Hon. John B. Bellinger, III

Partner, Arnold & Porter LLP
John Bellinger

John Bellinger is a partner in the firm's national security and public international law practices. Before joining Arnold & Porter LLP, Hon. Bellinger held several senior Presidential appointments in the U.S. government, including as The Legal Adviser to the Department of State from 2005 to 2009 under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Senior Associate Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House from 2001-2005.

A globally known authority on public international law, Hon. Bellinger represents individuals, corporations, and sovereign governments in litigation in U.S. courts and before international institutions.  He has extensive experience in U.S. foreign relations litigation involving the Alien Tort Statute, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the immunities of foreign governments and government officials, and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.  He also advises clients on other public international law matters, including international humanitarian law and human rights law and treaty law.  He is a leading U.S. authority on the Law of the Sea Convention.  He also counsels U.S. and foreign clients on national security legal and policy issues, including U.S. and multilateral financial sanctions and asset controls, the extraterritorial application of U.S. criminal and civil laws, and transactions reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

As the State Department Legal Adviser-a Senate-confirmed position and the most senior international lawyer in the U.S. Government-Hon. Bellinger directed more than 170 lawyers on domestic and international law matters affecting U.S. foreign relations.  Before joining the State Department, Hon. Bellinger managed Secretary Rice's confirmation process and co-directed her State Department transition team.  In 2009, Hon. Bellinger received the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award.

Hon. Bellinger has argued cases before the International Court of Justice (Mexico v. United States-(Medellin)) and the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague.  He has appeared on numerous briefs in U.S. federal courts, including the Supreme Court, in litigation involving international law issues.

As Legal Adviser to the NSC, Hon. Bellinger advised the President, Cabinet officials, the National Security Adviser, and NSC staff on a wide variety of national security and international law issues.  He was present in the White House during the 9/11 attacks and later represented the White House in dealings with the 9/11 Commission; he was one of the principal drafters of the legislation that created the Director of National Intelligence.

Prior to his service in the Bush Administration, Hon. Bellinger served as Counsel for National Security Matters in the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (1997-2001); Of Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1996); General Counsel of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community (1995-1996); and Special Assistant to Director of Central Intelligence William Webster (1988-1991).

Hon. Bellinger is an Adjunct Senior Fellow in International and National Security Law at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he directs events on international law.  He speaks regularly about international law matters on U.S. and international television and radio, and has given lectures at more than two dozen U.S. and foreign universities and law schools and numerous international law conferences.  He has testified before Congress on a variety of international law issues.  He is the author of numerous law review articles and op-eds on international law, including op-eds in The Washington PostThe New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Washington Times, and The International Herald Tribune. Hon. Bellinger is a senior contributor to The Lawfare Blog: Hard National Security Choices, part of the Harvard Law School-Brookings Institution Project on Law and Security.

Hon. Bellinger is a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on International Law and the Department of Defense Legal Policy Board; one of four U.S. Members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague; and a member of the U.S. "National Group", which nominates judges to the International Court of Justice.  He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law, and the American Law Institute. 

Hon. Bellinger is a graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and he holds an MA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a JD from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard International Law Journal.

  • MA, University of Virginia, 1991

  • JD, cum laude, Harvard Law School, 1986

  • AB, cum laude, Princeton University, 1982

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Publications and Multimedia
Will International Law Matter to the Trump Administration? - Event Audio/Video
International Law in the Trump Era: Expectations, Hopes, and Fears
January 27, 2017
Who Defines International Law? - Event Video
2014 National Lawyers Convention
November 17, 2014
IS It Legal? Legal Authority for the Campaign Against the Islamic State - Event Audio/Video
DC Young Lawyers Chapter and The Alexander Hamilton Society
October 24, 2014