Mark Zaid

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Mark Zaid
Personal details
EducationUniversity of Rochester (BA)
Albany Law School (JD)

Mark S. Zaid is an American attorney, based in Washington, D.C., with a practice focused on national security law, freedom of speech constitutional claims, and government accountability.[1]

In 1998 he founded the James Madison Project, an organization dedicated to reducing government secrecy.[2] It is interested in the Freedom of Information Act and government whistleblowers. He is co-editor of Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws.[3] He is the co-founder of a legal organization called Whistleblower Aid, intended to help whistleblowers forward their concerns without incurring legal liability.[4][5]


Zaid is a 1989 graduate of the University of Rochester, and a 1992 graduate of Albany Law School of Union University in New York, where he served as an associate editor of the Albany Law Review.[6]

While a student at Albany Law School, Zaid interned in the office of New York Lieutenant Governor Stan Lundine.


Zaid practices in litigation and lobbying on matters relating to national security, federal employment, foreign sovereign and diplomatic immunity, international transactions, international torts and crimes, defamation, the Constitution (First and Fifth Amendments), and the Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOI/PA).[7] He practices at Compass Rose Legal Group.[8]

Through his practice, Zaid often represents former or current federal employees, intelligence officers, and whistleblowers who have grievances against agencies of the United States government or foreign governments. Additionally, he represents members of the media and the public in First Amendment and FOI/PA disputes. He has handled national security matters including security clearance revocations/denials, IG investigations, and other employment issues throughout the national security and military communities. He currently teaches the D.C. Bar CLE courses on FOIA and security clearances.[9][10] He also teaches as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University.[6]

Some of his cases are well known, such as suing Libya for the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which resulted in a $2.7 billion settlement, the largest of its kind against a foreign government for terrorist activities,[11][12] and obtaining a court-ordered injunction in 2004 that effectively shut down the Department of Defense's mandatory anthrax vaccination program for two years.[13][14]

Zaid has been quoted in print and online news reports as an expert in national security law and FOIA law.[15][16][17] He has appeared as a commentator on CNN[18] and MSNBC.[19]

On September 8, 2016, Thomas J. Colbert, the author of the book The Last Master Outlaw, and Mark Zaid filed a lawsuit to compel the Federal Bureau of Investigation to release its D.B. Cooper case file under the Freedom of Information Act. The suit alleges that the FBI suspended active investigation of the Cooper case "in order to undermine the theory that Rackstraw is D.B. Cooper so as to prevent embarrassment for the bureau's failure to develop evidence sufficient to prosecute him for the crime."[20]

He was a member of the legal team, led by Andrew Bakaj, representing the whistleblower whose complaint against President Donald Trump sparked a major political scandal and led to the launching of an impeachment inquiry against the president. Zaid had been critical of Trump long before he began representing the whistleblower. He said the team is also working with a second whistleblower who has spoken with authorities, but had not filed a formal complaint as of October 6.[8]

In February 2020, federal authorities indicted a Michigan man for threatening Zaid and his Ukraine whistleblower client by email in November 2019, purportedly saying, "All traitors must die miserable deaths."[21] The man allegedly sent the message the day after President Trump, at a rally in Louisiana, held up a photo of Zaid and said, "From the lawyer, a sleazeball," before reading tweets from Zaid predicting the president would not last out his first term.[22] The man pleaded guilty in December 2020 and in June 2021 was sentenced to twelve months and one day in prison, followed by three years of probation.[23][24]

Citing his "'high profile' work," Zaid's malpractice carrier, Hanover Insurance Group, dropped his coverage in 2020.[25] The ABA Journal specifically cited as the reason the insurance company had "no appetite" for Zaid's work for the Whistle-blower whose report lead the first impeachment of Donald Trump.[26] Both the speculation that Hanover had done it for that reason, and the outrage against it, were widely reported.[27]

Whistleblower Aid[edit]

In September 2017, Zaid and former U.S. State Department whistleblower John Tye co-founded Whistleblower Aid, a legal organization that assists people in the government and the private sector to safely report lawbreaking.[5] Initially focused on employees and contractors of the U.S. federal government, Whistleblower Aid emphasizes it is not WikiLeaks. "No one should ever send classified information to Whistleblower Aid," the firm states. "Whistleblower Aid will never assist clients or prospective clients with leaking classified information." Instead, would-be whistleblowers with classified information will be directed to investigators with security clearances to help expose wrongdoing without breaking the law or incurring criminal liability.[4][28] Clients are not charged. To cover expenses, the firm solicits donations from foundations and crowd-source funding.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Real Clear Politics Web site. Accessed May 14, 2009.
  2. ^ "James Madison Project".
  3. ^ Center, Electronic Privacy Information (September 26, 2008). Hammitt, Harry A.; Rotenberg, Marc; Verdi, John A.; Zaid, Mark S. (eds.). Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2008. Electronic Privacy Information Center. ISBN 978-0982163405. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ a b c Morello, Carol (September 18, 2017). "Former whistleblower starts legal aid group to guide would-be tipsters". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ a b "Whistleblower Aid". Retrieved June 11, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Official Mark Zaid website biography. Accessed October 6, 2019.
  7. ^ Sr., Joseph P. Chakalis. "Rochester Review • University of Rochester".
  8. ^ a b Allyn, Bobby (October 6, 2019). "Second Whistleblower With Direct Knowledge Of Ukraine Call Steps Forward, Lawyer Says". NPR. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
  9. ^ "The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel - The Leading Source For In-House Counsel".
  10. ^ "District of Columbia Bar - Page not found". {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  11. ^ "Global Focus: CHAT ABOUT THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING". Archived from the original on August 4, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  12. ^ "Libya, Families of Victims of Pan Am 103 Bombing Agree on $2.7B Compensation Fund". Fox News. August 14, 2003.
  13. ^ "Judge Halts Mandatory Anthrax Vaccination For Military". Archived from the original on August 20, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  14. ^ "".
  15. ^ Kara Scanell, "SEC Gets FOIA Foil in Financial Law: Regulatory Revamp Gives Agency Greater Rein to Deny Document Requests; 'Is That a Good Thing?'." Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2010. Found at WSJ online. Cited at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, "Freedom of information: Debate continues over scope of SEC FOIA exemption," August 4, 2010, found at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website. Both accessed August 6, 2010.
  16. ^ Andrea Stone, "WikiLeaks Diaries Raise Question: Is Secrecy Dead?" AOL News, July 26, 2010. Found at AOL News website Archived July 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Accessed August 6, 2010.
  17. ^ Chalfant, Morgan (July 23, 2018). "Trump mulls move against intel critics". The Hill. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  18. ^ CNN website.
  19. ^ See NBC News website Archived August 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine and NBC News website.
  20. ^ Lawsuit filed against FBI to make D.B. Cooper investigation file public. The Oregonian (September 8, 2016), retrieved September 22, 2016.
  21. ^ Stockler, Asher (February 20, 2020). "'You Are Running Out' of Time: Feds Charge Michigan Man with Threatening Ukraine Whistleblower, Attorney". Newsweek. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  22. ^ Schapiro, Rich (February 20, 2020). "'Bleed you out' like a pig: Feds bust man for threatening Trump whistleblower lawyer". NBC News. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  23. ^ "Michigan man pleads guilty to threatening to 'hunt down' Trump whistleblower's lawyer". mlive. December 1, 2020.
  24. ^ "Michigan man gets prison for email threat to Trump whistleblower's attorney". mlive. June 10, 2021.
  25. ^ Haberman, Maggie (August 25, 2020). "Insurer Won't Keep Lawyer Who Helped Whistle-Blower". New York Times. p. A20. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  26. ^ Cassens Weiss, Debbie (August 25, 2020). "Lawyer who represents whistleblowers loses malpractice insurance because of 'high-profile' work". ABA Journal. p. A20. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  27. ^ Kalmbacher, Colin (August 25, 2020). "Insurance Company Sparks Outrage, Speculation by Dropping Ukraine Whistleblower's Lawyer as a Client". Law and Order. p. A20. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  28. ^ "Former whistleblower starts legal aid group to guide would-be tipsters". Whistleblower Aid. Retrieved September 19, 2017.

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