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.
Frances 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 Mary Fragos
(1961-12-28) December 28, 1961 (age 54)
Mineola, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) John Townsend
Children 2
Alma mater American University (BA, BS)
University of San Diego (JD)

Frances M. "Fran" 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, Townsend joined CNN as a contributor.[1] Townsend is president of the Counter Extremism Project.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Frances Mary Fragos[3] was born on December 28, 1961 in Mineola, New York,[4] the daughter of John Fragos, a Greek American roofer, and Dorothy, an Irish American office manager for a construction company.[3] Raised in Wantagh, Long Island,[5] Townsend was the first in her family to finish high school.[6] At the age of 11, she penned letters requesting that she be allowed to be an altar boy, first to her priest, then to the bishop, the Cardinal, and ultimately to the Vatican. After her requests were refused, her priest caught her trying to sneak into Mass with a borrowed robe.[7] Her parents were determined that their only child should receive a college education, but could not afford to send her to school.[citation needed] Townsend saved money by accelerating her course load, waiting tables and working as a dormitory adviser.[citation needed]

Townsend graduated cum laude from the American University in 1982, receiving a B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Psychology.[8] She received her J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1984,[9] and in 1986, attended the British Institute of International and Comparative Law in London, England.[8]

Career[edit]

Townsend began her prosecutorial career in 1985, serving as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York.[10] She gained the support and mentorship of federal prosecutors Rudolph Giuliani and Louis Freeh.[5][11] In 1988, she was hired by Giuliani for the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York where she worked on white-collar crime.[10] Townsend also ran the office's organized crime unit, where she conducted one-on-one interviews with members of the Gambino crime family.[5][7]

Townsend moved to the Justice Department in the early 1990s to work on international legal matters.[11] 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.[8] In December 1993, she joined the Criminal Division where she served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Attorney General,[8] where she took part in establishing the Division's international training and rule of law programs.[8]

During the Clinton administration, Townsend served in a series of positions at the Justice Department, eventually working as intelligence policy counsel for Attorney General Janet Reno.[10] She served as Director of the Office of International Affairs in the Criminal Division from November 1995 until November 1997, when she was appointed Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General.[8] Townsend was appointed Counsel for Intelligence Policy in March 1998, heading the office of Intelligence Policy and Review, whose various functions included approving intelligence-gathering activities related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.[12][8] Townsend managed the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review until 2001. She was one of Reno's key advisers, acting as a "back channel" between the attorney general and FBI Special Agent John P. O'Neill, who was also her friend.[13] The incoming Bush administration did not opt to keep Townsend on. Instead, she served as Assistant Commandant for Intelligence for the United States Coast Guard. While she was on maternity leave during the September 11 attacks in 2001, Townsend assisted the Coast Guard in updating intelligence legislation to switch the branch's priority from drug smuggling to the vulnerability of U.S. ports.[13]

Despite worries about Townsend's past as a Democratic appointee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hired her for the National Security Council in Spring 2003 at the urging of counterterrorism chief John A. Gordon and Homeland Security Advisor Richard A. Clarke.[13] In December 2003, she coordinated government terrorism responses that led to the grounding of flights from Europe during the holiday season.[13] She was appointed Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism on May 28, 2004.[5][10] During her tenure, she oversaw an intelligence reorganization and conducted the first post-9/11 review of the White House's anti-terrorism campaign.[13] Townsend served as the public face of the Bush administration while it was under criticism for allegedly overreacting to dated intelligence[11] in its decision to raise terrorist threat levels during an election season.[13] She also inspected Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison as an envoy of President Bush. Townsend was tapped to implement broad changes in the intelligence community recommended by a presidential commission headed by former Senator Chuck Robb and U.S. District Judge Laurence Silberman.[13]

Townsend then served in the United States Department of Justice, including a stint as Counsel to the Attorney General for Intelligence Policy in the George W. Bush administration.[13][14][verification needed] In May 2007, she was appointed "National Continuity Coordinator" under the auspices of National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 51.[15][verification needed]

As of this date,[when?] Townsend serves as an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America.[citation needed] Other memberships include the Council on Foreign Relations[16] and the Leadership Council for Concordia.[citation needed]

Greenwald hypocrisy allegation[edit]

In a 2012 Salon article by journalist Glenn Greenwald, Townsend and other Republicans were reported to have taken speaking fees from Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK, the People's Mujahedin of Iran), a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization at that time, leading Greenwald to argue that Townsend's earlier support for a Supreme Court decision constraining speech associated with material support for such groups was hypocritical.[17] Townsend had been vocal in her support for the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which Wolf Blitzer of CNN described thus: "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."[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Frances Fragos married lawyer John Michael Townsend on October 8, 1994 in an Episcopal ceremony at Manhattan's Church of the Incarnation.[3] As of 2006, they have two children, both sons.[6] With a self-professed "triple type-A" personality,[10] Townsend has been described as having a characteristic bluntness and a "sometimes salty, streetwise style"[11] that once led her coworkers to nickname her "The Hurricane".[5]

References[edit]

  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. ^ a b c "WEDDINGS; Frances Fragos and John Townsend". The New York Times. October 9, 1994. 
  4. ^ Who's who Among American Law Students. University Pub. Bureau. 1984. p. 100. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Knowlton, Brian (November 19, 2007). "Bush's terrorism adviser, Frances Townsend, resigns". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b Knufken, Kelly (2006). "Townsend: The Tough Cookie" (PDF). USD Magazine. San Diego, CA: University of San Diego (Summer)): 25. 
  7. ^ a b Waller, Douglas (September 3, 2006). "The Terror Consigliere". Time. Archived from the original on June 13, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Ms. Frances Fragos Townsend: Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism". The White House. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006. 
  9. ^ Hamblin, Abby (November 28, 2016). "Meet the USD law school grad who might be homeland security secretary". The San Diego Union-Tribune. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Cook, David (September 26, 2006). "Frances Townsend". Christian Science Monitor. 
  11. ^ a b c d Johnston, David (August 6, 2004). "THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE SECURITY ADVISER; A Bush Aide (and a Mother) Emerges as a Major Player in the Antiterror Campaign". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Ragavan, Chitra (December 6, 2004). "A skillful survivor". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on July 2, 2005. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Glasser, Susan B.; Baker, Peter (August 27, 2005). "An Outsider's Quick Rise To Bush Terror Adviser". Washington Post. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  14. ^ "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. 
  15. ^ Bush, George W. (May 9, 2007). "National Security Presidential Directive 51". The White House: George W. Bush. National Archives. Retrieved July 26, 2011. 
  16. ^ CFR Staff (2015). "Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): Membership Roster". CFR.org. Retrieved November 30, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b Greenwald, Glenn (March 12, 2012). "Washington's high-powered terrorist supporters". Salon.com. Retrieved 2016-06-25. 
  18. ^ As described by Greenwald, in the 6-3 ruling decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law:

    the Court upheld the Obama DOJ’s very broad interpretation of the statute that criminalizes the providing of "material support" to groups formally designated by the State Department as Terrorist organizations. The five-judge conservative bloc (along with Justice Stevens) held that pure political speech could be permissibly criminalized as “material support for Terrorism” consistent with the First Amendment if the “advocacy [is] performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization”.

    See Greenwald, Salon, March 12, 2012, op. cit..

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Gordon
United States Homeland Security Advisor
2004–2008
Succeeded by
Ken Wainstein