Students Simulate Security Crises to Learn About Legal Implications

Drew Indorf, Alon Sachar, Allen Weiner (faculty adviser), Shih-Chun Chien, Colin Scott, and Ken Daines
Drew Indorf, Alon Sachar, Allen Weiner (faculty adviser), Shih-Chun Chien, Colin Scott, and Ken Daines

In March, Stanford students participated in a two-day terrorism and national security simulation exercise that was hosted by the Georgetown University Law Center. The event, which was developed by Georgetown Professor of Law Laura Donohue, JD ’07, aimed to better prepare law students for difficult national security situations.

“There is a lot about how we teach in law school that doesn’t work for students who are jumping into national security law,” Donohue said in an interview with The National Law Journal. “We teach the law as it is written, not how it is applied. Law is one of many competing considerations during a national security crisis. How do you talk with policymakers? How do you bring the law into the conversation?”

Through the simulation, students experienced a series of mock crises via news stores, inter-agency press releases and intelligence reports.

“One of the most critical tasks was learning to separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and to avoid cognitive biases that would hamper sound decision making,” says Indorf, JD ’18.

 “We learned that information sharing can be burdensome, and that intelligence is never absolute. But national security lawyers must make decisions nonetheless, and those decision have a variety of expected and unexpected consequences,” says Indorf. “We learned that despite the emergency nature of a national security crisis, domestic and international law provide an important check on executive action. National security lawyers must remind their clients of the long-term legal consequences of action in the midst of an emergency. While national defense often requires immediate action, it also requires the maintenance of inter-state relationships and international legal norms that preserve a predicable world order.”

A total of 80 law students from nearly a dozen law schools participated in the invitational, including SLS students, Ken Daines, JD ’17, Drew Indorf, JD ’18,  Shih-Chun Chien, JSM ’15,  Alon Sachar, JD ’16,  and Colin Scott, JD ’17. Allen Weiner, SCICN Co-Director and Senior Lecturer in Law served as their faculty adviser.

Student participation at the invitational were accessed by national security experts, including James Baker, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and Rosemary Hart, special counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“I gained a greater appreciation for the true act of public service that those cabinet members provide by going through that grueling process to protect our country,“ shared Ken Daines, another SLS participant.

“The simulation was an immensely edifying experience, and I am thrilled to have been a part of it. Although I’m not yet certain whether I will practice national security law, I am certain to apply the lessons from the simulation to other areas of domestic and international practice,“ says Indorf.