Matthew Glen Olsen (born February 21, 1962) is an American prosecutor and the former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Olsen is the graduate of the University of Virginia and Harvard Law School. Olsen began his career as a law clerk for District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, before entering private practice and working as a trial attorney for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in 1992. He moved to the United States Attorney's office for the District of Columbia where he was a federal prosecutor and served as the first director of the Office's National Security Division from 2004 to 2005. In 2006 Olsen was appointed by President George W. Bush to be the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department's National Security Division, where he served until 2009, when he became the acting director of the Division.
In 2009, he was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to become the Head of the Guantanamo Review Task Force, a commission set up to oversee the legal justifications of the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Olsen later briefly served as Associate Deputy Attorney General and as the General Counsel of the National Security Agency. On July 1, 2011, President Barack Obama nominated Olsen to become the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Olsen was confirmed by the Senate on August 16, 2011. He announced that he will retire from that post in July, 2014. Born to parents Van and Myrna Olsen in Fargo, North Dakota, Olsen's family moved to Washington D.C. when he was three years old, growing up with his two sisters; Jennifer and Susan. His father, who died in 2008, worked as the chief of staff for North Dakota Senator Mark Andrews in the late 1960s. Olsen's grandfather immigrated from Norway and moved to North Dakota at the age of sixteen.
After graduating from high school in 1980, he attended the University of Virginia, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1984. He worked as a copy aide for the Washington Post before attending Harvard Law School where receiving his Juris Doctor in 1988 and was an executive editor of the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. While away from Harvard, Olsen worked as a Summer Associate at the Schwalb Donnenfeld, Bray & Silbert law firm in Washington D.C in 1986. He also briefly worked at McKenna, Conner & Cuneo before working as Summer Associate for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in Juneau, Alaska in 1987. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1988 and has been a member of the District of Columbia Bar since 1990. Olsen clerked from 1988 to 1990 for Norma Holloway Johnson, who was a District Judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He entered private practice as an Associate for Arnold & Porter in 1991.
Olsen joined the United States Department of Justice in 1992, working as a trial attorney for the Department's Civil Rights Division. He joined the United States Attorney's office for the District of Columbia in 1994, working as a federal prosecutor. In 2003, he was appointed Deputy Chief for the Organized Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section within the U.S. Attorney's Office and worked as a Special Counsel to FBI Director Robert Mueller from 2004 to 2005. In 2005, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Kenneth L. Wainstein, appointed Olsen as the Chief of the newly created National Security Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office, where he headed an eleven member division that prosecuted suspected terrorists, and those who are suspected of illegal arms and human trafficking.
Olsen was appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's National Security Division, where he served from 2006 to 2009, and was the acting director of the division from January to March of 2009. Olsen was in charge of the Justice Department's management of intelligence operations and oversight, and helped oversee the expansion of the National Security Division's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. During his tenure, Olsen helped coordinate the expansion between the intelligence community and federal prosecutors in using intelligence from clandestine operations and warrantless surveillance in criminal cases. The actions were criticized by civil liberties advocates for threatening privacy rights, with Olsen saying that "We want to make sure that everyone knows what each other's doing," and that the Department of Justice "wants to make sure that we're taking full advantage of this very valuable information." He voiced his support and helped craft legislation for the 2008 expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and was in charge of coordinating other FISA-related litigation.
In the aftermath of President Barack Obama signing Executive Order 13492, creating the Guantanamo Review Task Force to issue the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, United States Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Olsen as the Executive Director of the Task Force. After the task force released their final report in 2010, regarding the recommendations and evaluation of which captives to hold indefinitely and which prisoners should be transferred to their home country's, the Obama administration ultimately decided to continue the incarceration of all of the detainees at Guantanamo.
Olsen briefly served as Associate Deputy Attorney General from March 2011 to July 2011, before leaving the Justice Department and joining the National Security Agency as the General Counsel, the NSA's chief legal adviser. Before his nomination as Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Olsen also was an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University Law Center from 2001 to 2011. On July 1, 2011, President Barack Obama nominated Olsen to replace Michael Leiter Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. He was cleared by the Senate Intelligence Committee on August 1, 2011 following confirmation in a voice vote by the United States Senate on August 2, 2011. The Counterterrorism Center is a part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks to provide terrorism information to the intelligence community.