David S. Cohen (attorney)

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David S. Cohen
David Cohen official CIA portrait.jpg
5th Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
In office
February 9, 2015 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byAvril Haines
Succeeded byGina Haspel
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
In office
June 30, 2011 – February 9, 2015
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byStuart A. Levey
Succeeded byAdam Szubin (Acting)
Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing
In office
May 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byPat O'Brien
Succeeded byDaniel Glaser
Personal details
Born1963 (age 54–55)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materCornell University, B.A. (1985)
Yale Law School, J.D. (1989)

David S. Cohen (born 1963) is an American attorney who served as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 2015 to 2017. Originally from Boston, Cohen previously worked at the U.S. Treasury Department and as an attorney in private practice.

Early life and education[edit]

Cohen is the son of a Boston physician. In high school he became friends with the son of Alan Dershowitz; the elder Dershowitz later recommended Cohen for his first job with Nathan Lewin.[1] He graduated from Cornell University in 1985 and went on to receive a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1989. After graduating from law school, Cohen served as a law clerk for federal judge Norman P. Ramsey for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.[2][1][3]


Cohen pictured in Seoul with Republic of Korea First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kyou-hyun in 2013.

Following his clerkship, Cohen began his law career at the firm Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, a “criminal-defense boutique” in Washington, D.C. He specialized in white-collar criminal defense and civil litigation. He was hired by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1999 as an aide to General Counsel Neal S. Wolin and then as Acting Deputy General Counsel. While there he was credited by department officials with "crafting legislation that formed the basis" of Title III of the USA PATRIOT Act, dealing with money laundering. In 2001 he left the government and joined the Washington law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, now known as WilmerHale. He practiced there for seven years, becoming partner in 2004. His practice areas included complex civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations, and anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance.[2][1] [4] [5][6][7]

Cohen's official portrait at Treasury

In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Cohen to be Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the Treasury Department, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him on May 1, 2009. Variously described by members of the Obama administration as a "financial Batman" and one of the president's "favorite combatant commanders" he was, two years later, nominated and confirmed as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. In that role, he "preside[d] over a 700-person, $200 million-a-year counterterrorism office within Treasury that was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks" and includes the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which implements U.S. economic sanctions. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Cohen singled-out the government of Kuwait for rebuke, noting that "we have a real challenge with the Kuwaiti government. Kuwait is the only government in the Gulf Cooperation Council that does not criminalize terrorist financing." The following year, Cohen appeared as speaker at the annual forum of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.[8][3][9][10]

In 2015 Cohen was appointed Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. At the time of his appointment, some speculated that Cohen's selection was due to the Obama administration's reluctance in picking someone with ties to past incidences of CIA torture and extraordinary rendition. The post of deputy director has traditionally been filled by military officers or intelligence community veterans.[11][12]

Personal life[edit]

Cohen is married with two children. He met his wife while in law school.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Kampeas, Ron (18 February 2015). "As David Cohen becomes CIA's No. 2, Jews appear to have smoother sailing at security agencies". Washington Jewish Week. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b "David S. Cohen". United States Department of the Treasury. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Davis, Julie (21 October 2014). "Enforcer at Treasury Is First Line of Attack Against ISIS". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  4. ^ Eisler, Kim. "The Perfect Lawyer".
  5. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". Whitehouse.gov.
  6. ^ Lipkin, Michael (January 9, 2015). "Ex-WilmerHale Atty, Treasury Official Tapped As CIA Deputy". Law360.
  7. ^ ""Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering Names Eight New Partners"" (PDF). WilmerHale.com.
  8. ^ Lowrey, Anne (3 June 2014). "Aiming Financial Weapons From Treasury War Room". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  9. ^ Nominations of David S. Cohen to be Under ... (PDF). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 7 April 2011. p. 21. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  10. ^ "2012 Speakers". defenddemocracy.org. Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  11. ^ Mazzetti, Mark (9 January 2015). "Reaching Outside C.I.A., Obama Picks Treasury Official to Become Agency's No. 2". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  12. ^ Melman, Yossi. "Meet David Cohen: The Jewish 'sanctions guru' appointed deputy chief of the CIA". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 30 April 2016.