OSAC Annual Briefing Celebrates 30th Anniversary, Delivers Timely Security Updates
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), created in 1985, commemorated its 30th anniversary during its annual briefing November 18-19, 2015. Over 1,300 constituents from U.S.-based businesses, academia, faith-based institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and the federal government met in in Washington, D.C., to hear keynote speakers, security experts, and thought leaders.
OSAC’s annual briefing topics covered extensive, of-the-moment security issues. The event took place less than a week after 130 people were killed and over 350 others were injured during a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, so ongoing security issues and emerging new threats were top-of-mind for this audience.
Bill A. Miller, Director of the Diplomatic Security Service and OSAC Chair, told participants, “This is a chance to evaluate the evolving nature of the threat environment and our response to those global challenges.”
Miller noted the many significant attacks since 1985 involving government and private citizens, including kidnappings, bombings, assassinations, hijackings, and hostage takings. “Thirty years after OSAC’s founding,” Miller said, “the threat landscape is no less complicated.”
“In 1985, the State Department recorded 603 terrorist attacks,” Miller continued. “In 2014, the State Department’s annual global terrorism report noted 13,500 terrorist attacks, marking an increase of 35 percent from the year before.”
Miller stressed to attendees that, “As we look ahead to the next 5, 10, 20 years of security challenges, I want you to know that OSAC, the Diplomatic Security Service, and the U.S. Department of State are committed to working with you to strengthen this world-class partnership—a partnership that we have built together for the United States of America.”
Keynote speaker U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry gave a broad overview of state-of-the-world affairs, including the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris. “The forces of darkness tried to take that light away,” he said, “replacing it with fear, with terror, with death, with chaos.”
U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry presents a keynote address to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) annual briefing audience, November 18, 2015, during the 30th anniversary of OSAC’s founding
(U.S. Department of State photo)
“The events of the past few days [in Paris] speak to the essential need for us in government or business or nonprofits or faith-based organizations to stay ahead of the curve in assessing new risks and taking protective measures to respond to them,” he continued.
“Daesh doesn’t have a platform, folks,” said Kerry. “A lot of them are ideologues run amok, but a lot of them are also criminals run amok, and people for whom this is an adventure and a great opportunity to go out and be paid to do whatever you want—rape, pillage, and plunder.”
Kerry told the OSAC audience, “The work you’re doing is really important. You’re building infrastructure. You’re conducting business. You’re leading local projects. You’re providing needed services. You’re participating in civil society. You’re helping to build the opposite of everything that these people want to destroy.”
Keynote speaker CIA Director John Brennan also weighed in on the world’s security situation, noting the Paris tragedy, calling it “the latest commitment to random violence in going after the most vulnerable targets and carrying out as much mayhem as possible, wreaking as much death and destruction as possible against the innocents.”
CIA Director John Brennan emphasizes the need for continued, strong partnerships between the public
and private sector at the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) annual briefing held at the U.S. Department of State headquarters, November 18, 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)
“I don’t believe there has ever been a time for a stronger partnership between the public and private sector,” Brennan said. “OSAC plays a very important role in helping keep the U.S. dream alive here in the United States and worldwide.
“This is a time for us to be able to stand tall with each other and stand tall with our allies around the world, so that we can in fact deal with the challenges that lie ahead in a collective and constructive way,” he continued.
Fielding a question from the media regarding individual privacies after Edward Snowden’s leaks of classified information, Brennan said, “I think any unauthorized disclosures that are made by individuals who have dishonored the oath of office that they raised their hand and attested to, undermines this country’s security.” He went on to say that “striking a balance between individual rights and the government’s obligation to keep its people safe and secure needs to be struck,” especially because of the revolution in technology. “Hero-izing such individuals, I find to be unfathomable, as far as what it is this country needs to be able to do in order to keep itself safe.”
A panel of four journalists, Terry Anderson, Kimberly Dozier, Scott Michael Moore, and Tik Root, talked about their life-or-death experiences as they covered news-breaking events in dangerous parts of the world, and shared their thoughts on safety and security risks when traveling and working overseas when you are one of the high-value targets.
Anderson, a former foreign correspondent for The Associated Press, was taken hostage by Hezbollah militants in 1985 and held until 1991. He said that the danger to journalists has changed from someone who may have gotten in the way, to now “being on the A list for the bad guys—and they are very bad guys.”
Panel members Terry Anderson (pictured), Kimberly Dozier, Scott Michael Moore, and Tik Root discuss security risks encountered by journalists as they cover events in high-threat areas of the world, during the Overseas Security Advisory Council annual briefing in Washington,
D.C., November 19, 2015. (U.S. Department of State photo)
Dozier, working as chief reporter in Iraq for CBS News in 2006, was seriously injured in a car bomb attack, which was packed with an estimated 500 hundred pounds of explosives. Two colleagues were killed, as well as other passengers, and Dozier underwent more than two dozen major surgeries. Moore was abducted in Somalia by a local gang and held for 977 days before he was released for ransom money. Root, now a freelance journalist, was detained in a Syrian prison during a semester abroad in Damascus, and gives great credit to the State Department for his release.
“The goals of security people and the goals of journalists are not exactly congruent,” said Anderson. “We do take risks, but I like to think we take them for a good reason. You cannot have a free society without a free press.”
The Overseas Security Advisory Council is comprised of 34 private and public-sector member organizations that represent specific industries or agencies operating abroad. The member organizations designate representatives to serve on the Overseas Security Advisory Council to provide direction and guidance to develop programs that most benefit the U.S. private sector overseas.
To learn more, visit www.osac.gov.
Moderated by Amy Pate (left), University of Maryland, panel members at the Overseas Security Advisory Council, discuss the numerous pathways to radicalization and present ideas and solutions to address the root causes, November 18, 2015, Washington, D.C. Panelists (from second from left to right) include Christina Nemr, Countering Extreme Violence Advisor; Imam Asim Hafiz, Islamic Religious Advisor to the United Kingdom’s Chief of the Defense Staff and the Service Chiefs; and Humera Khan, Executive Director