Chris Costa

Recently, Mr. Costa served as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism on the National Security Council (NSC).  At the NSC, he was responsible for coordinating counterterrorism policy and strategy as well as US hostage recovery activities. Mr. Costa had 34 years of progressive national security experience and well-documented success in strategy policy, special operations, counterintelligence, and human intelligence, deploying on multiple contingencies and to combat operations in the Republic of Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq. 

Mr. Costa's most recent assignment was with the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) as a Program Director in the Operations Directorate. Preceding USSOCOM, Mr. Costa served as a Department of the Navy civilian at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group and as a Senior Adjunct Instructor with Norwich University's Bachelor of Science in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis Program; with Norwich University, he taught and mentored students on topics related to national security, strategy, and counterterrorism. He holds an M.A. in Strategic Intelligence from American Military University; an M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College; and a B.A. from Norwich University. His military awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and two Bronze Stars. 

In May 2013, Mr. Costa was inducted into USSOCOM’s Commando Hall of Honor for extraordinary and enduring service to Special Operations Forces.  Most recently, Mr. Costa joined the International Spy Museum as the Executive Director where he will play a leading role in building on its extraordinary success as a Washington destination and speaking responsibly on current counterterrorism and intelligence issues.

Presentation Topics

Inside the World of Intelligence, Counterintelligence & Counterterrorism

From the pre-Cold War era to the post-9/11 world, Chris has over three decades of experience navigating the intelligence community throughout the Middle East, Central America and Europe. He provides eye-opening observations as he draws upon his time working as a Human Intelligence practitioner overseas (Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq) with Special Operations Forces (SOF). Chris’ career in government culminated as a senior policymaker on key national security issues, allowing audiences to gain a deeper understanding on the importance of intelligence in our global community.

ISIS & Al-Qaeda: Understanding Counterterrorism and Future Threats

Before he was the Executive Director of the International Spy Museum, Chris was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and Hostage Affairs at the White House. In this keynote, Chris discusses the key challenges of policymaking, the future trajectory of these threats and what these challenges mean for global security. 

Radicalization and Terrorism 

Having interviewed terrorists and defectors in U.S. custody – and co-authoring some important contributions to terrorism literature – Costa can offer some perspectives on terrorist motivations, their activation for violence, and an explanation of the radicalization process. 

Leadership: A Lifelong Commitment in Every Profession

Chris’ vast experience in special operations and intelligence in high-performing organizations has provided him with several invaluable leadership lessons. From the world’s most select special operations and military intelligence organizations to the White House, the many roles and responsibilities that Chris has held throughout the past thirty-four years have significantly shaped his outlook on leadership on each and every level.


The Spy Museum does not endorse, approve, or support the opinions stated by the speakers. Statements made by presenters do not represent the position or opinion of the International Spy Museum.