LAW AND NATIONAL SECURITY

Women in National Security Law debuts with virtual launch

June 22, 2020

Judging by its virtual launch earlier this month that drew more than 300 Zoom participants, a new ABA group called Women in National Security Law (WINSL) is off to a robust start. A panel of four experienced lawyers spoke about the paths that led them to careers in national security law and shared some of the challenges and rewards of working to keep the nation safe.

As more women enter the field of national security, the ABA aims to help with mentoring, networking and developing their careers.

As more women enter the field of national security, the ABA aims to help with mentoring, networking and developing their careers.

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Cynthia Ryan, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security, said that though more women are entering the field, the committee wanted to provide a forum for mentoring, networking and developing their careers. Ryan, who retired two years ago as general counsel for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said she got into the field while working as staff counsel for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Confronted with new and complex issues such as intelligence sharing and handling classified information, she decided to reach out to lawyers at the National Security Agency, CIA, Department of Defense and the National Security Council for guidance.  

Panelist Mieke Eoyang, vice president for the National Security Program and chair of the Cyber Enforcement Initiative at the think tank Third Way in Washington, D.C., started out on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide. After law school she returned to government, focusing on cutting-edge and controversial national security issues such as detention, interrogation, torture, identifying enemy combatants and limits on electronic surveillance.

The typical entry point into national security law has been through the male-dominated fields of military service or law enforcement. However, panelist Dawn Browning said that women should not feel intimidated if they find themselves outnumbered in the room. Browning, deputy general counsel for the FBI’s National Security and Cyber Law Branch, advises speaking up and asking questions in meetings. “Let your voice be heard,” she said. “We bring a unique perspective to this field of law.”

Moderator Bonnie Jenkins, founder and chair of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security, said WINSL will host future programs featuring experienced national security lawyers passing along what they’ve learned working in the field and offering tips on overcoming career challenges.

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