Conrad backs Fargo native for national counterterrorism post

Matthew Olsen

FARGO – Sen. Kent Conrad is throwing his support behind the Fargo native who’s in line to head up counterterrorism efforts for the nation.

President Barack Obama nominated Matthew Olsen earlier this month to become the next director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

The appointment is now before the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which Conrad is a member.

In a hearing this morning on Capitol Hill, Conrad said he has “no doubt” that Olsen has “the experience and the character to lead the NCTC.”

In his remarks, Conrad quoted Admiral Mike McConnell (President Bush’s director of National Intelligence and President Clinton’s director of the National Security Agency) who said Olsen is, “the utmost professional dedicated to the security of the nation. I have every confidence that, if confirmed, Mr. Olsen will serve the nation, the Congress, the Administration and the [intelligence community] at the highest level of service and performance.”

“Matt’s roots are in North Dakota. He was born there, and he returns every chance he gets with his wife and his three children,” Conrad said in a media statement. “I hope the Senate will move to confirm Matt as soon as possible so that he can get to work protecting the country.”

Olsen, 49, was born in Fargo in 1962 and was 3 years old when his family moved to Washington, D.C. However, he maintains ties to North Dakota, since his mother’s family still resides in Williston.

Olsen graduated from the University of Virginia and Harvard Law School before embarking on a legal career within the federal government, where he earned several high-ranking positions.

Olsen is currently the general counsel for the National Security Agency and an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University.

Before joining the NSA, Olsen worked at the Department of Justice for 18 years – including positions as special counsel to the FBI director, as deputy assistant attorney general for the National Security Division and as a federal prosecutor in Washington.

If Olsen is confirmed to the counterterrorism post, he would report to the president on counterterroism plans and intelligence matters. He’ll also head up the NCTC, which is responsible for analyzing and sharing intel on terrorist threats with the nation’s various security and intelligence agencies.

In speaking before the Intelligence Committee this morning, Olsen said Al-Qaida is on the defensive but remains a “significant and present danger,” according to an Associated Press report on the committee hearing.

For more information on Olsen and his bid for the NCTC post, here are links to the statements and questionnaire responses he provided the Intelligence Committee today: