Frances Townsend

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This article is about the U.S. Homeland Security advisor. For the old-age pension advocate, see Francis Townsend.
Fran Townsend
Frances Townsend cropped.JPG
United States Homeland Security Advisor
In office
May 28, 2004 – March 30, 2008
President George W. Bush
Preceded by John Gordon
Succeeded by Ken Wainstein
Personal details
Born Frances M. Fragos
(1961-12-28) December 28, 1961 (age 54)
Mineola, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) John Townsend
Alma mater American University
University of San Diego

Frances M. Fragos Townsend (born December 28, 1961) is the former Homeland Security Advisor to United States President George W. Bush and TV personality. Townsend was appointed to this position by President Bush on May 28, 2004. Her resignation was announced November 19, 2007. She chaired the Homeland Security Council and reported to the President on homeland security policy and counterterrorism policy. She previously served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism. In 2008 she joined CNN as a contributor.[1] Townsend is president of the Counter Extremism Project.[2]


Personal life[edit]

Frances M. Fragos was born in Mineola, New York, the daughter of a Greek American father who was a roofer and an Irish American mother who was an office manager for a construction company. Raised in Wantagh, Long Island, Townsend was the first in her family to finish high school. Her parents were determined that their only child should receive a college education, but could not afford to send her to school. Townsend saved money by accelerating her course load, waiting tables and working as a dormitory adviser. She graduated cum laude from the American University in 1982 where she received a B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Psychology. In 1984, she received her Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law, and in 1986, attended the British Institute of International and Comparative Law in London, England. In 1994, she married lawyer John Townsend; the couple has two sons.


Townsend began her prosecutorial career in 1985, serving as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York. In 1988, she joined the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. In 1991, she worked in the Office of the Attorney General to assist in establishing the newly created Office of International Programs, the predecessor to the Executive Office for National Security. In December 1993, she joined the Criminal Division where she served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Attorney General and played a critical part in establishing the Division's international training and rule of law programs.

Following service in the United States Coast Guard as Assistant Commandant for Intelligence and at the United States Department of Justice, including a stint as Counsel to the Attorney General for Intelligence Policy[3][4] in the George W. Bush administration. In May 2007, she was appointed "National Continuity Coordinator" under the auspices of National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 51 [5] .

Townsend currently serves as an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America. Other memberships include the Council on Foreign Relations[6] and the Leadership Council for Concordia.


In an article titled "Washington’s high-powered terrorist supporters," Ms Townsend was revealed to have supported the then-State Department designated terrorist organization People's Mujahedin of Iran by American journalist Glenn Greenwald.[7] Mr Greenwald accused Ms Townsend of hypocrisy for having previously appeared on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer to praise the Supreme Court's decision in the case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, stating "If you’re thinking about even voicing support for a terrorist group, don’t do it because the government can come down hard on you and the Supreme Court said the government has every right to do so."[8]


  1. ^ Will Thomas (May 12, 2008). "Frances Townsend Joins CNN: Latest White House Official To Spin With The Media". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Government Veterans to Take Fight to Extremists on Online Battleground". TIME. September 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ Glasser, Susan B.; Baker, Peter (August 27, 2005). "An Outsider's Quick Rise To Bush Terror Adviser". Washington Post. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Thinking About Terrorism: Taking Stock Four Years After September 11th". Events. United States Institute of Peace (USIP). September 2005. Archived from the original on June 10, 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  5. ^ Bush, George W. (May 9, 2007). "National Security Presidential Directive 51". The White House: George W. Bush. National Archives. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  6. ^ Membership Roster – Council on Foreign Relations. (August 18, 2015). Retrieved on 2015-10-14.
  7. ^ Greenwald, Glenn. "Washington's high-powered terrorist supporters". Salon. Retrieved 2016-06-25. 
  8. ^ " - Transcripts". Retrieved 2016-06-25. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Gordon
United States Homeland Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Ken Wainstein