|Education||University of Rochester (BA)|
Albany Law School (JD)
In 1998 he founded the James Madison Project, an organization dedicated to reducing government secrecy. It is interested in the Freedom of Information Act and government whistleblowers. He is co-editor of Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws. He is a cofounder of the nonprofit law firm Whistleblower Aid.
While a student at Albany Law School, Zaid interned in the office of New York Lieutenant Governor Stan Lundine.
Zaid practices in litigation and lobbying on matters relating to national security, federal employment, foreign sovereign and diplomatic immunity, international transactions, international torts and crimes, defamation, the Constitution (First and Fifth Amendments), and the Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOI/PA). He practices at Compass Rose Legal Group.
Through his practice, Zaid often represents former or current federal employees, intelligence officers, and whistleblowers who have grievances against agencies of the United States government or foreign governments. Additionally, he represents members of the media and the public in First Amendment and FOI/PA disputes. He has handled national security matters including security clearance revocations/denials, IG investigations, and other employment issues throughout the national security and military communities. He currently teaches the D.C. Bar CLE courses on FOIA and security clearances. He also teaches as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Some of his cases are well known, such as suing Libya for the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which resulted in a $2.7 billion settlement, the largest of its kind against a foreign government for terrorist activities, and obtaining a court-ordered injunction in 2004 that effectively shut down the Department of Defense's mandatory anthrax vaccination program for two years.
On September 8, 2016, Thomas J. Colbert, the author of the book The Last Master Outlaw, and Mark Zaid filed a lawsuit to compel the Federal Bureau of Investigation to release its D.B. Cooper case file under the Freedom of Information Act. The suit alleges that the FBI suspended active investigation of the Cooper case "in order to undermine the theory that Rackstraw is D.B. Cooper so as to prevent embarrassment for the bureau's failure to develop evidence sufficient to prosecute him for the crime."
As of October 2019[update] he is a member of the legal team, led by Andrew Bakaj, representing the whistleblower whose complaint against President Donald Trump sparked a major political scandal and led to the launching of an impeachment inquiry against the president. Zaid had been critical of Trump long before he began representing the whistleblower. He said the team is also working with a second whistleblower who has spoken with authorities, but had not filed a formal complaint as of October 6[update].
In February 2020, federal authorities indicted a Michigan man for threatening Zaid and his Ukraine whistleblower client by email in November 2019, purportedly saying, "All traitors must die miserable deaths." The man allegedly sent the message the day after President Trump, at a rally in Louisiana, held up a photo of Zaid and said, "From the lawyer, a sleazeball," before reading tweets from Zaid predicting the president would not last out his first term.
In September 2017, Zaid and former U.S. State Department whistleblower John Tye co-founded Whistleblower Aid, a nonprofit law firm. Initially focused on employees and contractors of the U.S. federal government, Whistleblower Aid emphasizes it is not WikiLeaks. "No one should ever send classified information to Whistleblower Aid," the firm states. "Whistleblower Aid will never assist clients or prospective clients with leaking classified information." Instead, would-be whistleblowers with classified information will be directed to investigators with security clearances to help expose wrongdoing without breaking the law or incurring criminal liability. Clients are not charged. To cover expenses, the firm solicits donations from foundations and crowd-source funding.