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Rolf Mowatt-Larssen Named Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen Named Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center

Former DOE/CIA Intelligence Chief Mowatt-Larssen will join Center efforts to help reconstruct global nuclear order and reduce dangers of nuclear terrorism

Press Release

December 2, 2008

Author: Sharon Wilke, Associate Director of Communications
Related: Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs


Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, director of the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy and former head of the Central Intelligence Agency's WMD and terrorism efforts, will join the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center as a senior fellow on January 19, 2009.

As director of intelligence and counterintelligence with the U.S. Department of Energy, Mowatt-Larssen and his 600-person organization have been responsible for the areas of nuclear terrorism, nuclear proliferation, science and technology, energy security, and counterintelligence. His office also provides support to policymakers and conducts collection and analysis, with a special focus on harnessing U.S. scientific and technological expertise to solve intractable problems. His primary focus has been preventing a nuclear terrorism attack on the United States by working to keep nuclear weapons and weapons materials out of the hands of terrorists.

At the Belfer Center, Mowatt-Larssen will work with the Center's nuclear team on an initiative to reduce the dangers posed by the current unraveling of the global nuclear order. Along with Belfer Center Director Graham Allison, Professors Ashton Carter and John Holdren, Associate Professor Matthew Bunn, Dr. Steven Miller, and others, he will help advance work begun by a Commission of Eminent Persons (launched earlier this year by International Atomic Energy Association Director General Mohamed ElBaradei) to find ways to maximize contributions of nuclear technologies to human well-being while minimizing the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear terrorist attacks. Mowatt-Larssen will focus on building a stronger global community of scholars and policy analysts interested in this goal, and researching, analyzing, and communicating findings to the IAEA, to the incoming administration, and to other relevant governments.

In announcing Mowatt-Larssen's appointment, Allison said, "Since 9/11, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen has led the government's efforts to find and track potential nuclear terrorists and to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S. Over a career of almost three decades in the intelligence community and at the Department of Energy, Rolf has likely learned more about the plans and potentials of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups seeking to mount catastrophic terrorist attacks on the U.S. than anyone I know. He is deeply committed to preventing nuclear attacks and restoring a global order that will make that possible. We are extremely pleased to have him join our nuclear team."

"It is a pleasure and an honor to join Graham Allison and his distinguished team at Harvard's Belfer Center," Mowatt-Larssen said, in confirming his departure from the government in January. "Their important work lies at the cutting edge of preventing a nuclear catastrophe. I share Dr Allison's vision and ambitious agenda to lower the risks and ultimately eliminate the threats posed by nuclear weapons to all mankind. I am looking forward to contributing to this great cause."

In testimony presented to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee of the U.S. Senate in April 2008, Mowatt-Larssen said he believed the world would be tested during the early years of the 21st century "in our ability to prevent non-state efforts to develop and detonate a nuclear weapon." He added: "...we must get nuclear materials off the black market and take every possible step to stop global trafficking in these materials. It must be a global effort incorporating police, intelligence services, militaries, government agencies and ministries, and dedicated citizens across the world. In addition, we need broad information sharing across every front -- between government and private sector, and among foreign partners, including those who previously were our adversaries. Al-Qa'ida thinks and plans dynamically and they rarely follow straight-forward, linear paths to their targets. We need to be just as flexible and dynamic in our efforts to stop them."

Prior to his appointment to the top intelligence position in the Department of Energy, Mowatt-Larssen served for 23 years as a CIA intelligence officer in various domestic and international posts. These included deputy associate director of Central Intelligence for Military Support, chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Department, Counterterrorism Center, and most recently chief of the Europe Division in the Directorate of Operations. His overseas assignments included service in Moscow, Stockholm, Athens, Zurich, and Oslo, among others. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Mowatt-Larssen is the recipient of a number of awards including the CIA Director's Award, Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, Commendation Medal, and Secretary of Defense Civilian Distinguished Service Medal.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote in October 2007 (in "Portents of a Nuclear Al-Qaeda"), "He [Rolf Mowatt-Larssen] is convinced that al-Qaeda is trying to acquire a nuclear bomb that will leave the ultimate terrorist signature -- a mushroom cloud.....[I]t's worth listening to his warnings -- not because they induce more numbing paralysis but because they might stir sensible people to take actions that could detect and stop an attack."

Mowatt-Larssen's work to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S. also is highlighted in Ron Suskind's recent book The Way of the World.

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs is the hub of research, teaching, and training in international security affairs, environmental and resource issues, science and technology policy, and conflict studies at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Center's mission is to provide leadership in advancing policy-relevant knowledge about the most important challenges of international security and other critical issues where science, technology, environmental policy and international affairs intersect.

The DOE press release is available here.


For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

For Academic Citation:

Wilke, Sharon. "Rolf Mowatt-Larssen Named Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center." Press Release, Harvard University, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, December 2, 2008.

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