Navigating Court Records


Seamus Hughes

Seamus Hughes speaking with Anderson Cooper on CBS’ 60 Minutes

Seamus Hughes speaking with Anderson Cooper on CBS’ 60 Minutes

Seamus Hughes has spent years researching terrorism cases in the United States, Europe, and in the Middle East. As the Deputy Director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, he researches individuals and entities charged with providing material support to foreign and domestic terrorist organizations. As part of those investigations, he developed expertise in searching the federal court records system, often uncovering interesting results beyond his academic focus on homegrown terrorism.  The depth of his expertise and his knack for investigating public records was recognized by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews, BBC, PBS, and CBS’ 60 Minutes. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on multiple occasions.

Hughes’ favorite pastime remains scouring state and federal court records. Over the years, his hobby has morphed into what can only be described as an uncanny ability to unearth what every American wants to and needs to know about topics ranging from public corruption to corporate espionage, based largely on PACER searches. As The Columbia Journalism Review notes: “[Hughes’] research and investigative work has repeatedly broken news that the press would have otherwise missed”.

Academics, researchers, analysts, and reporters frequently seek out Hughes’ expertise on uncovering information from the PACER systems. Prominent news organizations frequently highlight his nascent findings, credit his approach, and cite him as the source that broke major stories. Hughes’ research has publicly uncovered many important stories over the last two years. They include:   

Hughes previously worked at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), serving as a lead staffer on U.S. government efforts to implement a national CVE strategy. He regularly led engagements with Muslim American communities across the country, provided counsel to civic leaders after high-profile terror-related incidents, and met with families of individuals who joined terrorist organizations. Hughes created a groundbreaking intervention program to help steer individuals away from violence through non-law enforcement means, and worked closely with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Fusion Centers, and U.S. Attorney Offices.

Prior to NCTC, Hughes served as the Senior Counterterrorism Advisor for the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He organized over a dozen congressional hearings on the threat of homegrown violent extremism, and led fact-finding delegations to the various European and Middle Eastern countries. He authored two reports for the Senate: “A Ticking Time Bomb: Counterterrorism Lessons from the U.S. Government’s Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack” and “Zachary Chesser: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism.”

Hughes has authored numerous legislative bills, including sections of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act and the Special Agent Samuel Hicks Families of Fallen Heroes Act. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and a recipient of the National Security Council Outstanding Service Award and two NCTC Director’s Awards for outstanding service. He teaches classes at George Washington University and Georgetown University.