Naval Postgraduate SchoolCenter for Homeland Defense and Securityheader background
Login HomeAcademic ProgramsResearch and MaterialsPress and News

CHDS Sparked Writing Passion, Career Change for Blum

Since 2003, Stephanie Blum has been an attorney with the Transportation Security Administration, where she defends the agency against employment discrimination and work-place complaints.

Her career goals changed while studying at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, where a newfound zeal for research and writing on some of the most high-profile issues of the day was born.

"It helped me change my career focus," Blum said. "It really opened up a new passion and gave me the connections and the tools to try this new path. It made me realize I wanted to do something different and gave me the opportunity to do that."

That freshly discovered passion has resulted in a string of published works and a new job with the Department of Homeland Security where Blum recently accepted a position in the agency’s Office of General Counsel. She expects to begin work there in October.

"I’ll miss TSA, they’ve been really supportive, but I’m excited about this new career that is dealing with policy issues," Blum said.

The move means leaving an employment litigation job to analyzing civil liberties issues related to DHS policy. Not only does she credit the education at CHDS for the new position, the contacts she made here were also helpful. She will be working with David Gersten, an alumnus of the Center’s Executive Leaders Program and now Acting Deputy Office for Programs and Compliance in the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Moreover, the new job comes on the heels of a milestone in Blum’s writing career. She authored an article in the Spring 2009 Boston University Public Interest Law Journal, titled "What Really is at Stake with the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and Ideas for Future Surveillance Reform."

That legislation was crafted in the aftermath of a media firestorm when it was learned the Bush Administration had wiretapped the conversations of Americans while bypassing warrant requirements of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). That resulted in Congress revisiting the 1978 legislation amid a backdrop of concerns about civil liberties and the modern war on terror.

"What I tried to do in the article was explain FISA in simple terms; it is a very complicated statute," Blum said. "You can’t evaluate the FISA Amendments Act [FAA] unless you understand what it is replacing. It’s very easy to criticize the FAA if you do not understand FISA."

While decried in the press for its clandestine execution, the previous administration’s Terrorists Surveillance Program was motivated by legitimate security concerns, Blum said.

"While the way the previous administration went about it was problematic, the underlying reasons appear sound," Blum said during a phone interview from her suburban Detroit home. "There was a need for surveillance reform. I’m not justifying what Bush did. He could have gone to Congress for updated legislation, especially since Congress had been amenable to amending FISA with the Patriot Act, or sought warrants."

Blum credits the legislation for providing much-needed updated provisions for new technologies, but said it may not have gone far enough in dealing with terrorists’ contacts with U.S. citizens, who may or may not be innocent.

Confronting hot-button security issues is one of the results of her studies at the CHDS, Blum said. Her award-winning thesis, titled "Preventive Detention in the War on Terror: A Plan for a More Moderate and Sustainable Solution," tackled the topic of preventive detention, its obstacles, how Israel and Great Britain have addressed it and offered options for U.S. policy.

Blum proved herself to be a talented writer and thinker while at CHDS, according to faculty member Nadav Morag, who was her thesis advisor.

"Ms. Blum’s analytical and writing skills were evident from day one," he said. "She possesses a powerful intellect and immediately grasped the skills of researching and writing and was able to very competently use these with her chosen thesis subject of preventive detention."

Blum parlayed her thesis into a book published by Cambria Press in 2008.

"I didn’t set out to write a book," she said. "I just got wrapped up in the topic. I love research, I love writing and I love being challenged. I found the master’s program (at CHDS) was really a conducive environment for thinking about big-picture issues."

She credits that book for being invited to participate on a U.S. Department of Justice Task Force on Detention Policy, where she served for five months on loan from her TSA post - a move she credits, again, to her CDHS education.

With a new job in sight, Blum isn’t letting her writing craft get rusty. She authored a chapter in a book tentatively titled "Homeland Security and Intelligence," edited by Keith Logan of Kutztown (Penn.) State University, that is expected to be published in 2010. Blum’s chapter is titled "The Department of Homeland Security and Intelligence: Past, Present and Future." Morag also penned a chapter, titled "Foreign Intelligence and Counterterrorism: An Israeli Perspective."

Also, in the fall, she plans to see yet another paper published in the Thomas M. Cooley Law Review and will be teaching a graduate course on criminal justice and terrorism at Michigan State University. Blum concedes to being a bit of a workaholic and credits part of her accomplishments to a "really supportive husband." She has two children, ages five and seven.