Matthew Olsen

  • Lecturer

Matt Olsen has served as a leading government official on a range of national security, intelligence and law enforcement issues. He teaches the National Security Law and Practice Seminar at the Law School.

Most recently, Olsen served for three years as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center under President Barack Obama. Created by Congress in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, NCTC is responsible for the integration and analysis of terrorism information and strategic operational planning of counterterrorism activities. Prior to joining NCTC, Olsen was the general counsel for the National Security Agency, serving as NSA’s chief legal officer and focusing on surveillance law and cyber operations.

Olsen worked at the Department of Justice in a number of leadership positions. He served as an associate deputy attorney general, responsible for national security and criminal cases. He also was special counselor to the attorney general and executive director of the Guantanamo Review Task Force, where he led the review of individuals detained at Guantanamo. Olsen served as acting assistant attorney general for National Security and helped establish the National Security Division.

From 1994 to 2006, Olsen was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, prosecuting terrorists, violent gang members and white-collar criminals. Olsen served as special counsel to the director of the FBI from 2004 to 2005. He began his public service career as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

Olsen is a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School, a national security analyst for ABC News, and an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.  He also is affiliated with the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard, where he helps lead a project on cybersecurity. Olsen is a co-founder of IronNet Cybersecurity, a technology firm based in Washington, D.C., where he leads business development and strategy.

Olsen graduated from Harvard Law School and the University of Virginia and clerked in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.


  • J.D.
    Harvard Law School
  • B.A.
    University of Virginia