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Another Indian-American appointed to Obama's legal team

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | January 30, 2009 10:15 IST
Last Updated: January 31, 2009 03:50 IST

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President Barack Obama [Images] has appointed yet another top Indian American legal mind to a senior position to his Administration.

Rashad Hussain, 30, who recently served as a trial attorney at the US Department of Justice, was named by Obama as Deputy Associate Counsel to the President and has already started working in the White House.

Earlier, the President had named Preeta Bansal, 42, as Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Management and Budget, and Neal Katyal, 38 as Principal Deputy Solicitor General, the number two position in the Office of the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice(India Abroad, Jan.30).

Before his stint with the DOJ, Hussain was as a Law Clerk to Damon K Keith on the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Detroit, Michigan.

Prior to that, he served as a legislative assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he reviewed legislation such as the USA Patriot Act and his first stint on Capitol Hill as an intern in the office for former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt during the summer of 2000.

Hussain is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from where he received his bachelors degrees with the highest distinction in both philosophy and political science, which he completed in two years; Yale University from where he received his JD and Harvard University from where he earned a MPA. He also holds a MA from Harvard in Near Eastern languages and civilizations.

At the University of North Carolina, Hussain, who was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, received the highest honors for his philosophy thesis, 'Assessing the Theistic Implications of Big Bang Cosmological Theory.'

 Hussain, who was a Spring 2003 Soros Fellow, says in his biography that he "finds his heritage central to his identity as a Muslim American and his career goals, especially in light of events in recent history," namely 9/11.

According to him, he "sees his varied academic interests converging and feels that his study of international affairs, law, and security can form a salient combination for addressing many contemporary legal and public policy issues."

In 2004, he also wrote a major article in The Yale Law Journal arguing that "much of the debate regarding post-September 11 counterterrorism initiatives has centered on the potentially damaging effects of these policies on constitutionally protected rights."

He wrote that "many observers have weighed the balance that the government has struck between national security and civil liberties by determining the extent to which new law enforcement initiatives preserve or encroach upon these rights."

Hussain said that "while scholars debate the legality of the government's new tools, it is often more difficult to assess whether such initiatives enhance or undermine security."

According to him since "the war on terrorism relies largely on sensitive intelligence and covert operations,' the Bush Administration's so-called 'victories' often "remain undisclosed, yet such assessments will be crucial in defining the future direction of US policy."

Hussain's, was born in Wyoming, but raised in Plano, Texas, where his parents still reside. His father, Mohammad Hussain, hails from Bihar and is a retired mining engineer, and his mother Ruqaya, is a physician. He has two siblings, and older sister, Lubna, a physician and a younger brother, Saad, a medical student.

Subodh Chandra, former Cleveland, Ohio Law Director, and also a Yale alumni, who was a leading supporter and fund-raiser for the Obama campaign, told India Abroad that he didn't know Hussain personally, but hailed his appointment.

"It should be no surprise to anyone at this point that President Obama is determined to reach out to all communities, including the Indian American community for top flight talent," he said, and declared, "It's a new day for America."

Kaleem Kawaja, a senior engineer with NASA [Images], and president of the Association of Indian Muslims of America,  told India Abroad that "most Indian Americans and Indian Muslims are delighted" over the appointment of Hussain, "a second generation Indian American Muslim."

"Our Association of Indian Muslims of America wishes to convey our heartfelt congratulations to this distinguished young lawyer of Indian origin upon receiving this recognition of a prestigious appointment at such a young age," he said.

Kawaja said, "Indeed, we are very happy to see that true to this campaign promises, President Obama is giving high level responsibility to a diverse set of Americans, many of them children of immigrants."

"We are optimistic that soon more Indian Americans will receive senior level appointments in the government that will enable them to make policies for the US government at the highest level," he added.

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