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2012 Fellows

Leif Babin is a highly decorated U.S. Navy SEAL officer and combat veteran that deployed three times to Iraq earning a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. As a SEAL Platoon Commander during a historic combat deployment to Ar Ramadi, Iraq in 2006, he led some of the heaviest, sustained urban combat operations in the history of the SEAL Teams. Leif then served as the primary leadership instructor for all SEAL Officers graduating from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL. In 2009, he again deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, as Operations Officer for a Joint Special Operations Task Force where he witnessed first-hand the miraculous improvements in security and prosperity that he helped to bring about with the 1st Armored Division three years previously. Additionally, Leif served as Executive Officer, second in command, of a SEAL Team through a rigorous 12-month training cycle in preparation for combat deployment to a number of locations across the globe. Prior to SEAL training, Leif served as a division officer on a U.S. Navy Destroyer and a U.S. Navy Frigate. In July 2011, Leif left active duty and launched Echelon Front LLC to educate, train, and inspire leaders and organizations through SEAL leadership principals and strategies he learned on the front lines of battle. Leif’s editorials have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the National Review and he has appeared on a variety of television news and radio programs. Leif lives in New York City and remains a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Michaela Bendikova is a Research Assistant for Missile Defense and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation where she works on missile defense, arms control, nuclear weapons modernization, and defense budget issues. She has published over a hundred blogs and research papers on these issues in various outlets. She earned a Master’s degree in Defense and Strategic Studies at Missouri State University and wrote her thesis on space-based missile defenses with Dr. William Van Cleave. She was selected as a 2011 Publius Fellow with the Claremont Institute and has participated in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Nuclear Scholars Initiative. Michaela is fluent in Czech and Slovak.

John T. Bennett is the Senior Congressional Reporter for Defense News, and is a Master's candidate in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Previously, John was the Defense & National Security Correspondent for the U.S. News & World Report where he covered a range of national security, military, defense budgeting, and foreign policy issues for nearly a decade. Prior to joining U.S. News, John was the senior Defense Reporter at The Hill, where he helped launch the DEFCON Hill blog. He previously served as the Pentagon Correspondent for Defense News and was the Managing Editor of Inside the Air Force. John also has worked for the Washington Post Co. and Congress Daily (since renamed National Journal Daily). John has studied at Georgetown University, and earned his undergraduate degree in Journalism with a Political Science minor from Appalachian State University in his native North Carolina.

Daniel Bilar is Director of Research and Senior Principal Scientist for Siege Technologies, a privately held cyber-technology R&D company serving the U.S. commercial, defense, and intelligence communities. Daniel has researched, published and lectured internationally on highly evolved malware detection and classification, cyber warfare and quantitative compositional risk analysis and management of information systems. He was one of seven founding members of the Institute for Security Studies at Dartmouth, where he conducted technological counter-terrorism research for Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. He is a recognized expert in U.S. Federal Court on computer security, programming, risk profiling, code logs and general forensics. Daniel holds a PhD in Engineering Sciences from Dartmouth, a MEng in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell and a BA in Computer Science from Brown.

Christian Cook is a Professional Staff Member on the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He serves as a staff designee to Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and is the Committee’s lead for Counterproliferation issues and North Korean regional issues. He previously worked as a Senior Associate at The Cohen Group, and a member of the U.S. National Security Team at Booz Allen Hamilton. Christian is a former United States Secret Service Special Agent. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Politics, and he holds a Masters in Business Administration and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University.


Erin Corbin is a Program Analyst for the Irregular Warfare Support Program, a Department of Defense office that develops adaptive and agile ways and means to support irregular warfare in current and evolving strategic environments. She previously worked with the US Air Force supporting the acquisition of new technologies to support air and ground battle spaces. Her formal studies in college focused on international literature, specifically that which dealt with post-colonial culture and identity. It is through these narratives that she came to be interested in the written word and visual imagery as a force for shaping cultures and political landscapes over the course of the past hundred years.

Patrick Davis is a Trial Attorney with the National Security Detainee Litigation team in the Federal Programs Branch of the Department of Justice. He serves as lead attorney for the United States Government in several habeas corpus cases brought against it by Guantanamo Bay detainees, including those of high-value detainees Abu Faraj al-Libi and Mohd Farik Bin Amin. The cases involve issues of domestic and international law relating to national security, the laws of war, and the Government’s detention authority, as well as unique factual scenarios associated with terrorist tradecraft and armed conflict.  In this capacity, Patrick develops the Government’s defense, drafts briefs, and argues cases in federal court. Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Patrick worked as an attorney in a private law firm in Washington, D.C.  He has also worked for the Department of Defense and the State Department. Patrick is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center.

Ari Fridman is Staff Counsel on the House Foreign Affairs Committee where his portfolio includes the Committee’s oversight of the Department of State, the Agency for International Development, and the Peace Corps. He also handles the Committee’s work on compensation for American victims of international terrorism. Ari interned at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and for the Honorable Frederic Block of the Eastern District of New York. From 2006-2007, Ari received the Legacy Heritage Fellowship, working at the American Jewish Committee for Executive Director David Harris on public policy issues.  Ari graduated magna cum laude from Yeshiva University, and he received a JD from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Rich Goldberg serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) where he advises the Senator on all matters of policy and communications with a focus on foreign affairs and national security issues. Rich has worked on a range of issues, including the deployment of a U.S. X-Band missile defense radar to Israel, oversight of U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, and Iran sanctions legislation. Rich also serves as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer holding the rank of Lieutenant. In 2011, he deployed to Afghanistan as the senior intelligence officer for Electronic Attack Squadron 209. Raised in Skokie, Illinois, Rich holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a double major in Political Science from Northwestern University.

Owen Graham is Research Coordinator for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation where he researches and writes extensively on defense policy, missile defense, nuclear nonproliferation, and foreign affairs. In this capacity, he also coordinates activities for Heritage with Defending Defense. Previously, Owen was a Research Assistant at Heritage where he worked on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on Russia, Iran, and Eurasia. In 2009, he was named a Manfred Wörner fellow by the German Marshall Fund and the Armed Forces Office of the German Defense Ministry. Owen earned a BA in International Studies and a Master of Arts in International Politics at American University. He is co-author of Global Perspectives on Oil and Security (Jan. 2007). He has published articles in the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Huffington Post, the Washington Times, and Daily Caller.

Karen Kaya specializes in Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey for the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) within the Department of Defense. She has worked on numerous projects in national security as a defense and security policy analyst. Her current work is used in U.S. Military Services' Senior Service College curricula, military policy formulation and material for deploying forces. In addition to her analytical reporting, she publishes in a wide range of professional journals and authors special monographs. Previously, she worked at Booz Allen Hamilton and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and BAE Systems. Karen holds an MA in Politics from Brandeis University and a BA in Sociology from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. She is a native Turkish linguist.

Priscilla Koepke is the Professional Staff Member for the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, where she is responsible for the multilateral affairs, counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation, foreign assistance, human rights, national security, oversight, and intelligence portfolios. Prior to joining the Subcommittee, Priscilla worked as an intelligence analyst at the Department of Defense covering global financial and economic policy developments, and priority Asian and Middle East issues.  She also served for a period of time as an intelligence oversight and compliance officer within the Department of Defense. Priscilla is a graduate of the National Cryptologic School, and is currently studying and expected to graduate from the Air Force Air Command and Staff College later this year.

Daniel Lewis is a national security analyst for the Federal Government specializing in counterterrorism. He has worked a wide range of Counterterrorism initiatives including strategic analysis of developing ideological and operational trends and currently specializes in OCONUS investigations and operations. Dan is pursuing a Master’s degree in Statecraft and National Security at the Institute of World Politics where he is writing a thesis on KGB political warfare, deception, and influence operations enacted against the West. While at the Institute and a semester spent in Oxford, he has extensively studied the role religion plays in political and asymmetric warfare.


James Mazol works for the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities on the House Armed Services Committee. The Subcommittee has oversight responsibilities for U.S. Special Operations Forces and Department of Defense information technology, cyber, and counter-WMD programs. He is also participating in the Nuclear Scholars Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In a prior role, James was a contractor policy analyst supporting the Air Force Strategic Plans and Policy Division and provided research and analytical support for arms control policy and implementation and compliance measures. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at George Mason University.

Brian Miller is a Professional Staff Member for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He serves as designee to Senator Dan Coats, budget monitor for the Department of Homeland Security, and acting regional monitor for Iran.  Prior to joining the committee in 2011, Brian served as Senator Judd Gregg’s national security advisor (2008-2011) and senior policy advisor to Congressman Jeb Bradley (2003-2007).  In between, he served as Manager of Government Relations for Van Scoyoc Associates, representing a variety of businesses in the areas of defense, energy, and foreign policy.  Brian has a Master of Science degree in Defense and Strategic Studies from Missouri State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hamilton College. Originally from New Hampshire, Brian currently lives in Washington, DC.

Michael Morrison currently works with the Department of Defense focusing on emerging Asia-Pacific issues.  He has a background in intelligence, including active duty time in the US Marine Corps in Asia and the Middle East. He recently completed his Masters of International Policy and Practice at The George Washington University, where he concentrated on Asian security and Chinese foreign policy. He also holds a BS in Global Business and Public Policy from the University of Maryland and an Associate of Arts in Mandarin Chinese from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.


Brian Pawlowski currently works for a professional services firm providing support to global operations for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Previously he was a Senior Consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton supporting operations for the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Security Command. Prior to that Brian served as an intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps deploying twice in support of the Global War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom where he led an intelligence collection team, oversaw detention facility operations, conducted counterintelligence assessments, and led joint training with the Iraqi Army. Before leaving active duty he served as a Battalion Staff Officer in charge of pre-deployment training. Brian was also selected as a future leader by the Foreign Policy Initiative and a Washington Fellow by the National Review Institute.

Jonathan Ruhe is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Foreign Policy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), where he works on Middle East and Former Soviet Union security issues. His commentary on the ongoing political transition in Yemen has appeared in the Associated Press, The New Republic, The National Interest, Washington Post and various international media outlets. Prior to joining BPC, Jonathan was a research associate for the Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World at Hudson Institute from 2005 to 2009, where he also served as associate editor for the journal Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. He holds degrees with honors from Georgetown University and from the University of Chicago, where he was a fellow with the Program on International Security Policy.

Erich Wagner is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve currently assigned to AFRICOM. As an infantry officer he has served in defense of The American Embassy in Panama, trained foreign personnel in Croatia, Australia, Argentina, Korea, Japan, Curacao, and Iraq. Erich was as a Congressional Liaison for the Marine Corps to the House and Senate Armed Service Committees in Congress.  He has published articles on military history and counterinsurgencies in The Marine Corps University Journal, The Journal for the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society, The Joint Center for Operational Analysis, and Armchair General. His most recent article is entitled "'The Bones of the British Lying in Maiwand Are Lonely':A Victorian Battle and Its Continuing Impact on Afghan Memory." His personal awards include the Bronze Star and two Navy Commendation Medals. He earned his B.S. in History from the United States Naval Academy, and an M.A. in International Relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Dustin Walker is a Staffer on the House Armed Services Committee under Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA). As a member of the Committee’s communications team, he engages with a full range of foreign policy and defense issues including the defense budget, Afghanistan, Iran, and detention policy. Previously, he worked at the American Enterprise Institute focusing on counterterrorism and the Global War on Terror. He holds a Bachelor’s in International Politics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.