William V. Cowan, often nicknamed Bill Cowan (born August 1943), is a retired USMC Lieutenant Colonel, accomplished public speaker on matters of national security and terrorism, and a contributor for the Fox News Channel.
Cowan was born in Sacramento, California. He enlisted in the United States Navy at the age of 17, received an appointment to and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1966, and was commissioned as a lieutenant the United States Marine Corps. He subsequently spent three and a half years in Vietnam. On his first tour he served as a platoon commander at the siege of Khe Sanh, and later was in charge of the 3rd Marine Division's Kit Carson Scouts program for five months. From 1969 onwards, he was advisor for the South Vietnam military in the Rung Sat Special Zone for two and a half years. Most of that time was spent with small units and getting experience of raids, ambushes, riverine operations and intelligence gathering with the Central Intelligence Agency. During his last year he led the Rung Sat's Provincial Reconnaissance Unit. He received numerous awards for valor in combat and was wounded three times.
Intelligence Support Activity (ISA)
In April 1983, after having been offered a job at the White House Science Advisor's office, he was approached by the Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) to replace the previous U.S. Marine representative and ISA deputy operations officer. He conducted numerous missions as an ISA operative and was with the team that hunted down and targeted those responsible for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 servicemen (220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and 3 Army personnel). He retired from the ISA after what he perceived as inaction by the Pentagon towards dealing with this incident.
After he retired from the ISA, he worked as legislative assistant to Senator Warren B. Rudman during the hearings of the Iran Contra scandal, and was a key staff member in drafting the legislation which created the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida.
Following his time as a staff assistant to Senator Warren Rudman he again became involved with global terrorism and the Middle East. Cowan was involved in some of the most famous hostage rescues of the Middle East. One of his rescues, the 1990 rescue of American businessmen in Kuwait after Saddam Hussein had invaded that country, was the object of a documentary where some secrets about his organization were revealed, such as the fact that organization operatives used to obtain fake passports issued by a man in Paris to enter countries where people were being held. This operation was conducted in combination with former CIA director Bill Colby.
Following the events of 9/11, Cowan was called on again by the government and he continues to support various Pentagon and Homeland Security programs.
Cowan has a graduate degree in computer science and is a member of Mensa. But he is known internationally for his expertise in counterterrorism, intelligence, and military special operations. He has also been a Fox News Channel contributor since 2001, has been a co-host with Ambassador Dick Carlson on the radio and television show Danger Zone, and he has written articles for The Washington Post and been featured in several television shows apart from the documentary such as 60 Minutes, Larry King Live and others. He is married to the former Velvet Leigh Shelton, a conservative political activist from Mount Airy, North Carolina.
- Bill Cowan Biography on Fox News website
- Michael Smith, Killer Elite: The Inside Story of America's Most Secret Special Operations Team, Cassell, coll. «Cassell Military Parperbacks», London, 2006 ISBN 0-304-36727-3  pp.80-81
- One Marine's Opinion: 240th AHC in the Rung Sat
- PBS Frontline interview: Bill Cowan