Lisa Oudens Monaco (born February 25, 1968) is an American federal prosecutor who was the United States Homeland Security Advisor to President Barack Obama; the chief counterterrorism advisor to the President, and a statutory member of the United States Homeland Security Council.
Monaco previously served as the Assistant Attorney General for National Security from 2011 to 2013, and as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department. In 2017, Monaco became a senior national security analyst for CNN.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, to parents Anthony and Mary Lou Monaco, she was raised in Newton, Massachusetts, and graduated from The Winsor School in 1986. She comes from an Italian American family.
Monaco attended Harvard University, graduating with her Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in American History and Literature, in 1990. After graduating, she worked as a research associate for The Wilson Quarterly at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1990 to 1991, and as a senior associate for the Health Care Advisory Board, a healthcare advisory group, from 1991 to 1992. She worked as a research coordinator for the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary from 1992 to 1994 under then chairman Joe Biden, where she worked on the Violence Against Women Act; before enrolling at the University of Chicago Law School where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the University of Chicago Law School Roundtable. During her time at the University of Chicago, she spent summers working in Washington, D.C. as an intern on the D.C. Superior Court and as an intern for the United States Department of Justice in 1995. She also worked as an intern for the White House Counsel in 1996, and as a summer associate for the law firm Hogan and Hartson, LLP, before receiving her Juris Doctor in 1997. She was admitted as a member to the New York City Bar Association in 1998.
From 1997 to 1998, Monaco worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Jane Richards Roth on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and as the Counsel to then Attorney General Janet Reno from 1998 to 2001. From 2001 to 2007, she was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the United States Attorney's office for the District of Columbia, and was appointed as a member of the Justice Department's Enron Task Force, co-leading the trial team in the prosecution of five former Enron executives from 2004 to 2006. Monaco received Department of Justice Awards for Special Achievement in 2002, 2003 and 2005. She received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional service for her work on the Enron Task Force, the Department’s highest award. After the end of the Enron trial and the Justice Department's disbandment of the special task force, Monaco worked as a special counselor to FBI Director Robert Mueller. She was later chosen by Mueller to be his Deputy Chief of Staff, and then his Chief of Staff; a position she held until January 2009.
In 2009, Monaco was appointed by United States Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden to serve as Associate Deputy Attorney General focusing on National Security issues. She later served as the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, the top aide to the Deputy Attorney General. In 2011, Monaco was appointed by President Barack Obama to be the Assistant Attorney General for National Security; leading the Justice Department division which oversees major counterterrorism and espionage cases, and authorizes the use of FISA warrants. In that role she oversaw the investigation of Mansour Arbabsiar, for a plot directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. She also made combatting cyber threats a top priority during her tenure, creating the first ever network of national security cyber specialist prosecutors from across the country. Monaco has been involved in meetings and attempts to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
On January 25, 2013, President Barack Obama announced he would name Monaco to be his Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the chief counterterrorism advisor to the President. Monaco succeeded John Brennan, who was nominated by Obama to become the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Monaco took office on March 8, 2013, and became a statutory member of the United States Homeland Security Council.
As Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Monaco led U.S. policy to disrupt terrorist threats against the United States, including degrading Al-Qaeda core and affiliates from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, putting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on a lasting path to defeat, and building partner capacity to prevent and disrupt terrorist threats. She also led initiatives to expand collaboration with the private sector to counter ISIL’s messaging and abuse of online platforms while lifting up alternative narratives. Separately, she led a comprehensive hostage policy reform effort from 2014 to 2015 to better align and coordinate U.S. Government efforts and better serve affected families.
On May 23, 2013, Daniel Klaidman, writing for the Daily Beast reported a "White House official" confirmed Monaco would "handle day-to-day responsibilities for Guantanamo." In late July 2014, Monaco answered a question as to whether the mandate to keep Guantanamo open would end when U.S. troops had effectively retired from Guantanamo. Scholars at Lawfare interpreted Monaco's comment as a sign that the Obama Presidency would ask the United States Congress to pass legislation enabling Guantanamo to remain open after U.S. involvement in the Afghan war ended. In February 2016, the White House and Department of Defense presented a comprehensive plan to Congress to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
In the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism role, Monaco was also President Obama's chief cybersecurity advisor. She drove the policy decision to create the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2015, to provide integrated all-source analysis of intelligence on foreign cyber threats and incidents affecting U.S. national interests similar to the National Counterterrorism Center on terrorist threats. She also helped develop the Cybersecurity National Action Plan, which was released in February 2016, to guide the actions the U.S. Government took over the remaining duration of the Obama Administration and to put in place a long-term cybersecurity strategy—both within the federal government and across the country. In July 2016, Monaco gave remarks at the International Conference on Cyber Security, outlining the Obama Administration’s cyber policy and announcing its new directive laying out how the federal government responds to significant cyber incidents.
Finally, over her tenure as President Obama's chief homeland security advisor, Monaco managed the United States response to Ebola and coordinated whole-of-government preparedness efforts to prevent its spread in the United States. In January 2017, Monaco led the Principal-Level Exercise, convening outgoing and incoming Principals across the U.S. Government to share lessons learned during prior crises and discuss best practices in preparing for future crises.
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