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
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Avril Haines
Succeeded by Gina Haspel
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
In office
June 30, 2011 – February 9, 2015
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Stuart A. Levey
Succeeded by Adam Szubin (acting)
Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing
In office
May 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Pat O'Brien
Succeeded by Daniel Glaser
Personal details
Alma mater Cornell University (BA)
Yale Law School (JD)

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. At Treasury, among other posts, he served as the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Early life and education

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 Juris Doctor 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 (left) 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]

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

Cohen is married with two children. He met his wife while in law school.[3] In May 2019, Cohen had a cameo role in Season 8, Episode 2 of Game of Thrones.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Kampeas, Ron (February 18, 2015). "As David Cohen becomes CIA's No. 2, Jews appear to have smoother sailing at security agencies". Washington Jewish Week. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "David S. Cohen". United States Department of the Treasury. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Davis, Julie (October 21, 2014). "Enforcer at Treasury Is First Line of Attack Against ISIS". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 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 (June 3, 2014). "Aiming Financial Weapons From Treasury War Room". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  9. ^ Nominations of David S. Cohen to be Under ... (PDF). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. April 7, 2011. p. 21. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  10. ^ "2012 Speakers". defenddemocracy.org. Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  11. ^ Mazzetti, Mark (January 9, 2015). "Reaching Outside C.I.A., Obama Picks Treasury Official to Become Agency's No. 2". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  12. ^ Melman, Yossi. "Meet David Cohen: The Jewish 'sanctions guru' appointed deputy chief of the CIA". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  13. ^ "'Game of Thrones': Former CIA deputy director David Cohen cameos in Winterfell soup line". USA TODAY. Retrieved May 2, 2019.

External links

  • Media related to David S. Cohen at Wikimedia Commons
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