Juliette Kayyem

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Juliette Kayyem
Juliette Kayyem at Suffolk Law School (cropped).jpg
Kayyem in 2014
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Intergovernmental Affairs
In office
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputyStephanie Tennyson
Preceded byAnne Petera
Succeeded byBetsy Markey
Personal details
Born (1969-08-16) August 16, 1969 (age 53)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseDavid J. Barron
EducationHarvard University (BA, JD)

Juliette N. Kayyem (born August 16, 1969) is an American former government official and author. She is host of the WGBH podcast The SCIF.[1] She is a national security analyst for CNN and is a weekly guest on Boston Public Radio. She is the Belfer Lecturer in International Security at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy. She is a former candidate for Governor of Massachusetts[2] and a former Boston Globe columnist, writing about issues of national security and foreign affairs for the op-ed page.

Formerly, Kayyem was the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Homeland Security, in the Obama administration. Kayyem has an extensive background in terrorism and national security affairs. Prior to her federal position, she was Massachusetts' first Undersecretary for Homeland Security, where she was responsible for developing statewide policy on homeland security, with a focus on preventing, protecting, responding to, and recovering from critical incidents.[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Los Angeles to Lebanese parents,[5] Kayyem graduated from Harvard University with her bachelor's degree in 1991 and from Harvard Law School with a Juris Doctor degree in 1995.[6]

Legal career[edit]

Kayyem began her legal career in 1995 at the Department of Justice, ultimately serving as an advisor to Attorney General Janet Reno until 1999.[7]

From 1999 to 2000, Kayyem served as House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's appointee to the National Commission on Terrorism, a congressionally mandated review of how the government could better prepare for the growing terrorist threat. Chaired by L. Paul Bremer, that commission's recommendations in the year 2000 urged the nation to recognize and adapt to the growing tide of terrorist activity against the United States.[5]

In October 2017, Kayyem became the chief executive officer of Massachusetts-based Zemcar, an on-demand and scheduled ridesharing company focused on children and seniors.[8] Zemcar discontinued its rideshare services in December 2018.

As of March 2019, Kayyem has been chief executive officer of Grip Mobility - a technology company focused on providing transparency in the rideshare industry.[9]

Academic career[edit]

As of fall 2011, Kayyem has returned to the Kennedy School as a lecturer in public policy. She is a member of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs board of directors, and Faculty Co-Chair, Dubai Initiative.

Since 2001, Kayyem has been a resident scholar at the Belfer Center, serving both as executive director of the Kennedy School's Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness, a terrorism and homeland security research program, and as co-director of Harvard's Long-Term Legal Strategy for Combating Terrorism. She also taught courses on law and national security.[10][2]

Government service[edit]

Department of Homeland Security[edit]

She was appointed as Massachusetts’ first Undersecretary for Homeland Security by Governor Deval L. Patrick in January 2007,[11] overseeing the National Guard, the commonwealth's strategic security planning, and the distribution of homeland security funds consistent with the Governor's priorities.

On March 5, 2009, United States Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appointed Juliette N. Kayyem Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs. As assistant secretary, Kayyem was responsible for coordinated and consistent planning between the department and all of its state, local, tribal, and territorial partners on issues as varied as immigration, intelligence sharing, military affairs, border security, and the response to operational events such as H1N1 influenza outbreak, the December 25th attempted terrorist attack, the Haiti earthquake, and the BP oil spill. In this capacity, she also served as the co-chair of congressionally mandated Preparedness Task Force and a member of President Obama's Task Force on Puerto Rico and the Defense Department's Council of Governors. She also managed the security efforts surrounding major sporting events, including the Chicago Olympic bid, the Vancouver Olympics, the Caribbean Games, and the World Equestrian Games. She was the most senior Arab-American female appointee in the Obama Administration.[12] She left the DHS in the fall of 2010.[13] On May 7, 2015, United States Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson appointed Kayyem to the Homeland Security Advisory Committee.[14][15]

In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Kayyem was tasked to direct interagency and intergovernmental affairs for the National Incident Command, overseeing a diverse interagency and interdisciplinary staff for the White House and DHS to address unprecedented issues in the response, including public safety, public engagement, environmental remediation, and legal compliance. For her work, she received the Coast Guard's highest civilian honor.[12]

Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 2014[edit]

On August 21, 2013, Kayyem announced she was running for Governor of Massachusetts.[16]

In February 2014, it was reported by The Boston Globe that Kayyem failed to vote in either 2009 and 2010. At the time she was living temporarily in Washington, D.C., and did not ask for an absentee ballot for Massachusetts or register to vote in the District of Columbia.

When asked about her voting record, Kayyem's spokesman initially stated that Kayyem had registered in the District of Columbia during those years. But records later showed that Kayyem was never registered in Washington. When confronted with this evidence, Kayyem's campaign spokesman stated that Kayyem didn't think she could vote in Massachusetts during the time in Washington.[17]

At the state party convention on June 14, 2014, Kayyem failed to receive the 15% of delegate votes required to make the primary ballot.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Named one of CNN/Fortune Magazine's "People to Watch," Kayyem served as an on-air analyst for NBC, MSNBC News, and CNN. Her bi-weekly Boston Globe column is distributed through the New York Times wire service. She was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary "for her colorful, well reported columns on an array of issues, from women in combat to oil drilling in Alaska." She served on the advisory board of the Qatari-government financed International Centre for Sport Security.[19]

She is married to David J. Barron, a judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals.[20] They have one daughter and two sons.[12]


NSO Group and Washington Post Controversy

Kayyem is a senior advisor to NSO Group, an Israeli technology firm known for its Pegasus spying tool. The company has been reported to provide spying software that has been used in targeted attacks against human rights activists and journalists in various countries, and played a role in the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.[21][22][23] On October 21, 2019, Kayyem was hired as an opinion contributor by the Washington Post, where Khashoggi worked as a columnist. Observers pointed out the problematic nature of the hire. The director of Citizen Lab, a laboratory that studies human rights abuses and technology told Forbes at the time: "It is a sad day for human rights, a deeply disturbing irony in the wake of Khashoggi’s execution, and a public relations victory for NSO Group, to have the Washington Post hire someone sitting on their advisory board.”[24] Facing mounting criticism, Kayyem stepped down from her Washington Post role just four days later, without clarifying her role at NSO Group.[25]

Comments on Canadian trucker blockade

During the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge by truckers in February 2022, Kayyem was accused of promoting vigilantism when she tweeted "The Ambassador Bridge link constitutes 28% of annual trade movement between US and Canada. Slash the tires, empty gas tanks, arrest the drivers, and move the trucks." Addressing the criticism, she denied the accusation, saying, "People have the freedom to protest. Governments have the responsibility to protect public safety. That was what I intended to say."[26]

Selected work[edit]


  • Kayyem, Juliette N.; Pangi, Robyn L. (September 2003). First to Arrive: State and Local Responses to Terrorism (with Robyn L. Pangi). The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-11281-7.
  • Heymann, Philip B.; Kayyem, Juliette N. (September 2005). Protecting Liberty in an Age of Terror (with Philip Benjamin Heymann). The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-08343-4.
  • Kayyem, Juliette (April 2016). Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Your Home and Our Homeland. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1476733746.
  • Kayyem, Juliette (March 2022). The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters. PublicAffairs. ISBN 9781541700109.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The SCIF". WGBH News.
  2. ^ a b Miller, Joshua (August 21, 2013). "Juliette Kayyem, former Homeland Security official, announces run for Mass. governor". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  3. ^ "Kayyem Biography". hks.harvard.edu.
  4. ^ "Kayyem c.v." (PDF). hks.harvard.edu.
  5. ^ a b "Building Capabilities: The Intelligence Community's National Security Requirement for Diversity of Language Skills and Ethnic and Cultural Understanding". Harvard - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  6. ^ "The only "first" that matters to Juliette Kayyem '95 is our first line of defense". Harvard Law School. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  7. ^ "Kayyem appointed to post in Department of Homeland Security". Alumni Focus|Harvard Law Today. Harvard Law School. March 9, 2009.
  8. ^ Leung, Shirley (October 10, 2017). "Juliette Kayyem's new security challenge: Transporting kids". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  9. ^ Gonzalez, Guadalupe (2019). "Grip Mobility|Juliette Kayyem". 2019 Female Founders 100. Inc.
  10. ^ Belfer Center's listing of articles on their website concerning Juliette N. Kayyem
  11. ^ "Kayyem Named as Assistant Secretary of Intergovernmental Programs". dhs.gov.
  12. ^ a b c "Juliette Kayyem".
  13. ^ "Juliette Kayyem–DHS Loses a Star". vacationlanegrp- Another Cumming blog. February 24, 2011.
  14. ^ "DHS Announces Appointment Of New Members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council". Department of Homeland Security. May 7, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  15. ^ "Homeland Security Advisory Committee (current membership)". DHS. Archived from the original on October 13, 2015.
  16. ^ Bernstein, David S. (August 21, 2013). "Juliette Kayyem Is Running for Governor of Massachusetts". Boston Magazine. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  17. ^ Editorial (February 21, 2014). "Juliette Kayyem: Better to just fess up and move on". The Boston Globe. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  18. ^ Miller, Joshua; Johnson, Akilah (June 19, 2014). "Kayyem, Avellone fail to qualify for gubernatorial primary". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  19. ^ Hosenball, Mark; Rosenberg, Mica (June 23, 2015). "Qatar group to push sports integrity in U.S. even as World Cup award faces probes". Reuters. One ICSS advisory board member Juliette Kayyem, who worked as an assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security in President Barack Obama's first term, said she didn't see any reasons for concern, noting that the ICSS was doing good work in examining how to keep massive sporting events safe
  20. ^ "David J. Barron". United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  21. ^ "Activists and journalists in Mexico complain of government spying". Reuters. June 20, 2017. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  22. ^ Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (August 25, 2016). "Government Hackers Caught Using Unprecedented iPhone Spy Tool". Vice. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  23. ^ "Israeli firm won't say if it sold Saudis spyware linked to Khashoggi killing". Axios. March 25, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  24. ^ Brewster, Thomas. "It's A Sad Day For Human Rights | Washington Post Slammed For Its Latest Columnist Hire". Forbes. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  25. ^ Kayyem, Juliette (October 25, 2019). "A statement from me". @juliettekayyem. Retrieved December 18, 2019 – via twitter.com.
  26. ^ Sheets, Megan. "CNN analyst walks back call for 'vigilante' crackdown on Canada trucker blockade amid social media outrage". Independent. Retrieved February 12, 2022.

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