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July 9, 2014

Director of the National Counterterrorism Center retires

Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, has retired, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday.

Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, has retired, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday.

“Most Americans may not know Matt Olsen’s name, but every American is safer because of his service,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. Obama said Olsen was “absolutely critical to our success in disrupting terrorist cells, thwarting attacks and protecting the American people from evolving threats at home and abroad.”

Olsen, a former prosecutor who worked in various roles at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, was the head of the Guantánamo Review Task Force, a commission set up to oversee the legal justifications of the detainees at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba. He later briefly served as associate deputy attorney general and as the general counsel of the National Security Agency.

Obama nominated Olsen to become the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, in 2011.

James Clapper, director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said Olsen “developed a skilled, interagency workforce, arming it with the information and tools it needed to warn against terrorist attacks and to provide U.S. decision makers the intelligence they needed to counter this threat.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., noted in a statement Thursday that during Olsen's stewardship of the center "there have been no successful attacks against the United States homeland by foreign terrorists. This is an impressive accomplishment in an increasingly dangerous world."

She also said his "painstaking work" on the Guantánamo Review Task Force, from 2009 to 2010, "continues to guide our efforts to close the detention facility."

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