Law School celebrates Cuéllar's book on national security organizations

Law School celebrates Cuéllar's book on national security organizations

The Stanford Law School celebrated CISAC Co-Director Tino Cuéllar’s new book, Governing Security: The Hidden Origins of American Security Agencies, which was recently published by Stanford University Press.

“I love a book party because we’re all devoted to the advancement of knowledge, but we all know it’s really hard to do and it’s not always appreciated when we do it,” Stanford Law School Dean Mary Elizabeth Magill told a gathering of law faculty to honor the book by Cuéllar, a law professor who also will be the next director of CISAC’s umbrella organization, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. The law faculty were also honoring law professor Michele Landis Dauber’s new book, “The Sympathetic State: Disaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State.”

Cuéllar’s book explores the history of two major federal agencies: the Roosevelt-era Federal Security Agency – today the Department of Health and Human Services – and the Department of Homeland Security, established in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Through the stories of both agencies, Cuéllar shows how Americans often end up choosing security goals through overlapping ambitions and conflicts over agency autonomy, presidential power and gut reactions to national security crises.

“More than other academic monographs which tend to be dry, impersonal affairs, I could see the person behind the prose in this book,” David Engstrom, an assistant law professor, told the gathering. “In the introduction, Tino crafts a beautiful metaphor by noting how easy it is to stand just to the north of the United States-Mexico border and to think that it’s somehow timeless, and to forget that it was state action that made that border such a consequential part of the social world for so many people. Now as you read, you soon realize that this book really isn’t about nation-state borders, in that sense, but rather about the border between domestic policy and national security and about the boundaries between public agencies.

“But then you also realize,” Engstrom continued, “Who better than Tino, who grew up along that U.S.-Mexico border, first to see and then to show us how seemingly arbitrary borders and boundaries can, through administrative action, become so consequential.”