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Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows

David J.R. Frakt

Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General
​David J. R. Frakt is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Reserve and an independent legal scholar, writer and commentator. After earning his JD at Harvard University, he clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals before serving with the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps. After a decade on active duty, he has served nine more years in the Air Force Reserves. Frakt also has been a law professor, teaching at several law schools including Georgetown and Duke Universities. From April 2008 to August 2009, Frakt served as lead defense counsel with the office of military commissions, representing two detainees at Guantanamo facing war crimes and terrorism charges before the U.S. military commissions. He was the first defense counsel to win the pretrial dismissal of all charges against his client, Mohammed Jawad, a juvenile from Afghanistan, and also won Mohammed's release through a habeas corpus petition in federal court. His representation of Jawad earned him an international reputation as a champion of human rights and the rule of law.  He was also the sole defense counsel in one of the only two military commission trials completed during President Bush's tenure in office, representing Ali Hamza al Bahlul. Frakt is a highly regarded expert in the field of international war crimes, military law, and military commissions and has been quoted frequently in the national media, including in the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, New York Review of Books, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Miami Herald, The Nation, and Atlantic Monthly. He has written widely in both scholarly and popular periodicals. His articles and letters have been published in the Washington Post, New York Review of Books, Duke Law Journal, Harvard Human Rights Journal, American Journal of Criminal Law, Air Force Law Review, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, and Florida State University Law Review, as well as online on,, Huffington Post, and He has been a repeat guest on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show and on PRI's "The World" and debated terrorism issues on the “Intelligence Squared” debate series, broadcast nationally on Bloomberg News and NPR. Frakt is a contributor to the ACLU National Security Project’s Torture Report and was featured in the book The Guantanamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison, Outside the Law, in the “Witness to Guantanamo” documentary interview project, and in the forthcoming documentary “Reckoning with Torture.”  In 2013, he was invited by Salman Rushdie to present at the World Voices Festival of International Literature on the theme of “Bravery.” He is on the Board of Advisors of the National Institute of Military Justice and No More Guantanamos.
Terrorists: common criminals or war criminals?; our common humanity; defending detainees and the Constitution at Guantanamo; international justice: from Nuremberg to the present; the true meaning of patriotism; thoughts on leadership, ethics, and heroism; introduction to the military justice system; the problem of child soldiers.

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