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On the 17th floor of a skyscraper at the lower tip of Manhattan, American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Jameel Jaffer’s office overlooks a helicopter landing pad and the Staten Island ferry’s port. “That’s where the president lands when he comes to New York,” Jaffer explained, pointing down from his window at the wide patch of gravel as a chopper makes its descent. It’s a fitting perch for an attorney who acts as a watchdog of the United States government. Jaffer, 33, currently has his hand in several high-profile human rights cases. Jaffer is co-lead counsel to the plaintiffs in ACLU v. Department of Defense. The Freedom of Information Act case resulted in the release of thousands of documents related to prisoner detention and abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guant�namo Bay, Cuba. He is lead counsel to the plaintiffs in Doe v. Ashcroft, a case that resulted in the invalidation of a section of the USA Patriot Act under the First and Fourth amendments, striking down a controversial surveillance provision. He is also counsel to plaintiffs in a challenge to another section of the Patriot Act pending before the Eastern District of Michigan, MCA of Ann Arbor v. Ashcroft. Jaffer was also the lead counsel in successful litigation to obtain records concerning the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s implementation of the Patriot Act and in a successful challenge to the legitimacy of U.S. immigration detention policies under international law. He has been asked to lecture frequently on the Patriot Act and its implications for U.S. national security and political surveillance. Jaffer spoke in Geneva last month in front of the United Nations Human Rights Commission on the torture and detention of prisoners by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The government has misled the public, and getting that info out to the public, that in itself is useful,” Jaffer said. “We’re doing important work. It matters. What we do here in the U.S. is very influential abroad, and all decisions will have a great deal of influence.” Jaffer was born in a small town in the Ontario province of Canada and went to Williams College, where he majored in math and English. He worked as an investment banker for Lehman Brothers, attended Cambridge University and then returned to the United States for Harvard Law School. He went to law school after turning down development jobs in South Africa. Following law school, Jaffer landed an associate job at Davis Polk & Wardwell of New York doing corporate work and some pro bono work for the ACLU. Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the ACLU was trying to get a handle on what the Bush administration was doing in terms of homeland security and responding to the attack. Jaffer helped with the legal work. “I found the work so compelling that when jobs starting coming up [at the ACLU], I took one,” he said. When he began the job in 2002, Ann Beeson, the associate legal director of the ACLU, approached him with the roughly 200-page Patriot Act. “I was sequestered for three weeks with it,” he said. “And that was the beginning of our recent national security work.” Jaffer and ACLU attorney Amrit Singh will argue ACLU v. Dept. of Defense this summer before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite the upcoming case, Jaffer’s office is neat, with photographs taken by him in India and the Middle East hanging on the walls, and a squash racquet tossed in the corner. “I was hoping to have a slower summer,” he said gesturing to the racquet. “But now I doubt it.”

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