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Experts: Foreign Policy, International Issues and National Security

Thomas Schwartz: Presidential historian, foreign policy; international relations

Professor of history

Schwartz is an expert on the history of the presidency. He has done extensive research on the making of American foreign policy and can discuss our relationships with Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and U.S. efforts to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. His  has done extensive research on the modern presidency and has written Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam and America’s Germany, both published by Harvard University Press. He is currently writing a biography of Henry Kissinger and working on a book about the Cold War. He is co-editor of The Strained Alliance: U.S.- European Relations from Nixon to Carter. Schwartz is also a professor of political science and European Studies.
Contact: 24/7 News & Communications: 615-322-2706 · Email · Website


Mike NewtonMichael Newton: Military commissions, international criminal law, national security

Professor of the Practice of Law
Newton is an expert on military commissions. He helped revamp the laws and procedures for U.S. military commissions and recently published a paper on the subject. “Observations on the Future of U.S. Military Commissions” Newton helped establish the Iraqi Special Tribunal and led the training in international criminal law for its judges, including holding sessions in Baghdad. He still advises the tribunal and is part of the academic consortium supporting it. He served in the Office of War Crimes Issues at the U.S. Department of State and was one of two U.S. delegates who negotiated the Elements of Crimes document for the International Criminal Court. He also coordinated the interface between the FBI and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and deployed into Kosovo to do forensics fieldwork to support the Milosevic indictment.

Newton has extensive media experience, including interviews with The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, ABC “Good Morning America” and CTV to name a few.

Contact: (615) 322-2912, 24/7 News & Communications: 615-322-2706 · Email · Website


Elizabeth Zechmeister: Terrorism/threats and leadership, voting behavior, political behavior, Latin American politics, Mexican politics

Associate Professor of Political Science; Associate Director of the Latin American Public Opinion Project; Faculty Affiliate of the Research on Individuals, Politics & Society Lab

Zechmeister, co-author of Democracy at Risk: How Terrorist Threats Affect the Public, can comment on voting, ideology, political parties, representation, political charisma, and crisis, principally in Latin America but also in the United States. She has written extensively about the impact of terrorist and other threats on political leaders’ approval ratings, including those of former President George W. Bush and current President Barack Obama. She also recently studied the role of campaign signs in elections with fellow Vanderbilt political scientist Cindy Kam.

Contact: 24/7 News & Communications: 615-322-2706 · Email · Website


James Auer: North Korea, Japan, East Asian defense policies

Director of Vanderbilt’s Center for U.S.-Japan Studies

Auer can discuss North Korea’s military threats to Japan and the United States. He was stationed in Japan and the Western Pacific during his naval career and was the special assistant on Japan with the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Auer can comment on Japan’s response to the economic rise of China as well as to North Korea’s military threat. In addition, he can discuss China’s recent aggressive actions and sovereignty claims regarding the South China Sea. Auer is the co-author of “Japan: America’s New South Korea?” published in the journal Current History. At Vanderbilt the retired naval commander, who is quoted frequently by the Japanese press, teaches in the East Asian Studies and History departments.

Contact: 615-343-6980, 24/7 News & Communications: 615-322-2706 · Email · Website



Vijay Padmanabhan: International law, national security law, international human rights law, and international criminal law

Assistant Professor of Law

Padmanabhan is an expert in international law, national security law, international human rights law, and international criminal law. Padmanabhan served as the State Department’s chief counsel on Guantanamo and Iraq detainee litigation and advised the department on law of war, human rights and public diplomacy questions. He served in the Office of the Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State, based in Washington, D.C., from 2003-08, where he was an attorney-adviser for political and military affairs. He also was an attorney-adviser for international claims and investment disputes from 2003-06, during which time he worked on litigation at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal and on Holocaust restitution claims. He has strong experience with national media outlets.

Contact: 615-322-2615, 24/7 News & Communications: 615-322-2706 · Email · Website


Carol Atkinson: War, biological warfare, national security

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Atkinson is an expert on the U.S. military, emerging national threats, the evolving nature of warfare and U.S. national security. She keeps abreast of the threat of biological weapons. She is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and served as an intelligence officer with the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War.

Contact: 24/7 News & Communications: 615-322-2706 · Email · Website