New Terrorism Threats and Counterterrorism Strategies
May 3, 2017
In the post-9/11 era, the international community has made significant progress in the struggle against terrorism. However, in the last several years, terrorist groups, notably ISIS, have innovated both in their operational tactics and strategic aims, as well as in their methods of fundraising.
NYU Washington, D.C. welcomed CNAS and the Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law for this public conference on new terrorism threats and counterterrorism strategies. Featuring an overview of the strategic terrorism threat landscape and of the Trump administration’s counterterrorism strategies, the event also coincided with the release of a CNAS report on emerging terrorism financing threats. The distinguished panel of experts explored such questions as: How are terrorist groups innovating and evolving in their tactics, strategies and fundraising today? Where are some areas where U.S. policymakers are succeeding and falling short on addressing terrorism threats? What should the Trump administration prioritize in the fight against terrorism?
Keynote Policy Address
Hon. Nicholas J. Rasmussen
Nicholas "Nick" Rasmussen was sworn in as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on December 18, 2014, upon his confirmation by the United States Senate.
He previously served as NCTC’s Deputy Director since June of 2012.
Prior to returning to NCTC, he had served since October 2007 with the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism, where he was responsible for providing staff support to the President, the National Security Advisor and Homeland Security Advisor on counterterrorism policy and strategy.
Mr. Rasmussen previously served at NCTC from 2004-2007 in senior policy and planning positions responsible for producing net assessments of U.S. counterterrorism policy and strategy for the National Security Council (NSC) and the President. From 2001 to 2004 he served on the NSC staff as Director for Regional Affairs in the Office of Combating Terrorism where he focused on Middle East, Southeast Asia and related counterterrorism issues in the period after September 11, 2001.
He joined the Department of State in 1991 as a Presidential Management Intern in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and for more than a decade served in a variety of key positions. Mr. Rasmussen was Special Assistant to the State Department's Special Middle East Coordinator, Ambassador Dennis Ross, from 1996-2001, providing support to the Arab-Israeli peace process. From 1994-1996 he was a Special Assistant to Ambassador-at-Large Robert Gallucci, providing analysis of the negotiation and implementation of the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework. He worked as a foreign affairs analyst in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs from 1991- 1994 focusing on Persian Gulf security issues following Operation Desert Storm, including negotiation for U.S. forces' access and basing in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Rasmussen received a B.A. degree with high honors from the College of Social Studies at Wesleyan University and was awarded a Masters in Public and International Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal in 2017, the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award in 2016, an International Affairs Fellowship by the Council on Foreign Relations, and has taught a course on U.S. counterterrorism policy at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
Elizabeth Rosenberg is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
In this capacity, she publishes and speaks on the national security and foreign policy implications of energy market shifts and the use of sanctions and economic statecraft. She has testified before Congress on energy and financial issues and been quoted widely by leading media outlets in the United States and Europe.
From May 2009 through September 2013, Ms. Rosenberg served as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, to the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, and then to the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. In these senior roles she helped to develop and implement financial and energy sanctions. Key initiatives she helped to oversee include the tightening of global sanctions on Iran, the launching of new, comprehensive sanctions against Libya and Syria and modification of Burma sanctions in step with normalization of diplomatic relations. She also helped to formulate anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing policy and oversee financial regulatory enforcement activities.
From 2005 to 2009 Ms. Rosenberg was an energy policy correspondent at Argus Media in Washington D.C., analyzing U.S and Middle Eastern energy policy, regulation and trading. She spoke and published extensively on OPEC, strategic reserves, energy sanctions and national security policy, oil and natural gas investment and production, and renewable fuels.
Ms. Rosenberg studied energy subsidy reform and Arabic during a 2004-2005 fellowship in Cairo, Egypt. She was an editor of the Arab Studies Journal from 2002-2005 and researched and wrote on Middle Eastern politics at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2003. She received an MA in Near Eastern Studies from New York University and a BA in Politics and Religion from Oberlin College.
Meet the Panel
Dr. Aaron Brantly, Cyber Fellow, Combating Terrorism Center
Dr. Aaron F. Brantly is Assistant Professor of International Relations and Cyber in the Department of Social Sciences, Cyber Policy Fellow at the Army Cyber Institute and Cyber Fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Georgia and a Master’s of Public Policy from American University. His research focuses on national security policy issues in cyberspace including big data, terrorism, intelligence, decision-making and human rights.
Dr. Audrey Kurth Cronin, Professor, School of International Service, American University
Audrey Kurth Cronin joined the faculty of American University’s School of International Service in August 2016. Her previous position was Director of the Center for Security Policy Studies in September 2014, and Director of the International Security Program at George Mason University. Before that, she was a faculty member and director of the core course on War and Statecraft at the U.S. National War College (2007-2011). Professor Cronin’s career has combined both academic positions and government service. She came to the war college from Oxford University (Nuffield College), where she was Academic Director of Studies for the Oxford/Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War from 2005 to 2007. Before that, she was Specialist in Terrorism at the Congressional Research Service, responsible for advising Members of Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. She has also served in the U.S. Executive branch, including in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy; the Office of the Secretary of the Navy; and the American Embassy in Moscow. She often consults at senior levels of the U.S. government. Professor Cronin is widely published on strategy and nonstate actors. Her latest book is How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns (Princeton University Press), recently translated into Chinese. She regularly writes for academic and general interest audiences, in journals including Foreign Affairs, International Security, and Survival, as well as on-line venues and blogs. She also does media interviews for prominent national and international outlets. In 2015 she was named Australia’s Keogh Chair and traveled throughout the country speaking about the future of conflict, innovation and technology. Professor Cronin has repeatedly spoken at the World Economic Forum (where she was Chairman of the Global Agenda Council on Terrorism), the Council on Foreign Relations (where she is a member), the IISS (London), and many other national and international venues. Her forthcoming book, to be published in 2018, is about emerging technologies and their use by violent nonstate actors.
Zachary K. Goldman (Moderator), Executive Director, Center on Law and Security, NYU School of Law; Adjunct Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security
Zachary K. Goldman is the Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law. Zachary returned to NYU after having served for several years in the US government. He first served as a policy advisor in the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, where he was the subject matter expert on terrorist financing in the Arabian Peninsula, and worked on the development of Iran sanctions policy. He then served at the US Department of Defense as a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the private sector, Zachary worked in the litigation department of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York. He has published on national security strategy, financial sanctions, cybersecurity, counterterrorism, and US foreign policy in outlets such as The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Political Science Quarterly, Cold War History, The Atlantic, The Diplomat, The National Interest, and others. He is the co-editor, with Samuel Rascoff, of Intelligence Oversight: A Global View, an edited volume on comparative approaches to intelligence oversight, which will be published by Oxford University Press in 2016. Zachary is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He received his JD from New York University School of Law, his Masters in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and his BA from Harvard University.
Hon. Matthew Olsen, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center; Co-Founder, IronNet Cybersecurity
Matt Olsen has served as leading government official on a range of national security, intelligence, and law enforcement issues.
Most recently, Mr. Olsen served for three years as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Created by Congress in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, NCTC is responsible for the integration and analysis of terrorism information and strategic operational planning of counterterrorism activities. Prior to joining NCTC, Mr. Olsen was the General Counsel for the National Security Agency, where he was the agency’s chief legal officer and legal advisor to the NSA Director.
Mr. Olsen worked at the Department of Justice in a number of leadership positions. He served as an Associate Deputy Attorney General, responsible for national security and criminal cases. He also was Special Counselor to the Attorney General and Executive Director of the Guantanamo Review Task Force, where he led the review of individuals detained at Guantanamo. Mr. Olsen served as acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and helped establish the National Security Division.
From 1994 to 2006, Mr. Olsen was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, prosecuting violent gang members, terrorists, and white collar criminals. Mr. Olsen served as Special Counsel to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2004 to 2005. He began his public service career as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
Mr. Olsen graduated from Harvard Law School and the University of Virginia and clerked in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Aaron Y. Zelin, Richard Borow Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Aaron Y. Zelin is the Richard Borow fellow at The Washington Institute, where his research focuses on how jihadist groups are adjusting to the new political environment in the era of Arab uprisings and Salafi politics in countries transitioning to democracy. He is also a PhD candidate at King's College of London and a fellow at its associated International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.
Previously, Zelin was a research associate for Dr. Jytte Klausen's Western Jihadism Project at Brandeis University. There, he was responsible for collecting and analyzing a wide range of primary source materials from Western jihadists and networks, including documents in Arabic. He also created a detailed library of all jihadist plots against the West since the mid-1990s and the key individuals behind them.
Zelin is a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and the Atlantic, and is the author of the New America Foundation's 2013 study The State of the Global Jihad Online. He independently maintains the widely cited website Jihadology.net, hosts the Jihadology Podcast, and co-edits the blog al-Wasat.