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Michael Leiter    

Former Director of National Counterterrorism Center; Counterterrorism, Cybersecurity & National Security Analyst for NBC News

Michael E. Leiter served as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) until July 2011. He was sworn in as NCTCs second-ever director on June 12, 2008, upon his confirmation by the U.S. Senate and after serving as the acting director since November 2007. He was initially nominated to serve as director by President George W. Bush in March 2008, and was one of the few national security officials asked to continue as director by President Barack Obama in December 2009.

As the director of NCTC, Leiter led the primary organization in the U.S. government for analysis and integration of all terrorism intelligence--both domestically and overseas. In addition, Leiter reported directly to the President in conducting strategic operational planning for U.S. Government-wide counterterrorism activities, to include the integration of U.S. military, intelligence, diplomatic, financial, and homeland security counterterrorism efforts. As NCTC's Director, Leiter led more than 1,000 personnel and managed an annual budget of more than $400 million; in addition, he advised the Office of Management and Budget on the allocation of more than $100 billion annually for government-wide counterterrorism activities.

From February 2007 to November 2007, Leiter served as NCTCs Principal Deputy Director. Before joining NCTC, Leiter served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In this role Leiter assisted in the establishment of the ODNI and coordinated all internal and external operations for the ODNI, to include relationships with the White House, the Departments of Defense, State, Justice, Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Congress. He was also involved in the development of national intelligence centers, including NCTC and the National Counterproliferation Center, and their integration into the larger Intelligence Community.

Prior to his service with the ODNI, Leiter served as the deputy general counsel and assistant director of the Presidents Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (the Robb-Silberman Commission). While with the Robb-Silberman Commission, Leiter focused on reforms of the U.S. Intelligence Community, in particular the development of the National Security Branch of the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. From 2002 until 2005, he served with the Department of Justice as an assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he prosecuted a variety of crimes, including narcotics offenses, organized crime and racketeering, capital murder and money laundering.

Immediately prior to his Justice Department service, Leiter served as a law clerk to Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States and to Chief Judge Michael Boudin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. From 1991 until 1997, he served as a Naval Flight Officer flying EA-6B Prowlers in the U.S. Navy, participating in U.S., NATO and UN operations in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq. Leiter also served as a Harvard Law School human rights fellow with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Leiter received his J.D. from Harvard where he graduated magna cum laude and was president of The Harvard Law Review, and his B.A. from Columbia. He is the recipient of numerous awards, to include the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the Secretary of Defense Outstanding Public Service Medal, the CIA Seal and the Air Medal (Strike Flight, Three Awards).

Speech Topics


Leading in a Crisis: Before, During, and After

For more than four years Leiter served at the heart of terrorism crisis management in the U.S. Government as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Centerthe post-9/11 organization created to serve as the hub of intelligence and policy planning for the U.S. counterterrorism community. Over the course of two administrations, Leiter helped lead the U.S. Governments efforts to respond to repeated crises and high-stakes events, such as al-Qaidas failed attempt to bring a U.S. airliner down over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, a failed car bomb attack in Times Square, the tragic shooting at Ft. Hood, and the successful mission that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. Through examples from these and other events, Leiter shows how principled, thoughtful, visionary, and energetic leadership can carry an organization through crises andmore importantlycan lead to improvements in mission effectiveness that might otherwise be impossible. Leiters lessons of motivating and focusing a workforce, working with critical partners and customers, and effecting change apply to a wide range of businesses and organizations well-beyond those involved in combating terrorism or involved in the national security enterprise.

Are We Keeping Up in a Rapidly Changing World?

Reflecting on more than two decades in public service and having been deeply involved in the U.S. Governments national security and intelligence transformation of the past decade, Leiter discusses the ways in which the U.S. Government and the U.S. private sector isand is notkeeping up with enormous global changes. In particular, Leiter talks about how the rapidly changing dynamics across the Middle East and North Africa, the increasingly dangerous aspects of cyberspace, and the worrisome availability of weapons of mass destruction are often outpacing our ability to address critical national security needs. In addition, Leiter describes how the private sector can help partner with the U.S. Government and foreign nations to address many of these challenges, as well as the ways in which many of our traditional policy, legal, and process solutions are falling short.

The Changing Face of Global Terrorism and Our Response

Having served as the nations chief counterterrorism analyst, strategist, and coordinator for two Presidents, Leiter describes all aspects of the terrorist threat the U.S. and global businesses face worldwide. Ranging from personal reflections on being in the Situation Room during the mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden to advising Presidents Obama and Bush on how to confront al-Qaidas ideology, Leiter offers deep insight into how the global threat of terror has evolved, where it poses the greatest threats, and what strategiesboth government and private sectorare best suited for reducing vulnerabilities. Leiter provides carefully tailored discussions related to terrorists use of attacks like those seen in Mumbai, India in 2008, the risks of terrorists use of weapons of mass destruction, how to combat homegrown terrorism, and cyber terror and ways to defend against it. In addition, Leiter uses his years of advising the Office of Management and Budget and the Congress on U.S. Government-wide counterterrorism programs to describe areas of opportunity for private industry to contribute to making U.S. and international counterterrorism efforts more effective.

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