Human Rights First Adds Four Distinguished Leaders to its Board of Directors

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today announced that former Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Academy Awardwinning director Gavin Hood, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen (U.S. Navy, Ret.), and former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matt Olsen have joined its distinguished board of directors.

“As Human Rights First works to foster strong, principled American leadership on the world’s most pressing human rights challenges, I’m thrilled to welcome Mike, Tony, Gavin, and Matt to our board,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “Their commitment to American ideals and their deep experience in national security, foreign policy, and the power of popular culture will strengthen our ability to make a lasting impact.”

Tony Blinken has held senior foreign policy positions in two administrations over three decades—including most recently as Deputy Secretary of State (2015-2017). As Deputy Secretary, Blinken traveled to forty countries, helping to lead diplomacy in the fight against ISIL, the rebalance to Asia, and the global refugee crisis. Before his tenure at State, Blinken served in the White House as Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama. Blinken served for six years on Capitol Hill as Democratic Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was a member of President Clinton’s National Security Council staff at the White House. He currently serves as the managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and the Herter/Nitze Distinguished Scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“It’s an honor for me to join the board of Human Rights First. Its mission—reminding Americans that our ideals and interests are one and the same and that American leadership is vital for the progress of human dignity—is more necessary than ever. It’s also personal. I would not be here if America had not welcomed my parents and grandparents to our country, giving them refuge from oppression. It should remain a point of pride that more people want to come to the United States than any other country on earth. Human Rights First is a strong, clear voice that calls on the better angels of our nature,” said Blinken.

Gavin Hood is an acclaimed filmmaker who regularly highlights human rights challenges in his work. He is the screenwriter and director of the Academy Awardwinning South African film, Tsotsi. Hood’s most recent film, Eye in the Sky, a dramatic thriller set in the world of modern drone warfare, has generated considerable public discussion around the moral and ethical questions raised by the use of armed UAV’s—unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones.” On October 19, 2016 Hood was presented with the 2016 Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment at the annual Human Rights First dinner in New York for his work on Eye in the Sky.

“America is a land of ideals. But in a turbulent world, our actions, not our professed ideals, dictate the way others respond to us. By exposing injustice and drafting clear, policy driven proposals, such as the ban on torture signed into law in 2015, Human Rights First actively helps to promote international peace, domestic security and the rule of law. I am honored to have been invited to join their board,” said Hood.

Admiral Mike Mullen (U.S. Navy, Ret.) served as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007-2011. Mullen oversaw the end of the combat mission in Iraq and the development of a new military strategy for Afghanistan, while promoting international partnerships, new technologies and new counter-terrorism tactics culminating in the killing of Osama bin Laden. He commanded three ships in the U.S. Navy and served in leadership positions at the Naval Academy, in the Navy’s Bureau of Personnel, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and on the Navy Staff. His last operational assignment was as commander, NATO Joint Force Command Naples/Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

“With a matchless reputation in the field of human rights and a focus on values that are so integral to all we do as Americans, Human Rights First has all the ingredients in place for generating great success for those in need. Human Rights First is exceptionally well-led and has a pragmatic gene as part of its culture. I very much look forward to our meaningful work,” said Admiral Mullen.

Matt Olsen has worked for more than two decades as a leading government official on national security, intelligence, and law enforcement issues. From 2011-2014 Olsen served as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), leading the government’s efforts to integrate and analyze terrorism information and coordinate counterterrorism operations. Prior to joining NCTC, Olsen was the General Counsel for the National Security Agency, serving as NSA’s chief legal officer and focusing on surveillance law and cybersecurity. As counselor to the Attorney General, he led the review of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in accordance with President Obama’s executive order. Olsen is a co-founder of IronNet Cybersecurity, a technology firm based in Washington, D.C., teaches at Harvard Law School, and is a national security analyst for ABC News.

“With a proven record of promoting American leadership on human rights and the rule of law, the work of Human Rights First on issues ranging from national security to refugee protection has never been more important. I am excited and proud for the opportunity to support the mission of Human Rights First,” said Olsen.


Published on April 26, 2017


Seeking asylum?

If you do not already have legal representation, cannot afford an attorney, and need help with a claim for asylum or other protection-based form of immigration status, we can help.