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 Juliette N. Kayyem (born August 16, 1969) is former candidate for Governor of Massachusetts and a former Boston Globe columnist, writing about issues of national security and foreign affairs for the op-ed page. She is also a lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, a member of the council on foreign relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Prior to this, Kayyem was the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States department of Home Security. Kayyem has an extensive background in terrorism and national security affairs. Prior to her federal position, she served as Massachusetts’ first Undersecretary for Homeland Security, where she was responsible for developing statewide policy on homeland security, with a focus on preventing, protecting, responding to, and recovering from any and all critical incidents.

Early life and education

Born in Los Angeles to Lebanese-Christian parents, Kayyem graduated from Harvard University with her Bachelor’s degree in 1991 and later from Harvard Law School with a Juris Doctor degree in 1995.


A lawyer by training, she began her legal career in 1995 at the Department of Justice, ultimately serving as an advisor to then Attorney General Janet Reno until 1999.

From 1999-2000, Kayyem served as former House minority leader Richard Gephardt’s appointee to the National commission on Terrorism, a Congressionally mandated review of how the government could better prepare for the growing terrorist threat. 

She was appointed as Massachusetts’ first Undersecretary for Homeland Security by Governor Deval L. Patrick  in January 2007, overseeing the National Guard, the commonwealth’s strategic security planning, and the distribution of homeland security funds consistent with the Governor’s priorities.

Kennedy School of Government

As of fall 2011, Kayyem has returned to the Kennedy School as a lecturer in Public Policy. She is a member of the Belfer center for science and International Affairs board of directors, and Faculty Co-Chair, Dubai Initiative.

Since 2001, Kayyem has been a resident scholar at the Belfer Center, serving both as Executive Director of the Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness, a terrorism and homeland security research program, and as co-Director of Harvard’s Long-Term Legal Strategy for Combating Terrorism. She also taught courses on law and national security.

Department of Homeland Security

On March 5, 2009 United States Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitani appointed Juliette N. Kayyem Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs.

As Assistant Secretary, Kayyem was responsible for coordinated and consistent planning between the Department and all of its state, local, tribal, and territorial partners on issues as varied as immigration, intelligence sharing, military affairs, border security, and the response to operational events such as H1N1 influenza outbreak, the December 25th attempted terrorist attack, the Haiti earthquake, and the BP oil spill. In this capacity, she also served as the co-chair of congressionally mandated Preparedness Task Force and a member of President Obama’s Task Force on Puerto Rico and the Defense Department’s Council of Governors. She also managed the security efforts surrounding major sporting events, including the Chicago Olympic bid, the Vancouver Olympics, the Caribbean Games, and the World Equestrian Games. She was the most senior Arab-American female appointee in the Obama Administration.

She left the DHS in the fall of 2010.

Personal life

Named one of CNN/Fortune Magazine’s People to Watch, Kayyem served as an on-air analyst for NBC, MSNBC News, and CNN. Her bi-weekly Boston Globe column is distributed through the New York Times wire service. She was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary “for her colorful, well reported columns on an array of issues, from women in combat to oil drilling in Alaska.” She is married to David J. Barron, a Judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. They have one daughter and two sons.

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