Recent events give Aspen Security Forum extra buzz |

Recent events give Aspen Security Forum extra buzz

** FILE ** Vice Adm. Eric Olson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be U. S. Special Operations Command Commander in this June 12, 2007 file photo. More than half a dozen top special operations slots are changing hands over the next few months: Olson succeeds Army Gen. Bryan Brown as SOCOM commander - Brown retires from the military next month. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

ASPEN – When organizers of the Aspen Security Forum confirmed Adm. Eric Olson as a speaker at the 2011 summit, they had little idea just how big the draw would be.

At the time Olson, commander of U.S. Special Forces Operations, was one name in a list of more than 50 top-level current and former government officials, industry leaders, print and broadcast journalists, think-tank types and concerned citizens scheduled to converge in Aspen in July for some in-depth discussions about homeland security and counterterrorism.

Today, though, Olson and the elite troops he commands are making national headlines.

“Special ops … these are the guys who go out in the dark of night looking for people like Osama bin Laden,” said Clark Ervin, director of the Aspen Institute’s Homeland Security Program, which presents the Aspen Security Forum. “So with Eric Olson and several other speakers, we will have in Aspen all the key players with regard to homeland security.”

In fact, the focus of the second annual forum has expanded to include issues centered around bin Laden’s death, as well as other hot-button topics.

“The bin Laden killing and its implications is the No. 1 issue that people are talking about right now,” noted Ervin. “So I would say that we are continuing with what we did last year, but tackling additional issues as we focus on the most recent and dramatic news.”

Among the new additions to the Aspen Security Forum lineup will be talks on terrorist finance-related issues, highlighted by a discussion between Stuart Levey, former undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury, and Juan Zarate, former deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.

This year’s forum will also expand its reach to include more international participants. Among those confirmed are Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani, Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Eklil Hakimi and former Yemeni Ambassador to the U.N. Abdullah Alsaidi, as well as Richard Barrett, coordinator of the U.N. Al-Qaida Taliban monitoring team, and Gilles de Kerchove, European Union counterterrorism coordinator. They will talk with Time’s Massimo Calabresi on the international dimensions of homeland security and counterterrorism.

Aside from that, however, the forum will follow much the same format as its inaugural year, with three days of in-depth discussions aimed at answering critical questions about America’s preparedness for terrorism.

Among those scheduled to speak are Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, TSA Administrator John Pistole, former National Security Advisers Gen. Jim Jones and Stephen Hadley, former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair, former CIA and NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, former Acting and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and former White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Fran Townsend.

The Aspen Security Forum is July 27-30 at The Aspen Institute. For more information, visit

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