Alex Abdo

Alex Abdo

Alex Abdo is the inaugural Litigation Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. He has been involved in the conception and litigation of nearly all of the Institute’s legal challenges.

Abdo has been especially involved in the Institute’s recent lawsuit challenging the government’s system of “prepublication review,” which requires millions of former employees of the intelligence agencies to submit their manuscripts to government censors prior to publication; in the Institute’s groundbreaking challenge to the constitutionality of President Trump’s blocking of critics from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account; in the Institute’s challenge to the pervasive secrecy of the Office of Legal Counsel’s formal written opinions, which establish the law for the executive branch; in the Institute’s challenge to the constitutionality of the NSA’s program of “upstream surveillance,” under which the agency scans the content of U.S. persons’ international communications as they transit the internet backbone inside the United States; and in the Institute’s advocacy efforts to persuade Facebook to create a safe harbor for research and journalism that would illuminate the influence that the company’s platform is having on society.

Prior to joining the Institute, Abdo worked for eight years at the ACLU, where he was at the forefront of litigation relating to NSA surveillance, encryption, anonymous speech online, government transparency, and the post-9/11 abuse of detainees in U.S. custody. In 2015, he argued the closely watched appeal that resulted in the Second Circuit invalidating the NSA’s call-records program.

Abdo graduated from Yale College and Harvard Law School. After law school, he clerked for the Hon. Barbara M.G. Lynn, United States District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, and for the Hon. Rosemary Barkett, United States Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Selected writings and appearances