Featured Profile

Christopher Pyle
Professor of Politics
Mount Holyoke College

Chris Pyle is a teacher, scholar, and political activist whose interests range across history, law, and politics, with an emphasis on civil liberties.

In 1970 Pyle disclosed the military's surveillance of civilian politics and, as a consultant to three Congressional committees and the American Civil Liberties Union, worked to end it. In the 1970s and 1980s he was a frequent witness before Congressional committees and the author of two books: The President, Congress, and the Constitution (with Richard Pious, 1984) and Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics (1986). In the 1990s, Pyle helped his then teenaged sons to win a widely noted court case affirming the free speech rights of high school students. In 2001, he published Extradition, Politics, and Human Rights, which analyzes how the United States has treated political fugitives, from the regicides of colonial times to the suspected terrorists and war criminals of today. Based partly on work done with the International Law Association, this book makes extensive proposals for legal reform.

Pyle's most recent book--Getting Away with Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law (Potomac 2009)--examines the war crimes of the Bush administration. He has also written extensively on freedom of expression, equal protection of the laws, rights of privacy, investigative journalism, terrorism, the detention of aliens and citizens without trial, and President Bush’s plan to try alleged terrorists before military tribunals.His writings have appeared in hundreds of newspapers, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as in the Nation, the Washington Monthly, the Civil Liberties Review, Foreign Policy, the American Political Science Review, the Political Science Quarterly, and the Boston University Law Review. He has also received fellowships and grants from the Russell Sage and Mellon Foundations, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for the Study of World Politics, the Aspen Institute, and the Fulbright Program.

Pyle’s articles on military surveillance of civilian politics won the Polk and Hillman awards for investigative journalism in 1971 and 1970, respectively. In 2004 he received the Luther Knight Macnair Award from the ACLU of Massachusetts for his contributions to civil liberties as a “teacher, scholar, and model citizen activist.” That same year he was elected chairman of the Petra Foundation, a national organization that recognizes and assists “unsung heroes” who make extraordinary contributions to social justice; he now serves as a board member. He is also a member of the board of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

Pyle has taught intelligence agents in the army; policemen at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice; undergraduates at University College, Dublin; law students at Harvard; and graduate students at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He has chaired Mount Holyoke's Department of Politics and the College's programs in complex organizations and American studies. In 2007, he received the College's distinguished teaching award.

Between semesters, Pyle has taught a variety of short courses, including woodworking (building a boat with students), the politics of Northern Ireland (taking his students to Belfast), and colonial history (role playing, in costume, at Plimoth Plantation). In 2005 and again in 2007 he took students to sea on tall ships, where they worked aloft, set and furled sails, manned the helm, and learned the basic arts of seamanship and navigation.

Recent Contributions by Christopher Pyle