Frances Townsend, Advocate for Women and Homeland Security Expert

Frances Townsend has dedicated her professional life to empowering women and ensuring they have a place at the table, whether or not they have been traditionally welcomed there. She is the first person in her family to graduate from high school and cum laude from American University, with a B.A. in political science and a B.S. in psychology. In 1985, Townsend began her law career as the assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York. She later became Rudolph Giuliani’s appointee to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where she built a reputation for being tough on white-collar crime cases and helped crack down on international organized crime. From 2004-2008, George W. Bush appointed her to the Department of Homeland Security, where her primary responsibility was to prevent terrorist attacks. Townsend has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive in 2007, and currently sits on the boards of several nonprofits.

A book by Aki Peritz describes how Townsend was focused on the task at hand and slept in her office to be available in case of any events. British intelligence had surveillance on a well-known terrorist cell and discovered that they were stockpiling bombs using soda bottles, glass jars, and a dangerous chemical. Frances took charge and asked the British intelligence questions to understand the situation better. She was especially concerned that security personnel and baggage screeners were unprepared for the threat. In the end, Townsend was successful in preventing the attack.

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