Georgetown University Law Center inaugurated its new Center on National Security and the Law in a ceremony on Thursday.

“The center is a major effort to grapple with some of the defining questions of our generation, involving the interaction between national security and law,” said program fellow Matthew Gerke.

According to Gerke, the center will attempt to address the increasingly challenging legal issue of balancing civil rights and security.

“Since the end of the Cold War, domestic and international law have become increasingly important in protecting both our security and our civil liberties,” he said. “The war on terrorism, the return to a multi-polar world, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction create unique challenges to the rule of law, both domestically and internationally.”

The Center’s goal is to bring the academic and policy communities together to foster nonpolitical analysis of national security issues. According to its website, it “seeks to produce new generations of legal scholars who understand national security law and foster nonpolitical examination of national security-related issues.”

During a ceremony held on Thursday, Neal Katyal, a constitutional law professor, was installed as director of the center. He argued the high-profile Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case in the Supreme Court in 2006, successfully challenging the procedure of military tribunals held at Guantanamo Bay.

The inauguration ceremony included three panels and a speech from both T. Alexander Aleinikoff, dean of GULC, and Katyal. Panelists including law professors, government officials and private attorneys focused on the role of the Department of Justice in the War on Terror, a new international law for 21st-century conflicts and national security challenges facing the new administration.

According to its website, this center promises to further connect the fields of academia and public service for ambitious law students.

Gerke, who previously worked for three and a half years at the Pentagon and in Iraq as an Assistant Director of Security Affairs for the Defense Support Organization – Iraq in the U.S. Department of Defense, said he hopes that his fellowship with the center will help him bridge the gap between academic and public life.

“After completing the fellowship, I hope eventually to move on to a career divided between legal academia and government service.”

Katyal and fellow Justin Florence could not be reached for comment.

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