Lee S. Wolosky

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Lee Wolosky
United States Special Envoy for the Closure of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility
In office
July 6, 2015 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byCliff Sloan
Personal details
Born (1968-07-17) July 17, 1968 (age 50)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materHarvard University (BA, JD)
Ambassador Lee S. Wolosky and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubier

Lee Scott Wolosky (born July 17, 1968) is the former U.S. Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure.[1] He served under the last three U.S. presidents in significant national security positions and is a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP.[2] On July 14, 2016, President Obama accorded Wolosky the personal rank of ambassador.

Early life[edit]

Ambassador Wolosky grew up in the Bronx, New York and attended Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School in Manhattan. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, where he was a recipient of the John Harvard Scholarship and the Harvard College Scholarship. Before attending law school, Wolosky worked as a research assistant for a Harvard University project focused on Soviet political and economic reform. He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard International Law Journal and a recipient of the Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship. While in law school, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor, who was then a federal district court judge.


Wolosky served as Director for Transnational Threats on the U.S. National Security Council at the White House under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The Transnational Threats Directorate was responsible for coordinating the U.S. Government's response to terrorism prior to 9/11. At the White House, Wolosky had specific responsibility for coordinating U.S. policy relating to illicit finance impacting national security.

Wolosky's work at the White House also included directing sensitive operations, including leading the U.S. government effort to apprehend the Taliban and al Qaeda-linked arms trafficker Viktor Bout. Wolosky was noted for his innovative approach for pursuing Bout and is quoted as saying "Bout represented a post-Cold-War phenomenon for which there was no framework to stop. No one was doing what he was doing. And there was no response. We needed to build a response." Wolosky's dogged pursuit of Bout was the basis for the character Jack Valentine (played by Ethan Hawke) in the film Lord of War.

Wolosky has served as a consultant to various agencies of the U.S. Government in recent years and has testified on several occasions before the United States Congress. He also testified before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the "9/11 Commission") in both open and closed sessions.

In 2003-2004, Wolosky served as a senior advisor to the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry and as co-director of the campaign's counter-terrorism policy coordinating group.

Wolosky is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as co-director of the Council on Foreign Relation's Independent Task Force on Terrorist Financing and deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations's Independent Task Force on Russia. He was also a co-founder and member of the board of directors of the National Security Network. He was appointed to the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security in 2010.

Wolosky has also served as an Adjunct Professor in International Affairs at Columbia University.


As Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure from July 2015 to January 2017, Wolosky served as chief U.S. diplomat in connection with President Obama's efforts to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.[1] Among other responsibilities, he led the Obama Administration's final diplomatic efforts to reduce the detainee population before the end of President Obama's term, by transferring detainees who had been unanimously approved for transfer by the Secretaries of Defense, State, Justice and Homeland Security, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of National Intelligence.

During his 18-month tenure as Special Envoy, Ambassador Wolosky broke through roadblocks that had frustrated the Obama administration since 2009 and completed the transfer of 75 such detainees to 15 countries, or almost 40% of all such transfers during President Obama's eight-year term in office.[3][4]

Since closure of the Office by the Trump Administration, the U.S. government has lost track of several of the Guantanamo detainees.[5]

Legal career[edit]

In 2001, Wolosky joined Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, the prominent U.S. law firm led by David Boies whose partners are known for high-profile matters such as the representation of Al Gore in the contested 2000 U.S. presidential election, representation of the U.S. Government in its anti-trust dispute with Microsoft, and representation of AIG and its former CEO Hank Greenberg. Wolosky has led or co-led some of the firm's high-profile matters in recent years, including the firm's representation of Greenberg, its representation of former RNC Vice Chair Elliott Broidy in litigation against Qatar,[6][7] its terrorism financing case against Bank of China;[8] and Restis v United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a precedent-setting private defamation case in which the United States Government asserted the state secrets privilege, resulting in a victory for Wolosky's client UANI.[9][10] Wolosky also served as co-lead counsel to certain of the 9/11 families in connection with a multibillion-dollar federal court judgment entered against Iran;[11] and as lead counsel to a major international corporation in matters arising out of an alleged assault by former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Other clients of Wolosky's have included MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace and Emmy-award winning journalist Lowell Bergman. Neil Cavuto, the conservative Fox News anchor, has called Wolosky "one of the brightest lawyers in the country."

Prior to Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, he worked at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and as an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. At Paul Weiss, he worked principally with, and was mentored by, Theodore C. Sorensen, President John F. Kennedy's Special Counsel.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Keeping Guantanamo open 'does not make any sense'". France24. 2016-11-24.
  2. ^ Scott Flaherty (2017-02-08). "With Gitmo Back in Play, Obama Envoy Returns to Boies Schiller". American Lawyer. Retrieved 2017-02-13. Wolosky said he had always planned to return to Boies Schiller after Obama's administration ended, regardless of how the election turned out. He said his practice will remain focused on complex disputes that tend to have an international component and a nexus with Washington.
  3. ^ "Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, The Forever Prisoners of Guantanamo - TomDispatch". www.tomdispatch.com. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  4. ^ Savage, Charlie (April 16, 2016). "9 Guantánamo Prisoners From Yemen Are Sent to Saudi Arabia". Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  5. ^ Carol Rosenberg (November 13, 2018). "Trump closed an office that tracked ex-Gitmo inmates. Now we don't know where some went". McClatchyDC.com. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  6. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (March 26, 2018). "Trump Fund-Raiser Files Hacking Lawsuit Against Qatar". Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  7. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-fundraiser-elliott-broidy-sues-qatar-alleging-cyber-smear-campaign/2018/03/26/29f1a962-3118-11e8-8bdd-cdb33a5eef83_story.html
  8. ^ Cohen, Roger (February 28, 2015). "Opinion - Did Israel Put Money Over Justice?". Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  9. ^ Apuzzo, Matt (September 14, 2014). "Holder Says Private Suit Risks State Secrets". Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  10. ^ Reporter, Evan Perez, CNN Justice (March 23, 2015). "Obama Administration Shuts Down Private Lawsuit To Protect U.S. Secrets on Iran - CNNPolitics". CNN. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  11. ^ Savage, Charlie (March 6, 2017). "Iran Nuclear Deal Could Be Gateway for Terrorism Legal Claims". Retrieved March 7, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Cliff Sloan
United States Special Envoy for the Closure of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility