Robert C. O’Brien serves as the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
O’Brien previously served as the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. As SPEHA, O’Brien held the personal rank of Ambassador. With the Secretary of State, O’Brien led the U.S. Government’s diplomatic efforts on overseas hostage-related matters. He worked closely with the families of American hostages and advised the senior leadership of the U.S. Government on hostage issues. O’Brien coordinated with the interagency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell on the development and implementation of U.S. hostage recovery policy and strategy.
O’Brien served as Co-Chairman of the U.S. Department of State Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan under both Secretaries Rice and Clinton. The PPJRA promoted the rule of law by training Afghan judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers and provided scholarships for young Afghan lawyers to study in the United States.
O’Brien was also a presidentially-appointed member of the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which advises the federal government on issues relating to the trafficking of antiquities and other cultural items.
In 2005, O’Brien was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as a U.S. Representative to the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Earlier in his career, O’Brien served as a Senior Legal Officer for the UN Security Council commission that decided claims against Iraq arising out of the first Gulf War. O’Brien was a Major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Prior to joining the Administration, O’Brien co-founded Larson O’Brien LLP in Los Angeles, a nationally recognized litigation firm. His law practice focused on complex litigation and international arbitration. In addition to his client work, O’Brien has served as an arbitrator in over 20 international and domestic proceedings and he was appointed by the federal courts to serve as a special master in numerous complex cases.
O’Brien is a graduate of the U.C. Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). He received his B.A. degree in political science, cum laude, from UCLA.