerated without fair process at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram Air Base, and other secret or disclosed U.S. facilities worldwide. Their advocacy at all levels of the federal judiciary, in military tribunals, before administrative and international bodies, and in the media has established important law-of-war precedent and resulted in the liberation of twelve clients so far.
  • In United States v. Ahmed al-Darbi, Professor Kassem was lead defense counsel before a Military Commission on charges of war crimes for the only prisoner released from Guantánamo during the Trump administration.
  • Professor Kassem also negotiated client repatriations or resettlements in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Yemen.

Criminal Defense

  • Professor Kassem has appeared as defense counsel or advised defense teams in federal terrorism cases, including United States v. Uzair Paracha, which resulted in the exoneration and repatriation to Pakistan of his client after seventeen years of incarceration.


  • Professor Kassem and his students have also represented numerous immigrants and asylum-seekers in immigration court, before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and in federal courts.

Human Rights

  • Professor Kassem was part of a three-member delegation of international legal experts invited by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) to assess the state of emergency in France.
  • In connection with his cases, Professor Kassem has also conducted fact-finding missions in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and Yemen.


Law Review Articles

Reflection on Tanzin v. Tanvir, 135 Harv. L. Rev. F. 74 (2021), with M. Tanvir, J. Algibhah, and N. Shinwari, available on SSRN.

American Informant, 27 Mich. J. Race & L. 1 (2021).

Rebellious Lawyering in the Security State, 23 Clinical L. Rev. 671 (2017), with Diala Shamas, available on SSRN.

Off the Record: The National Security Council, Drone Killings, and Historical Accountability, 31 Yale J. on Reg. 363 (2014), with Douglas Cox, available on SSRN.

Passport Revocation as Proxy Denaturalization: Examining the Yemen Cases, 82 Fordham L. Rev. 2099 (2014), available on SSRN.

From Altruists to Outlaws: The Criminalization of Traveling Islamic Volunteers, 10 UCLA J. Islamic & Near E.L. 85 (2011), available on SSRN.

Implausible Realities: Iqbal’s Entrenchment of Majority Group Skepticism Towards Discrimination Claims, 114 Penn St. L. Rev. 1443 (2010), available on SSRN.

Book Chapters

Gendered Erasure in the Global “War on Terror”: An Unmasked Interrogation, in Gender, National Security and Counter-Terrorism: Human Rights Perspectives (Routledge 2013), available on SSRN.

Imposture, in The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison, Outside the Law (NYU Press 2009), available on SSRN.

Essays and Editorials

“Guantánamo’s Prison Has Stumped Three Presidents. Biden Can Finally Close It,” The Washington Post, January 14, 2022.

“Watchlisting the World: Digital Security Infrastructures, Informal Law, and the ‘Global War on Terror,’” with Rebecca Mignot-Mahdavi and Gavin Sullivan, Just Security, October 28, 2021

“After Two Decades of the War on Terror, Do Muslim Lives Matter?,” The Washington Post, September 10, 2021

“Domestic Terrorism? Not So Fast,” New York Daily News, January 12, 2021

“‘Terrorism’: A Word We Need to Retire,” New York Daily News, November 8, 2017

“France’s Real State of Emergency,” The New York Times, August 4, 2016

“Why Terror Watchlists Won’t Solve America’s Gun Problem,” The Washington Post, June 28, 2016

“The NYPD Spied on Muslim Americans. Will a Court Settlement Change Anything?,” with Hina Shamsi, The Guardian, January 8, 2016

“The End of Injustice for Shaker,” Al-Jazeera English, November 1, 2015

“Why Shaker Aamer Must Be Freed,” The Mail on Sunday, September 13, 2015

“Why ‘Guantánamo North’ Is a Terrible Idea,” VICE, August 24, 2015

“On Flags, Fireworks, Hot Dogs, and Torture,” VICE, July 7, 2015

“Do High-Profile Terrorism Arrests Actually Help the Islamic State?,” VICE, May 27, 2015

“Three Questions You Should Ask When You Hear About a ‘Foiled Terrorist Plot,’” VICE, March 10, 2015

“‘American Sniper’ Should Not Be Nominated for an Oscar,” Al-Jazeera English, February 19, 2015.

“My Gitmo Client’s Interpreter Worked for the CIA,” Al-Jazeera America, February 13, 2015.

“Why We Shouldn’t Import Guantánamo: A Holistic Perspective,” Lawfare, February 10, 2015.

“Why Are Prisoners Who Have Been Cleared for Release Still in Guantánamo?,” VICE, November 10, 2014.

“A View From Gitmo,” The New York Times, June 7, 2014.

“A Culture of Surveillance,” HuffPost (essay commissioned by PEN America), June 6, 2014.

“Spying or No Flying?,” with Baher Azmy, Al-Jazeera English, May 7, 2014.

“Unprecedented Notice of Warrantless Wiretapping in a Closed Case,” JURIST, March 24, 2014.

“The NSC, Drone Killing Accountability and New FOIA Litigation, with Douglas Cox,” JURIST, August 2, 2013.

“Hungry for Justice at Guantanamo,” Al-Jazeera English, June 6, 2013.

“What Obama Should Not Say on Thursday,” HuffPost, May 22, 2013.

“Ramzi Kassem on Chief Judge Lamberth’s Barre Decision,” Lawfare, April 1, 2013.

“The Controversy Around Zero Dark Thirty: As Misleading as the Film Itself,” Al-Jazeera English, January 19, 2013.

“The Long Roots of the NYPD Spying Program,” The Nation, July 2–9, 2012.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s Duty to New York’s Muslim Community,” New York Daily News, January 9, 2012.

“The Militarization of the ‘War on Terror’ in the U.S.,” Al-Jazeera English, December 22, 2011.

“Are Muslims Allowed Rights?,” with Amna Akbar, Al-Jazeera English, November 28, 2011.

“September 11th and the Future We’ve Built,” South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection (SAMAR), September 11, 2011.

“Giving Up Liberty in the Pursuit of Security,” Al-Jazeera English, August 25, 2011.

“Kassem on the Evidence in al-Alwi’s Case,” Lawfare, August 8, 2011.

“Obama Chains Himself to Bush Terror Policies,” Al-Jazeera English, July 12, 2011.

“Why They Call Obama a Muslim: Rule Out the Other Theories and the Elephant in the Room is Race,” New York Daily News, August 22, 2010.


Editor, Struggle for Power: The Ongoing Persecution of Black Movement by the U.S. Government (2021), by Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) and CLEAR (Mudassar Toppa and Princess Masilungan, lead authors).

Editor, “My Family Was in Shock”: The Harm Caused by President Trump’s Executive Orders on Travel to the U.S. (2017), by Amnesty International and CLEAR.

Editor, Stranded Abroad: Americans Stripped of Their Passports in Yemen (2016), by Asian Americans Advancing Justice and CLEAR (Naz Ahmad and Nasrina Bargzie, lead authors).

Editor, Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and its Impact on American Muslims (2012), by Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and CLEAR (Diala Shamas and Nermeen Arastu, lead authors).

Recent Work from Ramzi Kassem

Ramzi Kassem headshot



Featured Work